Thursday, March 15, 2012

Women's Roles in APA Meetings

I've been looking into data on whether ethicists are more or less likely than non-ethicists to pay their registration fees at meetings of the American Philosophical Association. As part of this project, I've coded program participation data from the Pacific APA from 2006-2008. Given the gender issues in philosophy, I thought readers might be interested to see the data broken down by gender.

Gender coding was based on first name only, excluding people with gender-ambiguous first names, first initials only, and foreign names if the gender was not obvious to the U.S. coders (altogether 10% of the program slots were excluded from gender coding for these reasons).

First: Women occupied 25% of the Pacific APA program slots each year. This rate was remarkably consistent, in fact: 25.3% in 2006, 24.8% in 2007, and 24.8% in 2008, with about 1000 gender-coded program slots each year. This 25% representation on the program is approximately in line with estimates of the percentage of U.S. philosophers who are women (compare, e.g., my 23% estimate across 5 U.S. states, Leiter's report of 21% from the National Center for Education Statistics, and the 2009 Survey of Earned Doctorates finding that women receive about 30% of U.S. philosophy PhDs).

One very consistent finding in my research is that female philosophers are more likely to be ethicists than non-ethicists. My Pacific APA data fit this pattern. I coded talks, by title, as "ethics", "non-ethics", or "excluded". "Ethics" was construed broadly to include political philosophy and philosophy of law. "Excluded" talks included talks on religion, philosophy of action, gender, race, and issues in the profession (such as technology or teaching) unless the title of those talks suggested an ethical focus. Philosophers chairing or commenting on sessions containing a mix of ethics and non-ethics talks were also excluded from this analysis. 33% of participant slots in ethics were occupied by women, compared to 18% in non-ethics (363/1085 vs. 232/1315, p less than .001).

I also broke the data down by role in the program. Women were slightly more likely to be on the "group program" than the "main program": 28% vs. 24% (579/2408 vs. 198/704, p = .03). However, this effect appears to be driven by the fact that the group program had proportionately more ethics slots than did the main program (60% of group program participant slots were ethics vs. 41% of main program participant slots, 338/561 vs. 876/2126, p less than .001). As noted above, women were more likely to occupy ethics slots. Regression analysis suggests that women were not more likely to be group program than main program participants when this other factor is taken into account.

Within the main program, I found no statistically detectable difference in the likelihood of being in the (usually submitted and blind refereed) colloquium sessions than in the (usually invited) non-colloquium sessions (23% vs. 25%, 245/1091 vs. 326/1318, p = .38) (See also Dom Lopes' analysis here and here). Nor did I find a difference in the likelihood as serving in the chair role as opposed to speaking or commenting (27% vs. 24%, 209/780 vs. 568/2332, p = .18).


Anonymous said...

That should be "Norlock's report" not "Leiter's report".

Anonymous said...

>Women occupied 25% of the Pacific APA program slots each year.
One of these hypocritical diversity games.
Women were not born to be philosophers. Proved by statistics.

Anonymous said...

One is not born, but becomes a philosopher.

Heather Battaly said...

Eric, Thank you for pursuing this project. It is important! Have you compared your results with the study on gender which is posted on the Pacific APA site? Several members of the Exec Com of the Pacific did that study. Will you be getting data from the Eastern and Central? Best, Heather Battaly

Grobstein said...

Am I misreading or did you decline to break down P(pay registration fees) by gender?

peter kirwan said...

Interesting stuff and good news!

1) An Aside: worth noting for those that aren't aware that the number of women in TT or Tenured positions appears to be quite a bit lower (I think Norlock had it at 16%) than total number of women in philosophy jobs in general (which the numbers you cited cover).

Since many who go to such things don't have TT jobs (yet!), it is probably best to compare against the total number like you have.

2) Also worth explicitly noting that while your stats are welcome news, people (I'm thinking of readers who don't know the wider context) shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that all is rosy in the garden gender wise!

I suspect that there may be adequate representation in journals, APA etc long before the climate situation is sorted out.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Thanks for the comments, folks!

@ Heather: I link to a couple things by Dom in the post. Is there more that I'm missing? I see a few dead links to older material on the APA website. I haven't seen the Norlock data.

@ Grobstein: See Friday's post! Short version: No difference by gender.

@ Peter: I'm inclined to agree on both counts. I'm also inclined to think that if there are deliberate affirmative action measures already in place (either in the system as a whole or in the individual decisions of program committee members and others), the current data are evidence that they are not doing much more than simply compensating for systemic biases.