What do the Numbers Mean?

Over at Knowledge and Experience Evelyn Brister is posting a series on women in philosophy. What is really interesting is that for PhDs in philosophy, slightly under 30% are women and undergraduate women philosophy majors appear to be a very similar percentage. This would suggest that it isn’t exactly a pipeline problem in philosophy but something more systemic. A commenter at Knowledge and Experience notes this.

There are plenty of questions that are suggested by these numbers. One is why is the percentage of undergraduate philosophy BAs lower than in so many other fields (57.5 % of all undergraduate degrees were earned by women in 2005)? But it is really interesting that the pipeline doesn’t appear to be leaking much between undergraduate majors and PhDs. I want to know more. I want to know why and how the women that go into philosophy manage to stay in philosophy through graduate school and what happens to drive them out of philosophy once they leave graduate school.

We know that women leave academia at greater rates than men, but is this worse in philosophy? A quick look at 2005 figures from the Digest of Education Statistics shows 45% of the PhDs awarded in all fields are given to women and 39% of full-time employees at degree granting institutions are women. This suggests a 6% loss of ground for women from graduate school to the academy. In philosophy, the average is about 27% of PhDs are women and the percentage of full-time women philosophers in the degree granting institutions appears to be around 21%. This is also a 6% loss so perhaps the issue here is less philosopher per se but rather the academy. The low philosophy figures show that there is still an issue for philosophy nonetheless. At any rate, there is a lot to find out.

I posted a comment at Knowledge and Experience and Evelyn responded asking if the paper I gave at the Committee for the Status of Women 2007 Central Division session on this issue is on the web. I post it here: “What do the Numbers Mean?”

More: There is a new post in this discussion at Knowledge and Experience.

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1 Response to What do the Numbers Mean?

  1. Kylia says:

    You write very well.

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