This cool infographic was created by Merrill Cook and posted on superscholar.org. But, umm, couldn’t we get some of the women in the picture? Continue reading
For the 2009 Philosophical Gourmet Report ranking of US doctoral programs, Brian Leiter circulated a list of the faculty at 99 US programs. But for the 2011-12 rankings, the list was of only 60 programs. That’s a 39% drop, in the space of just two years, of departments willing to participate. No wonder Leiter has not published the list in the usual spot under methodology. But it can be retrieved as an rtf document from this page. [Edit: see correction below in my comment replying to Leiter.]
[Nonetheless] I compared the list of 60 faculties [used for the Philosophical Gourmet Report’s 2011 rankings] to Julie Van Camp’s ranking of departments by their percentage of tenure-stream women faculty. From top to bottom of these women-friendly departments (in terms of having above average percentage of women faculty), here is a list of those that do not participate in the PGR rankings:
- University of Georgia
- University of Oregon
- Emory University
- Villanova University
- University of New Mexico
- University of South Carolina
- Arizona State
- SUNY Binghamton
- University of Oklahoma
- Loyola University – Chicago
- SUNY Stony Brook
- University of Cincinnati
- University of Kansas
- DePaul University
- Fordham University
- Marquette University
- Temple University
- University of Memphis
- Duquesne University
- University of Kentucky
- Michigan State University
Bravo to all these programs — both for hiring women to the tenure stream and for saying no to the PGR.
[Edit: For background see yesterday’s post on the PGR’s un-women-friendly epistemology.]
Julie Van Camp just updated her Spring 2004 article, “Female-Friendly Departments: A Modest Proposal for Picking Graduate Programs in Philosophy” that pointed out the under-representation of women on the advisory board of Brian Leiter’s Philosophical Gourmet Report. This month Van Camp expanded the postscript with numbers showing that in the past ten years little has changed.
The 2011 Report:
The list of the Top 51 doctoral programs is included in the 2011 Philosophical Gourmet Report. The 56 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2011 included nine females (16.1%) and was based on the reports of 302 evaluators, including 46 women (15.2%).
The 2009 Report:
The 55 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2009 included eight females (14.5%) and was based on the reports of 294 evaluators, including 37 women (12.6%).
The 2006-08 Report:
The 56 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2006-2008 included seven females (12.5%) and was based on the reports of 269 evaluators, including 26 women (9.67%).
The 2004-06 Report:
The 59 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2004-2006 included eight females (13.6%) and was based on the reports of 266 evaluators, including 32 women (12.0%).
The 2002-04 Report:
The 43 members of the Report’s Advisory Board for 2002-2004 included five women (11.6%) and was based on reports from 177 evaluators, including 24 women (13.6%).
Van Camp also notes that the very “top” six programs in the PGR have a lower percentage of women on the faculty than the national average for doctoral-granting programs. Go HERE to see her helpful chart showing percentages of tenured and tenure-track women faculty in doctoral-granting programs.
On that chart she includes when and how a school was ranked on the PGR since 2002. Of the top ten on her list, six have no ranking——meaning they have not shown up (since 2002) as one of the PGR’s top 51 programs . That can happen in two ways: (1) the program was ranked at 52d or worse or (2) the program did not turn over its list of faculty, meaning, it chose not to participate at all.
The 2009 PGR was based on a list of faculty from 99 doctoral programs. How many were on the 2011 list? Leiter provides previous lists under methodology, but not the 2011 list, at least not as of this writing. I know anecdotally that many of the programs with more women on the faculty choose not to turn over their lists to Leiter. I think this is because of his explicit bias against self-identified pluralist programs, most of which tend to have more women on the faculty. Regarding some problems with this bias, see this post on see on the New APPS blog.
Is there a systematic bias in the PGR methodology that leads it to value more male-dominated departments? Well, yes. An unrepresentative and hand-picked advisory board plus unrepresentative and hand-picked evaluators will lead to a slanted take on the value of the work going on in the profession. You don’t have to be a stand-point epistemologist to see this.
No doubt, in just a few months the blog “What is it like to be a woman philosophy” has done more to wake up the field about sexism in the profession than anything in the past few decades. It’s just about impossible now to ignore or deny. (Just see this gawker story.) So the questions that have been on my mind lately are these: What is it about philosophy that makes it prone to this problem? What makes it different from comp lit or other humanities? It seems, in general, that the humanities are more hospitable to women than engineering and the sciences. (Though I don’t know what it’s like in the sciences these days.) Does philosophy, at least when it tries to be as “rigorous” as the sciences, become less welcoming to women? Is there something about women that just unsettles men in the field? Do the old binaries about
reason / emotion
culture / nature
logos / pathos
have a stranglehold on philosophy?
Are there differences from one sort of philosophy to another?
My own anecdotal take: Among feminist philosophy circles, women are quite welcome. (Of course!) Same goes in continental, pragmatist, and much political philosophy. In grad school in a class on early Wittgenstein, I didn’t feel so good about the professor’s aggressive and hostile attitude, but otherwise he was okay. My other seminars were exemplars of civility and welcoming. And my colleagues since have been great. The truth is, I have had a fabulous time being a woman in philosophy. I have been hugely supported by male mentors and colleagues. I have no complaints.
But, I can’t help but noticing (and I have been hesitating for many weeks to point this out here), many of the complaints about being a woman in philosophy emanate from “top” programs, “top” not meaning truly exceptional but “top” meaning highly ranked by the circularly produced Philosophy Gourmet / Leiter reports. I say circular because the rankings are based on the opinions of a group of philosophers chosen because they have been deemed to be “top” philosophers. The input produces the output. There’s nothing objective or representative about the rankings, though they have transfixed the discipline, causing many who otherwise know their logic to stay silent about their concerns. I have blogged on this more than I care to blog on anything. (To see these posts just type “Leiter” into the search field of this blog.)
The point here is that there seems to be an overlap between the style of philosophy favored by the Leiter reports and the style of philosophy that’s unwelcoming to women. This is not a blanket statement about fields of philosophy or the people in them. There are some absolutely wonderful and welcoming people doing, say, philosophy of language (like Al Martinich, a friend and prof back at Texas). And no doubt there is some sexist pig out there who does Foucault (though I can’t name one off the top of my head). But it’s hard to ignore so many posts by women in “top” programs complaining of sexism and sexual harassment.
So here’s another question: What is it like to be a department that is trying to increase its ranking — that is trying to be known for its rigor and precision? Who is it going to purge or make unwelcome? What is it going to aspire to? Sexism long preceded the sad excursion into self-ranking, but the ranking game seems to have made more manifest certain stakes and tendencies.
Finally, note that the rankings game can be easily ended. If you are at a Ph.D. granting program in philosophy (or an M.A. one, for that matter), simply ask your chair to not turn over the list of faculty to those who come knocking. Those who do not turn over their list are not included in the rankings. It’s that simple. We need not participate. Thankfully, my program doesn’t. And we are the better for it.
A new blog with a novel concept has started. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A WOMAN IN PHILOSOPHY? collects and posts a few anecdotes per day on the question. As the editors put it,
This blog is devoted to short observations (generally fewer than 300 words) sent in by readers, about life as a woman in philosophy. Some of these will undoubtedly be tales of the sexism, conscious and unconscious, that remains. But we hope that others will be tales of ways that improvements have been (or are being) made. Many will be written by women in philosophy. But we hope that not all will be– for others in philosophy also know some important things relevant to what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy. They know, for example, what men in philosophy say to each other when the women aren’t there.
The other day I read all the posts through in one sitting, starting with the earliest ones. There’s something hilarious about the horrible gaffes made, but at the same time it’s really sad. There is something about this discipline of philosophy that is just not friendly to women. Perhaps it is the argumentative / combative style that is prevalent in some schools of thought (but thankfully not in the ones I work in, nor at my new home, Emory’s philosophy department). Philosophers are conventionally trained in “gotcha” methodology. Look, ma, how I can take him down! At least that was my experience in some seminars in grad school, where the prof would lean across the table and practically jab his finger into your chest. But other seminars, in other genres of philosophy, were sites of respect, decorum, and civility. There really is no need to one up each other much less to belittle each other to make a point. To honor our own philosophical interests we don’t need to disparage others. Women working in philosophy, especially those who claim some interest in feminist thought, have often been told that their work “isn’t philosophy,” as if there is any settled idea of what philosophy has to be. (And aren’t all the philosophers we think of now as “great” ones who have overturned conventional ideas of philosophy?)
So read the new blog and listen to what is being said about what counts and think about how to count things — and people — differently.
Kathryn Norlock of St. Mary’s College notes some interesting pieces that have sprung up all at once about the situation of women in philosophy. Took them a while…
Here’s her post, copied with her permission from a message sent to the Society for Women in Philosophy email list:
It’s a great day when the Philosopher’s Magazine, the New York Times, and the Leiter blog all notice that the situation for women in philosophy is in the news. Note that some reports are more sympathetic than others, but as my president says, I’m looking forward!
The New York Times blurb is here:
It draws its admittedly “women are put off by adversarial culture” –focused angle from a longer and more complex argument in the TPM:
And Brian Leiter notes its circulation as well:
I welcome comments on the pieces Kate points to and on this topic in general.
The American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women has compiled a document of “women-friendly” graduate programs. Here’s how to find it. Go to the committee’s web page and scroll to the bottom. Click on the link for “women and feminist friendly graduate programs.” Here you will get a pdf of the document. Many thanks to the CSW for their work on this!