Women in Philosophy
Sarah Kahn

15 September 2017
What explains the fact that women makeup only 25% of British philosophy departments? Note that the numbers aren’t so different for American universities. MIT philosopher Sally Haslanger reports that even "As recently as 2010, philosophy had a lower percentage of women doctorates than math, chemistry and economics." 
In a debate on the topic, philosopher Mary Warnock says we should not think the reason for this gender disparity is that women dislike philosophy because of "its supposedly adversarial style, its devotion to winning an argument rather than seeking truth or consensus.” Nor does she think the inbalance shows conscious bias toward women in the field.
Responding to Warnock, philosopher Julian Baggini argues that while there may not be a conscious bias, unconscious bias may be responsible for the discrepancy. Philosophers have an "inflated sense" of their own reasoning abilities, and assume they are immune from gender bias because, “Logic is gender-neutral, philosophy is logical, ergo philosophy is gender-neutral.”  
Why do you think there are so few women in philosphy? Do you agree with Warnock's or Baggini’s explanations for gender imbalance in philosophy departments?

Comments (2)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, September 18, 2017 -- 12:55 PM

Frankly, I just do not know.

Frankly, I just do not know. It was many years (from the time I was in my teens, until about age 53 0r 54) before I had even the vaguest notion that I had an interest in philosophy. There was no particular movement towards philosophy while I was in high school. Middle class America, from the late fifties through the sixties and beyond, was not a hot bed of philosophical thought---for either men of women. "Doing philosophy" for a living probably was not contemplated, let alone seriously discussed by anyone other than class dweebs. And, even though I qualified on that score, talking about philosophy did nothing for one's popularity quotient and could result in a serious ass-whuppin' if one was male. Females might not have had to worry so much about this, but, well, as we now know today, bullying takes many forms. I have a sense that the Viet Nam war had something to do with the rise in philosophy in these United States. I have no specific proofs of this but suspect that someone does. Anyway, old habits die hard and older perceptions die much harder. Thinking is for everyone who wants to take the time and make the effort to do so. I'll leave it at that.

ghori92's picture


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