More on the APA-Report on CSW panel

In a previous post I mentioned the CSW (APA Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession) panel Strategizing Changes in the Culture and Ideology of Philosophy at the Pacific APA. Here is a brief report on that panel along with a set of weblinks that Ann Garry distributed. Many of these links you may have seen elsewhere (some of them were mentioned on the SWIP and FEAST lists) but it is nice to have them all in one place.

The four members of the panel spoke briefly. Ann Garry started off with an account of the resources that you will see below and the motivations that gave rise to them. They are the result of several months of discussions on a variety of listserves including SWIP land FEAST lists. Ann also mentioned one thread which focused on the percentage of women applicants for jobs this year. Several listserves members had done informal counts of women applicants in their departments. These numbers were disturbingly low (10-17%). Ann noted that she had been inspired to do a similar count after reading these reports. Her figures were higher. Having better information on the number of women applying for and getting jobs came up again in the discussion period (see below).

Alice MacLachlan was next with the story of how she came to set up the Feminist Philosophy Draft Exchange after a FEAST meeting last year where she mentioned that such an exchange would be a good idea. The next thing she knew everyone was saying that they liked her idea and asking when she would have it up and running. The draft exchange is a google group and has quickly grown as a way of sharing information. It has several discussion threads, 97 members, a page for posting conference announcements, several syllabi, but only one online draft so far! There’s a lot of interest in the idea but so far people have been reluctant to post drafts. Alice finished her talk by wondering why.

Lindsay Thompson from the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins gave an account of working with a committee appointed to do research of how to improve the retention of women faculty. They had collected data and had put together a report but the members of the committee came to think that the report was just going to join all the other reports up on some shelf. They came to believe that the way to truly change things for women in the academy was to work to change the culture by using various strategies to subvert the current ideology. So rather than employing institutional changes alone (policies that stopped the tenure clock and so on) they were working informally to make the institution friendlier for women. Lindsay offered to share strategies to any who were interested.

I was the last panelist and spoke about the Chicago panel, the difference in the way women’s organizations in other disciplines had approached the status of women in their professions (sociology, history, and psychology had all infiltrated the political hierarchy of their professional organizations), the work of the CSW over the past several years, the question of data collection, and the more general question of what to do next. The discussion was then opened to everyone. Some of the interesting exchanges that I remember were questions about women applying for and getting jobs (as mentioned above). I noted that this was one of the key projects that the CSW had been working on. David Schrader, the Executive Director of the APA, was at the session and spoke to the issue. The APA had hoped to collect this data this year but the transition to a new computer system seems to have created problems about this. The good news is that the new system ought to make such data collection much simpler. The bad news is that we are still waiting. One of the reasons why this data collection is important is that there are still reports that it is women who are getting all the jobs. As Lindsay Thompson pointed out, data collection isn’t the solution but it is an essential tool in the arsenal of strategies for changing ideology. David Schrader also pointed out that one of the reasons that the strategy of infiltrating the organization politically was difficult was because the APA is very much less centralized than other professional organizations. But he also noted that his could be positive as well because there were lots of ways in. He urged women to self-nominate or nominate each other for committees other than the CSW or the Committee on Inclusiveness, committees where they are well-represented.

Another question led to some discussion of the relationship between being a woman in philosophy and feminist philosophy. Since much of the available support for women in philosophy revolves around feminist philosophy, women who do not identify themselves as feminist philosophers sometimes feel that they have nowhere to turn. Somehow, I felt that this issue was never fully addressed. The conversation always turned back to feminist philosophy without addressing the question of women philosophers specifically and separately. I have posted on this issue previously here.

This last issue intersects with my personal. Coming out of graduate school in 1980 I saw myself as a philosopher of science and not as a feminist philosopher. When asked if I could teach feminist philosophy at a job interview, I politely replied that though I was prepared to teach in new areas, this was not my area of specialization or competence. At that time, I didn’t feel an affinity for feminist thought and though I considered myself a feminist, I did not see that there was any connection between feminism and the philosophy that I did. By the end of the decade, I realized that many of the issues interesting to me in philosophy of science were the issues that feminist philosophers of science were working on, but I also was beginning to recognize that many of the choices that I had made and the insecurities that I felt as a philosopher were constrained and sometimes shaped by the fact that I was a woman. This was the beginning of the integration of my professional and personal life.

My overall assessment of the panel? I think that continuing to search for strategies to change the ideology of philosophy is a good idea and having conversations like these is one of the many steps that can be taken. But there was a lot of exhaustion and discouragement on the faces and in the voices of those who were there. I think the panelists were more upbeat than the audience, perhaps because we were each engaged in some sort of activity that we felt was contributing.

Resources:

Web resources or books about programs or containing data (most mentioned on SWIP-L or FEAST-L):

Barnard study that Alison Wylie co-authored: Women, Work and the Academy Report on-line:

APA-Committee on the Status of Women (there are two different “resource” links on the site):

Blogs:

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