Gender in Philosophy Hiring
When it comes to finding a permanent academic position in philosophy, “women have 58–114 percent greater odds than men, or a probability difference of 10–17 percent.”
That’s from another part of the recent Metaphilosophy article, “Networks in philosophy: Social networks and employment in academic philosophy,” posted about yesterday, by Pablo Andrés Contreras Kallens (Cornell), Daniel J. Hicks (UC Merced), and Carolyn Dicey Jennings (UC Merced). The finding was based on data regarding 2,778 people who graduated from academic philosophy PhD programs between 2012–2019.They continue:
This finding is highly counterintuitive. As discussed above, women are significantly underrepresented in philosophy, constituting 26 percent of faculty in a 2011 survey (Paxton, Figdor, and Tiberius 2012) and 30–34 percent of new Ph.D.s in philosophy awarded to women annually over the past several decades (Schwitzgebel 2017). There is some debate over the causes of this persistent underrepresentation (see, e.g., Antony 2012), but a number of authors have identified as likely factors implicit bias (Lee 2016; Régner et al. 2019) and more generally a less welcoming or more hostile environment toward women and other underrepresented groups (Settles and O’Connor 2012). Yet factors such as implicit bias should give women a disadvantage in the academic job market, which, again, is not what our analysis shows.
(See the related post, “Implicit Attitudes, Science, and Philosophy,” by Edouard Machery.)
The authors rule out explanations for women’s apparent advantage here that are already addressed by their regression analysis, such as areas of specialization and prestige of graduate programs.
The authors consider some alternate explanations. One is that “women have, on average, greater aptitude for philosophy than do men by the time they reach the job market” because “greater attrition faced by women at earlier stages in their career may lead to the remainder having higher average aptitude when they are on the job market,” or because “if women are held to higher standards than men at earlier stages in their career, perhaps that leads to greater learned aptitude.” They express skepticism about possible evidence for this:
Analyzing articles in major economics journals, Hengel (2022) finds that women tend to become better writers than men (according to technical measures of readability) as their careers develop, and that women’s papers tend to spend longer time in peer review. Combining these observations, Hengel argues that women are held to higher standards than men in peer review and suggests that women gradually internalize these higher expectations (see also Bright 2017; Leuschner 2019). It isn’t clear, however, that these findings can explain the effect found here. The effect that Hengel identifies appears gradually over several years; in their first few publications, there is no difference in readability on average between women and men. But this is also the period when most applicants are on the academic job market. Applying Hengel’s model to the academic job market in philosophy would seem to require a similar gender-linked aptitude difference appearing much earlier than Hengel finds in economics publishing.
A different possible explanation is that “in recent years, hiring committees and others have taken steps to remediate underrepresentation and its most likely causes.” They continue:
For example, hiring committees might conduct a search in subfields with a greater share of women and other underrepresented groups, such as feminist philosophy, and then might adopt strategies for reviewing applications and conducting interviews that are designed to block implicit bias. Other changes, such as the shift from hotel rooms to videoconferencing for first-round job interviews, might have the side effect of reducing discriminatory processes against women, even if they weren’t adopted with this intention. But even if these kinds of changes have successfully mitigated factors that work against women, it is hard to see how they would give women a substantial net advantage.
It may be that, all else being equal, hiring committees tend to prefer women candidates.
They note that the gender effect they found is “likely to be a recent development.” They say:
As mentioned above, women have received 30–34 percent of new Ph.D. degrees in philosophy for decades, but in the past decade have made up only 19–26 percent of philosophy faculty (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017). If women had this placement advantage over men for several decades, we would expect women to be better represented among faculty than new Ph.D.s. For example, suppose there were 100 new Ph.D.s in a given year, 35 of which were women (35 percent) and the remaining 65 men. If 66 percent of the men and 77 percent of the women secured a permanent position (a 10-point probability difference), the new faculty would have 43 men and 27 women (rounding to the nearest whole number), or 39 percent women.
Summing up, they stress that their finding about the job market should not be taken to imply that there aren’t still problems regarding the treatment of women in philosophy:
All together, while our analysis finds that women are hired at greater rates in the academic job market in philosophy, it is not clear what might explain this difference, and it is likely to be a recent development. Moreover, we emphasize that this finding is entirely compatible with the existence of a hostile climate, implicit bias, and other factors that drive women (and other gender and sexual minorities) away from academic philosophy. For example, in a 2012 survey conducted by the Philosophy of Science Association, respondents who identify as women found the climate of both the PSA Biennial Meeting and the discipline as a whole to have a less welcoming, more sexist, less diverse, and more exclusionary climate, with more incivility and harassment, compared to respondents who identify as men (Settles and O’Connor 2012, table 6). Furthermore, Dowell and Sobel (2019) [see here] separately summarize the evidence showing that sexual harassment is pervasive across academia. Among other points, they note that 15 out of 655 publicly documented cases of sexual harassment in the “Not a Fluke” database are in philosophy, and that 4 out of 15 high-profile cases examined by Martinez (2017) involved philosophers.
You can read the whole paper here.
I don’t find these results counterintuitive. They are the fruit of years-long (decades-long?) and past-due efforts to include more members of historically underrepresented groups in philosophy. I see these results as a very welcome corrective to historical imbalances and exclusion in our field, but they aren’t counterintuitive.
The results would only seem counterintuitive if we expected diversity programs and other initiatives to bring more historically underrepresented groups into the field to fail, no?Report
As Justin quotes us: “If women had this placement advantage over men for several decades, we would expect women to be better represented among faculty than new Ph.D.s.” Insofar as diversity programs have been around for decades, they haven’t been especially successful.Report
I don’t see why it would necessarily result in women being better represented than they are. Why can’t women have a placement advantage without other factors balancing that out so that we don’t get an equal number of women and men? Surely the lack of men in English doesn’t automatically show that men aren’t given an equal chance in placement.Report
Have diversity programs been around for decades in the same form that they are now?Report
Or we have underestimated how widespread and how strict these diversity programs are, therefore cynically underestimating their actual effect.Report
This (in my view welcome) outcome has been a direct and explicit aim of the profession in recent years, and so I can’t see why we should be surprised. I would bet money that a qualitative survey of hiring committees over the past ten years or so would reveal the mechanism largely responsible for the change and that the mechanism is simply an overt preference for women candidates.Report
This might be the case. Though, I only know of one ethnography of the role of gender in academic hiring committees, and it found blatant relationship status discrimination (questioning whether women would accept an offer based on their relationship status): https://doi.org/10.1177/0003122417739294Report
I’m sure there is still anti-woman discrimination in philosophy, perhaps even in hiring, or in hiring at certain kinds of schools (e.g., the study you link looked at R1s). But we need an explanation for the results of the study showing woman have an advantage overall as philosophy candidates, and given the efforts in the profession recently, hiring committee preferences is the most likely explanation (in my view, of course).Report
It might be nice to control for relationship status, or figure out if that is a factor that has a role in hiring.Report
Is there any attempt to see how much difference in (perceived) teaching and service records could explain this?
Whenever I’ve done searches that were obliged to give high weight to teaching and/or service, women have made up the bulk of the shortlists. Not the majority of course – plenty of men have great teaching/service records – but women were massively over-represented among the best candidates relative to the applicant pool.
I don’t know if my experience is representative, or if there is an effect here whether it’s enough to explain the difference in hiring rates, but I suspect it’s probably part of the story.Report
This would take data about applicants’ records that APDA doesn’t collect. Carolyn and I have occasionally talked about maybe incorporating publication records using PhilPapers and name matching, but this would be tricky and I don’t think either of us has the time in the near future. Getting data on teaching and service would be even more difficult.Report
A tiny comment about just one department. 14 (!) years ago I looked at our grad students (still, at that time, majority male). I left out the first year students. Among the rest (about 40, about 17 of them women) the women had 1.7 publications for every publication a man had, and significantly more presentations at conferences on their cvs. I didn’t know what to make of that, but it did suggest that they would be more successful in the job market. (Completely impressionistic, but I would say that it did work out that way).Report
There have been a few comments which I’m not approving because I think they’re unhelpfully speculative and overreaching as written, but which I think convey a view that is worth noting.
The view is that it is common practice for departments to informally designate some of their new job openings as exclusively for women candidates, or for departments to intentionally exclude men from serious consideration for them.
This has never happened on any search committee I’ve been a part of. In my experience, gender and other demographic qualities sometimes factor into department-level hiring discussions and deliberation, but no one has been excluded from consideration on the basis of these qualities. Of course, I can’t conclude from my own experience that this never happens elsewhere. It probably happens occasionally, though I suspect it is not as common as it may feel to some men with recent experience on the job market.
Still, I don’t think it’s a good idea to ignore that some people feel this way. I don’t know what, if anything, to do about that feeling, but I didn’t want to give the false impression that no one was voicing it.
(Comments from people who say they have been on search committees that engaged in these kinds of exclusions, even if pseudonymous, must be submitted with legitimate institutionally-affiliated email addresses; otherwise I’ll get junk. If you’re thinking of commenting with something like “I was told by a member of a search committee that…” please take it on the run.)Report
I have served on a half-dozen search committees in philosophy and political theory, and another half-dozen in other fields. I’d say we’ve done this at least four or five of those times — designated a line for women applicants only, that is. It’s a shame that we couldn’t put it in the ad, but that would obviously be more trouble than it’s worth.Report
Is that legal?Report
As I said: more trouble than it’s worth.
In addition to possible legal issues, one doesn’t always want to tell a new colleague that she was hired in part because she was a woman: hearing that can be demoralizing (though not for everyone, I should add).Report
Plenty of anecdotal evidence that it’s been happening, legal or not, found here:
No. It’s illegal. Violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.Report
Not every institution in the world is bound by US legislation. Consider the following advertisement from 2017, from the University of Amsterdam, which strongly suggests that it’s legal in the Netherlands: https://kr.org/pipermail/planetkr/2017-December/001365.htmlReport
For sure- the UK equality act has some leeway here too. But when I was on hiring panels in the UK there was generally a fairly high level of understanding of what the law did and did not allow, whereas in the US people mostly seem to ignore it.Report
This is also not unheard of in Australia: see this current job ad at Melbourne: Professor in Conservation Biology (Women only). The relevant section of the act says a woman-only search can comply with anti-discrimination legislation if it is ‘for the purpose of promoting or realising substantive equality for members of a group with a particular attribute’. I don’t know of any philosophy search in Australia that has used these provisions, though I do know at least one department is considering it.Report
The specific federal legislation in Australia states:
7D Special measures intended to achieve equality
(1) A person may take special measures for the purpose of achieving substantive equality between:
(a) men and women; or (a number of other grounds related to sex in one way or another)
(There are a few qualifications after that that are not especially relevant here.)
I’m not 100% sure about how I feel about this, either in principle or practice. (I see some arguements both ways in both cases.) But I do think it’s fairer to be explicit about such cases, when they arise, than to pretend as if they are not the case, and espeically that it’s fairer than having cases with token candidates who in fact have no chance of being hired.Report
No, not in the US. Treating an applicant less favorably because of their gender identity or sex is inconsistent with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. See the EEOC website: https://www.eeoc.gov/youth/sex-discrimination#:~:text=Title%20VII%20of%20the%20Civil,sexual%20orientation%2C%20and%20gender%20identity.Report
This is what I thought.
I’m continually surprised how insouciant many people in these discussions are about breaking the law during hiring.Report
Many (maybe most or all? I’m not sure, but at least many) states also have state laws that _at least_ make sex discrimination in hiring at state universities illegal. So, for example, if Rutgers decides that it will only consider women (or racial minorities, or some other categories) for a job, it would be violating NJ state law as well, at least on a straight forward reading. I suspect, though, that even pointing this out at the relevant time would make one unpopular with one’s peers.Report
I think it is clear that US Law forbids having searches that are exclusively open to members of a particular race or sex. Other countries do allow this, but not the US.
That said, one can’t move from that fact to the claim that absolutely no notice of race or sex can be taken at any part of the process. In particular, if one is in a department that is overwhelmingly of one sex and one race, and if there is a longstanding pattern of predominantly hiring only people of that sex/race, there is a good case to be made that doing nothing to counteract various biases might in fact be illegal. And some steps to counteract those biases might require taking notice of various facts and patterns around sex and race, of the applicant pool, search committee, search parameters, search process, and so on.
The basic thought is that what it means to treat an applicant ‘less favorably’ might be complicated, and isn’t the kind of thing that can only be done intentionally. US law has long recognized both discriminatory intent and disparate impact as distinct but equally valid means of making a successful case for discrimination.
I go through all of this in what is now an old post, and the current Supreme Court is likely to blow up a lot of the relevant jurisprudence any day, but here it is for those interested: https://dailynous.com/2014/05/16/the-legality-of-hiring-for-diversity/Report
That’s helpful, Alex. I wonder how much of it you think holds up given the (strong, but not obviously 100% dispositive) criticism of implicit bias that’s come up since you wrote it.
(Myown view is that it won’t be that unusual for there to be some group of job candidates where there’s no obvious “best” one – especially given the way that “best” will clearly be multi-valued in these cases – and that in such cases it’s not required, legally or morally, to use a random method to choose among candidates.)
I do think that the scenarios discussed in this particular sub-thread go well beyond the factors you’re considering your post, though, to situations that fairly clearly violations of the law. I don’t think, for example, that in most such cases using direct discrimination is seen as a legally acceptable way to eliminate or reduce disparate impact discrimination. (It’s also not a necessary step.)Report
Here is a paper by a UW-M professor of law about the history and legality of what get called “Target of Opportunity Programs.” According to the author, these are administration-created “faculty positions for which candidates are identified on the basis of race and sex and for which candidates from non-preferred demographics are not invited to apply.”Report
I have been closely involved in (I think) five searches over the past nine years for tenure-track or rank-open positions.
One of these was a strict “target of opportunity” search, as described below: the position wasn’t advertised except on the university’s HR page, and we solicited applications only from women.
The other four searches were advertised in the usual way but we were directly told by the department chair that there should be at least one woman among our finalists, and there is really no question that sex (“gender”) was a factor in deciding our offers, so that women were more likely to receive offers than men even if they weren’t quite as strong on paper. (Certainly this is how I myself have often voted.) In one case I had a colleague suggest during our deliberations that a female candidate be moved ahead of a male candidate who had been voted a spot ahead of her, simply to have a more “balanced” group of finalists. (There was already one woman in our final group.) Thankfully, this proposal was rejected.
If my department is representative, as I’m fairly sure it is, then this kind of behavior would make the findings at issue seem not at all counterintuitive, for just the reasons other have highlighted.Report
Some people here are using the phrase “target of opportunity” hire as though these operate by doing a regular search to which basically anyone can apply, but with applications restricted in some way to people having certain demographic features. Whether there are searches that operate in this way, I haven’t seen any, but the phrase is usually used to mean something more like targeted recruitment of a specific candidate (and they are typically/often part of university efforts to achieve DEI goals). So these sorts of hires are, as I understand them, not associated with searches at all, they involve submitting proposals to the administration who then approve and pursue (or not) the attempt to recruit the person in question. A google for “target of opportunity” returns many university web pages outlining, more or less, this procedure.Report
In the case I’m describing as a target-of-opportunity search I believe we did post an advertisement for the position on the university’s HR site, which of course no job-seeker would ever find. All the “applicants” for the position were ones whom we actively recruited, and all were female. I assume that the posting was just there for legal or procedural reasons. In any event, I myself find this practice much less distasteful than that of heavily favoring female (and minority, etc.) applicants in allegedly open searches, as at least it doesn’t toy with the applicants’ hopes in quite the same way. Others may disagree. I have no knowledge at all of whether this kind of practice — I mean, the one where the candidates are all recruited according to whatever “diversity” criteria are at issue, so that no one from the disfavored groups actually applies — has a different status with respect to the Civil Rights Act. I suppose the argument would be that there is no *applicant* for the position who is treated differently due to their sex. But still things don’t look great with respect to this paragraph, from https://www.eeoc.gov/sex-based-discrimination:
>>An employment policy or practice that applies to everyone, regardless of sex, can be illegal if it has a negative impact on the employment of people of a certain sex and is not job-related or necessary to the operation of the business.<<Report
I have been on several committees where gender was a significant consideration, and one where it was agreed beforehand that we’d hire a woman.Report
<Sigh.> I guess we’re still not allowed even to ask the factual question. Maybe some day.Report
Having been on the job market a lot as a white woman, it is very clear that there are (some) searches in which people at least try much harder to hire (typically white) women or (I at least hope) occasionally BIPOC candidates than white men. There are also still plenty of cases in which white women are discriminated against, and way (way, in my loose anecdotal sense) more in which BIPOC candidates are discriminated against. I’m not sure what the big deal is with admitting that there are either searches in which a big priority is put on hiring a woman or, more commonly I think, general (good!) pressure to hire some women over time. (The idea being: there’s no “we can only hire a woman in this search” going on, but there is “we really shouldn’t hire two or three white men in a row” going on, which, given the demographic distribution of candidates, is going to result in fewer positions being offered to white men proportionate to their representation in that pool.) I’m also not sure why we can’t just say “overall it looks like women have an advantage on the job market and probably at least a small part of the explanation for that is that people want to hire women to get better gender balance in their departments”.
I am confident there are also other explanations–e.g. my experience with my own grad students aligns with what Brian says above: the women tend to be (but are not always of course) significantly better teachers, more devoted to service, and also perhaps even more importantly, to pick more marketable dissertation topics that appeal to more people; and I am definitely not entirely confident that attempts to hire women are not canceled out by discrimination etc., and that it is teaching/marketability/interesting work that is not making the entire difference. Still, I think it’s sort of bad faith to not just come out and acknowledge that there pretty obviously are searches where departments are devoted to hiring an (again unfortunately typically almost always white) woman). All of that is consistent with philosophy still sucking for women in lots of ways–I promise, it does–and with the fact that we should address and change that. And it is also consistent specifically with women being discriminated against on the job market in many ways–I promise, we are–and with the fact that we should address and change that. But it’s not doing anyone any favors to not just acknowledge that there is often both internal pressure from a department that realizes it is not doing well with respect to gender representation (I think there is sadly much less of this with respect to evaluating racial demographics of departments and seeing a moral imperative to fix them!), and sometimes pretty clearly pressure from administrations that are concerned about just how bad the numbers look in a philosophy department. I’ve had people basically come close to saying this out loud to me in searches I’ve been a part of (e.g. “we might be able to get two lines from this hire if we make sure that we use at least one of them to increase the diversity of our faculty”). Again, do I know that this contributes to the explanation of the numbers? Well there is no doubt in the absolute sense–such searches do at least sometimes result in hiring women when it’s pretty clear that if no one had woken up and looked around and been like “oops our department is 95% white men” that wouldn’t have happened–but I agree the jury is still somewhat out in the sense that I have no idea if it is playing any kind of major role or is not just being canceled out by the (still very real, even for white women) discrimination women face in other searches, and I have no idea whether explanations like the ones I gave above about my own students play more of a role.
Still, not acknowledging it looks bad to me–it looks like a case of saying “oh we don’t have strong enough empirical data to support this obvious fact that everyone can just see and any woman who has interviewed for enough jobs will tell you is true”–and I don’t think that helps anyone’s agenda, and it’s something that is (correctly!) deeply frowned upon when it is a move taken up by the fascist right wing as a way to attempt to e.g. deny racism in some sphere (“where’s your empirical data! you can’t prove that policing is racist! let me give you seven other interpretations of this data that suggests it might be!”). All things aren’t equal here (of course!), but I think these kinds of posts come across as liberal propagandizing, and it’s not fooling anyone, and it’s not helping with any reasonable political movement towards justice. (Though I am sure I disagree with many here about what such political movement would look like, and I definitely don’t think this topic is worthy of so much empirical attention when there are so many worse things going on in our profession (horrific racial politics, corporatization of universities, adjuncts and graduate students who are homeless and hungry, etc.), as well as in the relationship between our profession and the broader world.)Report
It’s almost like it makes a difference when administrators say “we want you to hire more women and we will put our thumb on the scale to make that more likely.”Report
This isn’t particularly surprising to anyone who’s tried looking at specific points in time where attrition might occur. Paxton et al. (2012) find that the gender gap did not significantly increase for students in their study between majoring and graduate school, nor between graduate school and the faculty level. Solomon and Clarke (2009) found that women were hired in proportion to the total number of philosophy PhD’s granted to women. Jennings, Cobb, and Vinson (2015) found that men and women obtained academic positions within two years of graduation at similar rates, with women being *more* likely to secure a permanent academic placement.
Despite this information being available for some time there’s been quite a lot of insistence that we need to do more to combat e.g. putative biases in hiring. If biases aren’t actually having any measureable effect on hiring, it seems plausible that the net effect of this collective insistence and unwillingness to tolerate dissenting views about the net effect of various factors would result in an overcorrection, resulting in preferences for women qua preferences for not risking accusations of discrimination upon hiring a man.
The claim that there cannot have been an advantage in hiring for decades because we would expect there to be more faculty is clearly too hasty – factors such as the well-documented childcare penalty women academics pay could make attrition happen through the ranks even if they do not affect the initial hiring chances.
Having continually insisted that various gender gaps are evidence that there is discrimination and bias (and making little effort to rule out alternative explanations), I find it rather worrying to see philosophers, upon finally seeing gaps in the opposite direction, default towards considering explanations that remain consistent with the original narrative in which women are being driven away from philosophy. When one’s evidence changes we should change our minds, no?Report
Clarificatory question about the gender effect in the regression analysis
Does the data include whether PhDs in these years went on the academic job market?
Just wondering if you were able to include this as an individual-level covariate in the regression analysis and adjust for it
I ask because I am just curious about whether the data, or other data you are aware of, speak to the hypothesis that men disproportionately leave philosophy at this stage of the pipeline to become lawyers or pursue other careers
I have no strong opinion about it but seems like another possibility that could in principle explain some of the gender effect here if I understand thingsReport
In the context of this article, the term ‘women’ obscures more than the term illuminates. The seemingly straightforward use of term urges you to believe that an undifferentiated group of “women” philosophers have, for some time, gotten hired at a better rate than men in philosophy and continue to be advantaged in this way. But that’s simply false. Almost all of the women philosophers hired are nondisabled white women philosophers (and disabled women philosophers who pass as nondisabled), a factor both covered over and inadvertently thrown into relief by the article’s use of the outdated phrase (which is nevertheless still prevalent in discourses about underrepresentation in philosophy and in job postings themselves) of “women and other underrepresented groups.” I discuss the exclusionary motivation for use of this phrase in philosophy and the consequences of it here: https://philpapers.org/rec/TREIFP.
I hope to soon write another article on the matter or a blog post at BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY in this regard because I think that the construction of “women” that this article (and post) has advanced and the work of APDA more generally significantly contribute to the reproduction and perpetuation of exclusionary discourses with respect to underrepresentation in philosophy and to the exclusion of disabled women philosophers (and disabled philosophers in general) themselves from permanent employment in philosophy. These exclusionary practices will be reinforced by another APA-funded initiative that is currently underway, ostensibly to promote “diversity” in philosophy.
Women in general continue to be underrepresented in philosophy, not primarily because of sexual harassment or because of “implicit bias” (a notion that is by now largely discredited), as the authors of this article surmise, but rather because disabled women philosophers and other minoritized women philosophers in particular continue to be marginalized and excluded from philosophy. Why are disabled women philosophers, in particular, and disabled philosophers, in general, excluded from philosophy? To get informative answers to this question, you will need to take seriously the claims that make up the large body of work on the matter that I have already generated and the work that other disabled philosophers such as Mich Ciurria and Élaina Gauthier-Mamaril have begun to produce. Nevertheless, the article that I link to above will get you started.Report
As far as I know, APDA has never collected data on disability, among many other variables one would like: first-gen status, first language, LGBTQII2S+ identity. Sometimes data on race/ethnicity has been collected, but only for certain years and in different formats. Since we didn’t have good race/ethnicity data across the time frame we targeted (2012-2019), we decided not to use it here.
In other work I’ve taken an intersectional approach when the data were available. One of the challenges of found data is that often the data you want aren’t available. For example, to study why students choose to major in philosophy or not, I have a dataset on all students who took a philosophy course at a particular large public research university between like 2005-2015, along with their majors and demographics. In requesting this dataset from the registrar’s office at this particular university, I was able to get information on the students’ major GPA, grades in each philosophy course they took, and even whether they were eligible for the Pell Grant; but not whether they self-IDed as disabled, LGBTQII2S+, or a veteran. The registrar said that these fields were too sparse (very few people said “yes”) and so including them would break anonymity, which was required by both the IRB and the registrar.
You might be aware that, for the 2020/21 meeting, the Philosophy of Science Association asked every presenter to fill out a pretty detailed demographic questionnaire. They didn’t do this again for the 2022 meeting, I believe because of pushback from members that the questionnaire was invasive.Report
Dan, your remarks provide no justification for why your article and APDA’ work more generally disregards the large body of work that I and other disabled philosophers of disability have produced..Report
Carolyn pointed out that I was mistaken about APDA’s data collection. In recent years, they’ve expanded the demographic questions, which now include disability, parents’ highest degree, and separate questions for trans and sexual identities, among others. You can review these questions and some analysis of the responses in the 2018, 2019, and 2022 APDA reports, which are available here: https://philosophydata.org/about. My mistake!Report
Dan my claims according to which your article and APDA’s work more generally reproduce the exclusion of disabled women philosophers (and disabled philosophers in general) is not compromised by the fact that APDA has previously collected some data on disabled philosophers. I encourage you and Carolyn, along with the rest of the APDA crew, to read some of the work that I and others have produced about why and how we are excluded from jobs in philosophy. I can assure you that “implicit biases” and “sexual” harassment do not get much space in these discussions.Report
According to the survey Dan linked, 28% of philosophers identify as disabled and 17-28% of the US population identify as disabled.Report
Josh, you will notice that in my initial comment I mentioned disabled philosophers who pass. Many disabled people who would identify as disabled on an anonymous survey pass as nondisabled in their daily lives, especially in academia. I know disabled philosophers who pass as nondisabled. I think their practice is harmful.
If a department has three lesbians on its faculty who pass as straight would you say that lesbians are well represented in that department? I think most people with a political analysis of identity and sexuality would say “no”. If a disabled philosopher passes as nondisabled, why would we consider that philosopher as representative of disabled philosophers?
What are the purposes of these efforts to “diversify” philosophy? Are they designed merely to count different groups of people? (Counting, by the way, is never a value-neutral endeavour. Foucault and Hacking argued, for instance, that counting contributes to the constitution of what it is alleged to innocently tally). Alternatively, are these efforts designed with the goal in mind to precipitate change that will ultimately provide likely mentors and role models for members of underrepresented groups? Are they directed to urge change that will demonstrate to members of underrepresented groups that they too can be a philosopher, that they belong in philosophy? Will these aims be as effectively achieved by disabled philosophers (or lesbians) who pass?
I (and other disabled philosophers) struggle to understand why philosophers engage in the degree of gaslighting, epistemic injustice, and gatekeeping that they do with respect to disabled philosophers. Our epistemic authority, even about our own lives, is repeatedly undermined or at least cast into serious doubt. Indeed, it’s remarkable to me that the expertise that I and other disabled philosophers have accumulated is repeatedly challenged and delegitimized. I’ve been working on these issues in a variety of forums for decades.Report
“Our epistemic authority, even about our own lives, is repeatedly undermined or at least cast into serious doubt.”
Indeed—this is just what your own post is doing.
People can pass in some contexts (on the job market, on the internet) while serving as openly disabled mentors and role models to students. I do.Report
Grymes, your remark is interesting because it suggests that passing as nondisabled on the job market is required to get a job in philosophy. In other words, departments are less likely to hire disabled candidates than nondisabled candidates.Report
Dialogues on Disability is a series of interviews with disabled philosophers that I have run for several years. On the third Wednesday of each month, I post an interview with a disabled philosopher. The interviews are full of insights about (for example) my interviewees experiences of hostility, ableism, and institutional exclusion in philosophy and academia more broadly. Here is an excerpt from the interview that I did with Maeve McKeown in July:
“I think everyone knows that universities are no longer institutions designed to promote the public good of education, but rather are corporations governed by the profit motive. Employees in other industries have known for a long time that such a set up means that employees are disposable. The human cost of balancing the budget and maximizing profits is not considered. Academics have been privileged for a long time, having job security and autonomy at work, but these privileges have disappeared for most university faculty. The majority–around 70 percent of the workforce–are on precarious contracts; they are disposable because they are easily replaced; they have to teach whatever they are told to teach; and they have little to no time available for research.
So, to be completely honest, I am pessimistic about the possibilities of change for the better when it comes to people with disabilities. As I’ve experienced, and I’m sure many other disabled academics can attest to, we are perceived as even more of a burden than nondisabled staff, a drain on time and resources, and something to be avoided or disposed of.”
Many of my interviewees have articulated similar sentiments. You can find the archive of the entire Dialogues on Disability series here: Dialogues on Disability – BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY
I’d be happy to interview you for the series sometime Grymes if you’d like. My email address in the Contributors Bios section of the blog.Report
I appreciate the offer—I’ve read and benefited from several of your interviews, and McKeown’s remarks certainly resonate.Report
I find the claim in your second sentence very plausible. (That’s obviously bad. I’m all for your main cause. The only thing I’m taking issue with is the idea that the practice of passing as nondisabled is harmful.) I wouldn’t say passing as nondisabled “is required” to get a job. In any case I do not see how either claim is suggested by my remark. There are many things about myself I would be unlikely to reveal to potential employers. For most of them, I see no reason to think revealing them would make me less likely to be hired—they’re simply none of most people’s business.Report
Leaving aside the points of contention in the rest of this conversation, I want to address the validity of the comparison made in Josh’s comment.
Even if the surveys are identical, survey measures often fail to have the same external validity between populations. This is something that needs to be independently checked. For example, the political scientist Hakeem Jefferson has shown how self reported political ideology has different external validity among black populations and white populations. However, restricting to college educated samples tends to alleviate the problems he discusses (he told me on Twitter Nathan Kalmoe has a paper on this?).
A survey measureust simply amd dichotomize a complex condition like disability and there are various reasons to expect the external validity of responses won’t be invariant between populations. The ACS disability measure isn’t that different from the ADA measure used in link. The ACS measuee is used in the following survey of federal and state inmates. But I take the similarity between the results for philosophers and prisoners, especially among the relevant disability subtypes, to be a dramatic illustration of this failure:
For my part, I think it is unknown how well represented disability is among philosophers relative to various benchmarks given the difficulties involved.
But for all I know the authors of the linked 2021 piece agree with all this. This is really complicated and difficult work. And there’s not enough space to get into all these details in an article.Report
*whoops! I think that should be “validity” rather than “external validity”
(Either way the example from Jefferson’s work describes the idea)Report
>Analyzing articles in major economics journals, Hengel (2022) finds that women tend to become better writers than men (according to technical measures of readability)
Has there been any work that attempts to show if readability in these technical senses has anything to do with producing quality philosophy? I’ve seen this sort of comment get tossed around here and there (i.e. “some studies have shown that women are better writers etc”) but it remains opaque to me why we would think these metrics track good philosophy. What’s the readability score of Kant or Wittgenstein or Foucault or some technical paper in phil. physics or logic?
More on topic though: Like others, this result doesn’t seem surprisingly at all. There’s been much made, in various ways, of hiring women from the APA, women-centered networking groups, pressures from administrators. I think anyone paying attention to, say, the last 10 years or so shouldn’t find this result surprising. What’s always interesting to me is how delicately we have to discuss this result– we have to give measured, careful, cited responses that don’t overstep and don’t draw any uncomfortable inferences. Yet, so it seems to me, if the result went the other way — if we found that men had a big statistical advantage in hiring across the board — the immediate and unequivocal response would be that the profession is sexist and hostile to women.Report
The philosophy journal survey that Weisberg put together a few years ago (thanks!) offers some data that’s informative on this front. If you scroll down to the acceptance rates by gender, it seems overall they are almost the same. Of course, these acceptance rates don’t necessarily correlate with better or worse writing, per se (I’ve read plenty of papers with very good arguments, that were poorly written.) Nevertheless, the results seem to indicate that gender has almost bearing on how likely a paper is accepted. This is particularly telling when coming from journals that have double blind review practices in place. From this bit of data, one might conclude, that at least when it comes to publishing, gender happens to be a very poor predictor of research ability.
Could a further, potentially non-competiting explanation concern the increase in the types of positions which are available , e.g. in value theory, political and social philosophy etc. which tend to have a greater percentage of women?Report
More women do value theory, political and social philosophy than men do? That’s news to me. Any data to support this claim?Report
I think the claim is that value theory has a greater percentage of women than other fields do. It is still an empirical claim, but it is not a claim that “more women do value theory . . . than men do.”
I believe in the past the claim has been true, but I don’t remember how it broke down or know what the current population is.Report
Like most people, I welcome the outcome of more women getting hired and thus philosophy having a better gender balance. Commentators above point to anecdotal evidence that preferential hiring of female candidates is a significant factor driving this. I want to make a simple point. Let’s suppose that, in the current circumstances, preferential hiring is a morally appropriate way to achieve a better gender balance. In that case I think we need to acknowledge an injustice with respect to the burdens of younger men who are facing a job market where preferential hiring works against them vs. older men who have been in the profession for decades. The point is that when it comes to the historically bad climate for women in philosophy, it is the older men who are largely responsible for it (e.g., by perpetrating, accepting, or not challenging sexual harassment and casual sexism) and who have unfairly benefitted from it (e.g., by facing a much easy job market 30 years ago because many talented females who could have potentially outcompeted them for a job on merit were driven out of the profession by harassments and sexism). Yet to address these problems it is the younger men who suffer (by having a much harder time getting hired) in order to correct problems that is mostly the fault of the older generation.
In a fairer world, the gender balance would instead be advanced by a significant number of older men resigning from their positions early on the grounds that they are culpable for, or unfairly benefitted from, the historically bad climate for women. These positions could then be made available only for female candidates to improve gender balance. Meanwhile the normal stream of new positions that become available through other means could be filled without preferential hiring, meaning that younger men are not being systematically disadvantage to make up for the sins of the older generation. Of course, for various practical reasons, the fairer way of doing things is unfeasible, and thus, if we want to make significant progress on the gender imbalance problem, it seems that the preferential hiring must disadvantage younger men. But even if this is morally acceptable in the circumstances, I still think there needs to be widespread acknowledgment that it is unfair that this burden cannot instead be forced onto older men instead.
There is also an important lesson here for the younger men who have lost out on the recent/current job market and have reacted to this by becoming bitter and cynical. I sometimes hear men in this category speak dismissively about female candidates who might have been hired ahead of them on non-meritocratic grounds, or about hiring committees who employ preferential hiring. The former deserve no ill will and are actually doing their bit to help philosophy in the long-run (by improving the gender balance) despite sex-based difficulties they may have faced. The latter might be acting wrongly, but this is open to debate and reasonable people can disagree on the moral acceptability of preferential hiring. Where these younger men should really direct their ill will is at the older generation of men who completely failed the profession by being responsible for and benefitting from a bad climate for women that made the profession so male-dominated in the first place. These men who, tend to hold most of the senior positions in the profession, have failed to meaningfully acknowledge their role, and have borne very little of the burden when it comes to fixing the mess they created.Report
Thank you for airing this view. One note:
“[. . .] if we want to make significant progress on the gender imbalance problem, it seems that the preferential hiring must disadvantage younger men.”
Or we could recognize preferential hiring for what it is: a game of make-believe whose silly internal logic rationalizes the unjustified exercise of administrative power and soothes the conscience of the affluent, pajama classes.
We could stop the charade, and so be free from having to choose to disadvantage younger men.
We who see an overrepresentation of whiteness and maleness in philosophy are seeing the effects of our country’s long-entrenched socio-economic dispensation. And while we who are worried about such an overrepresentation can’t do much about the current material arrangement that engenders it, we can turn our attention away from tinkering with downstream effects — such as a largely white and male (and affluent) applicant pool — to dealing head-on with upstream effects. We should want to find ways to introduce all of our youth to philosophy and make it easier for them to pursue it: poor and affluent, rural and urban, boy and girl, white and black, etc.
Everybody knows that ours is a pipeline problem. And yet most of the resources we might devote to balancing things out are expended on hiring practices of dubious legality that nevertheless make it look like we actually care about diversity and make it look like our self-congratulations are actually warranted. A clamorous fraction of our profession makes proclamations about what ratio of women authors it’s correct to feature on one’s syllabus or what ratio of women it’s correct to have as tenured faculty, while many of us are just trying to get the young women (and men) in our classroom the books, the time, and the attention they need to participate in and enjoy the course.
It’s kinda gross.Report
Yes, I am sympathetic to your line of thought here and share your cynicism about the motives of some of the senior people involved. You are right that it is a pipeline problem and that this means that addressing it further down the pipeline is, generally, the best way to fix it. However, this still leaves room for some arguments about whether interventions at the end of the pipeline can play some role. For example, in the past it has been argued that, because of stereotype threat, having a reasonable number of visible philosophers from the relevant demographic groups will significantly help improving things earlier in the pipeline. However, in the decade or so since these arguments were first made, several issues have emerged with the science of stereotype threat that cast doubt onto whether this kind of argument which appeals to it can succeed.Report
We should be cautious with the assumption that the main cause for gender disparity in faculty who are now ‘senior’ is “perpetrating, accepting, or not challenging sexual harassment and casual sexism”.Report
Also, just a note—It’s often the older men who are most supportive. The people who’ve made me most want to leave are men my age who fancy themselves feminists, or older women—not universally, but some of them are very nasty toward younger women, for whatever reason. Everyone has different experiences, but sexism is not necessarily a generational thing that we “younger people” have 100% overcome, nor is this about holding the “correct” views, at least in my experience.Report
Thanks for sharing this. I have no idea whether your experiences are shared by a majority of others. But it is worth pointing out that, separate from gender, I think that many grad students/junior people find that the older academics are more supportive than the mid-career or younger peers. Furthermore, I think the reason for this is that older academics are more likely to have moved beyond status games (i.e., competing with others for status) because they have already achieved a high status or have accepted, by this late stage in their career, that they will not achieve a high status in philosophy. On the other hand, I think that, sadly, far too many mid-career and junior people are caught up in status games and this can make many of them unsupportive or prone to act like jerks.
Anyway, the claim I was making above was not about which groups (older vs younger etc.) is most contributing to a bad climate right now. Rather, it was about which groups most contributed to the historically bad climate in previous decades (e.g., the 70’s and 80’s). To the extent that there still is a bad climate now for women in philosophy, it pales in comparison to the bad climate that was around in these earlier decades. And it is entirely possible for the men who, in these earlier decades, did not object to the sexist remarks that were often made about female philosophers, and who turned a blind-eye to sexually inappropriate behavior by male colleagues, to be very supportive to young women in philosophy in 2022.Report
Yes, I agree. Social phenomena like this almost always have a complex, multi-causal explanation. However, when one reads firsthand accounts from women about how bad sexist comments and sexual harassment were in the 70’s, 80’s, and to some extent the 90’s, it is hard not to conclude that the historically bad climate was a significant factor in the skewed gender demographics. But whether it was more significant than any other factor is hard to say.Report
Not sure if this was controlled for, but a persisting lower proportion of women in the profession and an advantage in hiring would be consistent if there was a lower retention rate for women, and so they enter the job market more often. My impression is that a lot of the same departments that try very hard to hire women are also terrible at retaining them.Report
In four searches over the last several years (and another this year), our hiring committees were/are internally committed to increasing our faculty diversity, and we had external pressure (dean, provost, diversity officer) to do so, too. I think that sort of thing is the full explanation of the effect discussed in the article: The discipline is making a choice to try to foster more gender equity. BTW, there are so few hires nationally in a year (less than 200?), compared to the size of the field (about 5k tenured/tenure track philosophers in the US, if I am reading the data right), that it is going to take a long time for the hiring differential to get the discipline to something closer to gender parity.Report
As someone entering the market, it has long seemed simple to me that I would have a significant advantage vying for TT positions were I able to appropriately claim membership in any number of historical marginalized demographics. That says nothing about how difficult it would have been for me to do what I’ve done were I so marginalized, but the point stands: at this stage in the rat race those distinctions serve as advantages on the market.
I think most everyone in my position recognizes this and none of us should really worry about it too much because such stuff is out of our hands.Report
I do think that anyone entering grad school with hopes of working in philosophy should be given an accurate account of the job market, including any demographic advantages or disadvantages they may have.Report
I prefer not to consider my identity as a straight white man a professional disadvantage, but if it turns out to be from a certain statistical point of view then I will be very proud of myself for succeeding despite my disadvantage.Report
Is that a reason not to give everyone coming into grad school school an accurate account of where they likely stand as far as the job market goes? The feelings of people who have already succeeded don’t seem particularly important.Report
I am a member of a marginalized demographic who chooses not to reveal my status as a member of that demographic. I’m private about being a trans man–and while many in the profession know, the majority do not, nor do the institutions where I have applied. I’ve long wondered about this.
When I transitioned, I was told by (cisgender) male colleagues that I was giving up an advantage I’d have as a queer woman. I argued vehemently that they were wrong.
I wonder about the counterfactual–would my haveing been open about my gender history make a difference? I don’t work on gender studies professionally, so perhaps not. But I’m someone who has experienced marginalization of various sorts, as a woman (I understand my socialization to have been that of female people, and I was definitely treated as a woman), as a queer person (I certainly have experienced marginalization when in same-sex relationships), and as a trans person (when transitioning and even today in medical contexts when I have to disclose).
So in some ways, on paper I’m the sort of person where hiring committees might want to put their thumb on the scale, so to speak.
But were I to be hired, I would not appear to diversify the department. I’d be just another white dude in philosophy. And as I value my privacy and feel like I’d be sharing this information for pretty mercenary reasons, I have never disclosed while on the market.
My case is just one, and probably pretty unusual–though I think plenty of people contribute to diversity in ways which aren’t visible (class, disability, even ethnicity and race). I have nothing to add to resolve the issue, but it has certainly added a complex set of feelings to the job market for me.Report
Presumably “academic position in philosophy” should read “academic position in philosophy in the USA” here?Report
I think that attempts at fixing historical injustice by present injustice are bad, or if you will, unjust. And I find it alarming that so many people are so cavalier about it.
Women in the past were subjects of injustice in the hiring process. That injustice was committed by men in the past. This does not make it morally right to commit injustice against men in the present moment.
What should be the main goal of hiring policies? Is it that men and women are equally represented in certain professional positions? I think not. I think the goal should be that men and women have equal chances of getting into certain professional positions. That is, the hiring policies should be fair – but achieving proportional representation by disadvantaging a certain group is not fair, it is unfair. And the fact that ancestors of the current members of that group were the ones who disadvantaged others in the past does not make it right to disadvantage present members of that group. This is so obvious to me, and I honestly find it utterly shocking to see how many people think otherwise. But such is life.Report
Hiring is not really a matter of justice or fairness. It can be unjust, sure, when factors are considered that ought not be considered. But positions don’t go to those who deserve or earned them. The view that the goal of hiring policies is “that men and women have equal chances of getting into certain professional positions” is not likely to be shared by many.
I take it that the goal of hiring policies is to hire someone who will enhance the department in various ways, not to be give equal chances to each and every applicant. I also doubt that those here would say that these hiring practices are adopted in order to rectifying past injustices. Rather, they might say that they are hiring in order to create a more diverse and inclusive department.
Whether one ought to take gender/race into account in these scenarios is a separate question; one could make an argument that the aim of diverse and inclusive departments does not justify the discriminatory practices here. That may be so. But the aim of hiring processes is not fairness or “equal chances”. Report
Read the comments in this thread. People are literally mentioning past discrimination of women as a justification for hiring practices that favor women. And they are talking about gender parity as a goal of these practices.
Sure, I know that some will say that diversity might be the justification for those practices. I think that is not a good justification. Academic departments should not aim for diversity. They should aim for research quality and teaching quality.Report
Well, insofar as that is the justification, I agree that it is ridiculous. The beneficiaries of these policies are not the people who suffered in previous eras. The idea that I should benefit *because* someone else, with whom I share a feature, suffered 30 years ago, is very silly.
This is kind of awkward because I feel like I am on the non-woke side of this issue, but no one is mentioning 50/50 parity as a goal. Just something *closer* to parity, and I assume this is because we know that there is a leaky pipeline problem, and people assume (rightly or wrongly) that one way of resolving that is to have more female mentors. So, sure, people are saying some silly things, but what I describe here is the standard justification for these policies, one which is nevertheless at odds with the idea that “research quality and teaching quality” are the only things that matter.Report
You wrote: “They should aim for research quality and teaching quality.“
This normative claim assumes that candidates’ (women’s and men’s) qualities and competence in research are wishy-washy, to begin with. I like to think that once you have a Ph.D. you’re competent to do a certain job you’ve been trained for. Unless universities are giving out Ph.Ds like candy, we shouldn’t assume that the *quality* of research is completely random among candidates.
Second, how often do hiring committees read the candidate’s papers to assess quality in the first place? If your response is that they often look at the number of publications on a CV, then that has little to do with quality but quantity instead e.g. productivity (whether a candidate is very productive and not necessarily an excellent thinker).Report
How much attention hiring committees pay to writing samples depends on how far through the process you are. At least in departments I’m familiar with, the initial sift involves only limited attention to the writing sample just because there are too many applications to do otherwise, but by the time a candidate is approaching the shortlist, their writing sample will have been read very carefully by multiple people, and the committee will probably have tried to get hold of anything else they’ve published and read that carefully too.Report
Of the most recent six hires in my department (all within the last 10 years, and most within the last five), three were white men, two were white women, and one was a woman of color. As final candidates in the last 3 searches, we have brought out equal numbers of men and women and hired 2 women and 1 man. In our department, the search committee is composed of three people appointed by the chair and they decide who we bring to campus. For each of the last 3 searches, those committees have had very different compositions, and while one search committee did look for gender and race balance in candidates, I am certain that the other two did not take this into consideration. Yet, even so, the search in which the search chair was someone who regularly rails against diversity efforts ended up bringing out 2 women out of 3. The only time we have been asked for more explanation of our rejection of a candidate from the Dean (someone very supportive of diversity efforts) involved a man of color (and, ironically, was the hire we proposed hiring a woman of color). I don’t think it’s plausible that enough of my colleagues secretly think we ought to hire more women to explain why we have hired men and women in equal numbers over the past years; I think it’s just in these cases, the female candidates were better. Given both discrimination (which may weed out more women) and efforts to create female solidarity in philosophy (which helps strengthen the women that remain), it is plausible that the average female job candidate is better than the average male job candidate right now. I do think we need more women and people of color in our department—not as a remedy for past discrimination, but because I think it is important for our students to have faculty who look like them and also because I think a diversity of experiences is better for our department and for philosophy. The overall representation of women in the department is still around 20% because we only have one senior woman. Nevertheless, I have not ever felt in past searches, not even once, that I was voting for a candidate based on gender. (I could imagine voting based on gender in a true tie-breaker, but I think those are rare.)Report
I don’t, of course, know anything about your department’s job searches: perhaps, as you say, the female candidates you’ve interviewed have always been clearly superior to the best male candidates. However, you seem to move very quickly from the evidence you present to the conclusion that you and your colleagues were not operating under any sort of bias.
We hear constantly of all sorts of subtle, hitherto unknown biases that might incorrectly lead people to estimate that a male candidate might be better than a female candidate. When the situation is reversed and female candidates are coming out as winners more often (as in your department), it’s strange that all those considerations should go out the window.
For instance, you mention a colleague who rails against diversity efforts but nonetheless brought in two women out of three candidates. If the situation had been reversed, and a colleague who rails *in favor* of diversity efforts had brought in disproportionately many *male* candidates, would we be warranted in taking that as evidence that the male candidates were simply better, since the colleague’s bias clearly points the other way?
I can think of a number of reasons why such a colleague might be biased in favor of bringing in more female candidates. Perhaps the colleague fears being ‘canceled’ for having taken a stand against diversity hiring — there might be good reasons for this fear that the colleague has learned about but you have not. Or perhaps the colleague is psychologically inclined to show that, without diversity hiring pressures, the department will nonetheless be apt to hire good candidates without prejudice, etc.
Imagine being asked at a conference whether the last person your department hired was male. If the true answer were ‘Yes’, would you feel just as comfortable giving that answer as you would giving ‘No’ if that were the true answer?
Again, it’s *possible* that the data given in the original post are best explained by the women on the job market just being clearly better than the men, on average. But this seems like a hasty explanation when there are so many other plausible explanations that have gone relatively unexplored.Report