Pre-College Causes of Women's Underrepresentation in Philosophy

Dissertation, Georgia State University (2015)
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Recent work on women’s underrepresentation in philosophy has focused on a distinction between “in class” and “pre-university” effects as the primary cause of women’s underrepresentation in philosophy. This paper reports from a large dataset (n > 2,000,000) from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program that shows that, of the American students that intended to major in philosophy before they started college, about two-thirds are men. This lends credence to the pre-university effects explanation for women’s underrepresentation in philosophy. This paper will discuss this finding in light of Louise Antony’s “perfect storm” theory of women’s underrepresentation in philosophy. I will argue that a major part of the perfect storm for women in philosophy is a masculine philosopher schema that discourages women from continuing in philosophy even before they enter a college philosophy class. I will also consider two objections to this argument, what I call the “problem of ignorance” and the “transmission problem.”

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