Fair Numbers: What Data Can and Cannot Tell Us About the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy

Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2:59-81 (2015)
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The low representation (< 30%) of women in philosophy in English-speaking countries has generated much discussion, both in academic circles and the public sphere. It is sometimes suggested (Haslanger 2009) that unconscious biases, acting at every level in the field, may be grounded in gendered schemas of philosophers and in the discipline more widely, and that actions to make philosophy a more welcoming place for women should address such schemas. However, existing data are too limited to fully warrant such an explanation, which therefore will not satisfy those in favor of the status quo or those who argue against the need to address gender imbalance. In this paper, we propose measures to improve the profession that ought to be implemented without referring explicitly to this underrepresentation or to the climate for women and other underrepresented groups. Such recommendations are based on empirical research already carried out in other disciplines and do not rest on whether it is possible to identify the cause of this low representation. We argue that we need not wait for new or better data to ensure that fairer practices are enacted for women, other underrepresented groups, and everybody else, if only out of precaution.

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Author Profiles

Yann Benétreau-Dupin
San Francisco State University
Guillaume Beaulac
Carleton University