I was all ready for some happy news, or at least neutral news. Although the percentage of women in North American and British philosophy departments is low by humanities standards, maybe in the low 20%s, I found some evidence a few weeks ago of a sharp increase in the percentage of women on the program at meetings of the American Philosophical Association, from 6% in 1955 to 32% in 2015. In ethics, APA program participation might even be approaching gender parity, with 41% women (though non-ethics is still quite far from parity at 26% women).
In the past week, I thought I'd confirm that trend by looking at five philosophy journals: Mind, Philosophical Review, Journal of Philosophy, Ethics, and Philosophy & Public Affairs. I chose the first three because they are the traditional "big three" philosophy journals, which have been viewed as the leading general philosophical journals for many decades. Since they publish proportionately little ethics, however, I added what are arguably the two leading ethics journals.
I looked at authorship of the main articles and also commentaries and responses (but not book reviews, editorial remarks, or the recent anniversary retrospects that Ethics has been publishing). All articles in Ethics and PPA were coded as ethics. Articles in the other three were coded either as ethics or non-ethics based on title and sometimes (for less clear cases) a skim of the article. Gender was coded by first name and by personal knowledge, and in cases of ambiguity I looked for disambiguating information on the internet, such as gender-typical photos or references to the person as "him" or "her" in discussions of the person's work. In only 11 cases out of 1202 was I unable to make a determination. I looked at two-year chunks from four periods: 1954-1955, 1974-1975, 1994-1995, and 2014-2015 (though since Phil Review and J Phil have not yet made all 2015 available, I examined back into 2013 to gather exactly two years' worth of data). Only 53 of 1143 (5%) articles were multiply-authored.
1954-1955 Ethics: 5/107 (5%) of the authors were women Non-ethics: 12/236 (5%) 1974-1975 Ethics: 26/161 (16%) Non-ethics: 13/192 (7%) 1994-1995 Ethics: 21/119 (18%) Non-ethics: 11/127 (9%) 2014-2015 Ethics: 18/119 (15%) Non-ethics: 14/130 (11%)
Here are the data in a graph, with 95% confidence intervals:
(1.) women publishing more frequently in ethics than in other areas of philosophy; (2.) low percentages of women overall; (3.) little progress in the numbers since the 1970s.
Merging together the ethics and non-ethics (which probably somewhat overrepresents ethics relative to the profession as a whole), women are 32/246 (13%) of authors in these five journals in 2014-2015, with a 95% CI of 9% to 18%. If we assume that the proportion of women in the profession as a whole is at least 20%, then female authors are statistically significantly underrepresented in these journals relative to their population in the profession.
Especially notable is the huge difference between women's participation in APA ethics sessions and their rate of publishing ethics in these elite journals: in the most recent data, women were 41% of ethics session participants but only 15% of ethics authors (p << .001 of course).
Post-hoc analysis is always a little tricky, but the data suggest almost no increase in the percentage of women publishing in these journals since the mid-1970s, with merged percentages of 11% (1974-1975), 13% (1994-1995), and 13% (2014-2015). Sally Haslanger's data from 2002-2007 provide further corroboration of this flat trendline, with 12% female authors in a selection of elite philosophy journals, and 13% [corrected 11-Feb-16] in the five journals I've analyzed.
These data extend and confirm data from Kathryn Norlock that suggest underrepresentation of women in Ethics and the Journal of Moral Philosophy. (See also Meena Krishnamurthy's discussion.)