Academic philosophy is an outlier within the humanities, with fewer than 20 percent of full-time faculty positions occupied by women. Commentator Tania Lombrozo discusses some recent findings that might help us understand why.
Last Friday I found myself in a lovely lecture hall at Brown University with some 50 philosophers and psychologists attending the annual meeting of the , affectionately known as "SPP." Daniel Dennett was in the seat just ahead of me; additional luminaries were scattered about the room. A quick count revealed about equal numbers of men and women in the audience — an unusual figure for an event in philosophy, where .
That was precisely the topic we'd gathered to discuss: the underrepresentation of women in philosophy, where numbers mirror those for math, engineering, and the physical sciences, making philosophy an outlier within the humanities.
There's been no shortage of speculation about . Perhaps, to quote Hegel, women's "." Perhaps women are turned off by philosophy's confrontational style. Perhaps women are more inclined toward careers with practical applications.
But the most plausible hypothesis is that operate in philosophy, . Unfortunately, though, this explanation refines our question rather than answering it.
Why should bias be any greater in philosophy than in other humanistic disciplines? Is sexual harassment unusually common within philosophy, as might be suggested by , not to mention some chilling experiences reported in the blog Might our implicit assumptions about what a philosopher should look like and sound like be especially hard to reconcile with our implicit assumptions about women?