Tomorrow I head off to the Pacific Division meeting of the American Philosophical Association in Vancouver. (Thursday I'll be presenting my critique of Quassim Cassam's Self-Knowledge for Humans. Saturday, I'll be presenting on blameworthiness for implicit attitudes.) Given my interest in professional philosophy's skewed gender ratios (e.g. here and here), I thought I'd do a rough coding of the Pacific APA main program by gender. Alongside gender, I also coded role in the program and whether the session topic is ethics (including political philosophy).
I coded gender conservatively, declining to code names that I perceived as gender ambiguous (e.g., "Kris", "Jamie") or that I did not associate with a clear gender given my particular cultural background (most Asian names and some European names or unusual names), except when I had personal knowledge of the person's gender. As a result 13% of the names remained unclassified. In a more careful coding, I would try to get the exclusions down below 5%.
With that caveat, I found that 275/856 (32%) of Pacific APA main program participants were women. Although this may sound low, it is substantially higher than the proportion of women in the profession overall, which is typically estimated to be in the low 20%'s in North America (e.g., here). (275/856 > 21%, two-tailed exact p < .001; even classifying all ambiguous names as men yields 28% vs. 21%, exact p < .001).
These data can't fully be explained by recent changes in the proportion of women entering the profession: According to the Survey of Earned Doctorates, 27% of philosophy PhDs in 2013 were women (also 27% in 2012). So even if newly-minted PhDs are more likely to attend conferences, that wouldn't raise the percentage of women to 32%. Affirmative action might be playing a role -- probably other factors too. Plenty of room for speculation.
Since it's often thought that the gender distribution is closer to equal in ethics than in other areas of philosophy, I also coded sessions as "ethics" vs. "non-ethics" vs. "excluded" (excluded sessions being topically borderline or mixed or concerning general issues in the profession). I found the expected divergence: 38% of the ethics program participants were women, compared to 28% in non-ethics (Z = 3.0, p = .003).
Finally, I was interested to look at women's representation in different roles on the program. Some roles are much more prestigious than others: being the author of a book targeted for an author-meets-critics session is much more prestigious than chairing a session. I coded five levels of prestige:
Of the people in the most prestigious roles in the program (Category 1), 13/52 (25%) are women. Although this appears to be a bit below the 32% representation of women in all other roles combined, this sample size is too small to permit any definite conclusions (one-proportion CI 14%-39%).
1: Author in an author-meets-critics, or award winner, or invited symposium speaker with at least one commentator focused exclusively on your work. 2: Invited symposium speaker not meeting the criteria above, or "critic" at an author-meets-critics. 3: Invited symposium commentator. 4: Refereed colloquium speaker, or colloquium commentator. 5: Session chair. Excluded: APA organized sessions (e.g., on finding a community college position) and poster presentations (too few for meaningful analysis).
In the larger group of people with fairly prestigious roles (Category 2), 59/162 (36%) are women, similar to women's overall representation in the program. The group of symposium commentators was small -- 15/44 (34%) -- but in line with the overall numbers. The proportion of women presenting (usually anonymously refereed) colloquium papers was 85/310 (27%, CI 23%-33%), and the proportion of women chairing sessions was 77/221 (35%, CI 29%-42%). Thus, I found no clear tendency for women to appear disproportionately at either a higher or lower level of prestige than men.
Analysis of more years' data, which I hope to explore in the future, will give more power to detect smaller effect sizes, and will also allow temporal analysis, to see how representation of women in the profession has been changing over time. Ideas welcome!