AAP – Women in Philosophy

Why is it that the Australian Association of Philosophy (AAP) has prepared a report, “Improving the Participation of Women in the Philosophy Profession”, and there is no comparable report from the APA? All I can say is that it makes me very sad that this is something that Australian Philosophers – and not just women philosophers, by the way – thought was worth spending energy and time on. In the U.S., the Committee on the Status of Women continues to try to call the issue to the attention of the APA, seemingly with little effect.

The report is available here and I found it through a post at Feminist Philosophers.

Reading the executive summary of the report I have noticed several things that suggest further lines of inquiry for those of us interested in this issue in the U.S. First, the executive summary indicates that women are disproportionately represented in part-time, non-secure, and casual teaching positions in Australian. This is something that I have suspected is true in the states as well I do not have the data to back it up. The study notes that there effects of women being in these positions which keep them from other positions. The lack of security impacts the ability to do research as does the heavy teaching load associated with such positions, for example. Second, women now appear to be hired proportionately to their numbers, though they continue to be under-represented in the academy (23% to our 21% – so the proportion is roughly similar). The very preliminary work that Miriam Solomon and John Clarke have done on this issue would seem to conform to the Australian finding. Third, Australia seems to have data on female participation in philosophy classes at the undergraduate level which shows that while 55% of undergraduate philosophy students are female it falls each year till 4th year female participation is 47%. (First year doctorate research is 39%, by the way.) The numbers that I was able to find are philosophy female baccalaureate degrees – 30.8% in 2008. While it is not clear that these are figures that it is appropriate to compare it would seem that are starting out behind Australia in the number of women that are studying philosophy to begin with! I would be curious to explore this further.

I have yet to dig into this report more completely and other projects will probably prevent me from doing so right now. The current and forthcoming issues of the APA Newsletter on Philosophy and Feminism have articles on these issues – analysis in the current issue and suggestions for strategies forthcoming in the fall. While I think it is great that the Committee on the Status of Women continues to support these inquiries, why is it that it appears that only women in the profession seem to think this is an issue? Surely it is a concern for the profession as a whole, as our Australian counterparts have clearly seen!

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