Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Only 13% of Authors in Five Leading Philosophy Journals Are Women

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.


Ethics: 5/107 (5%) of the authors were women
Non-ethics: 12/236 (5%)

Ethics: 26/161 (16%)
Non-ethics: 13/192 (7%)

Ethics: 21/119 (18%)
Non-ethics: 11/127 (9%)

Ethics: 18/119 (15%)
Non-ethics: 14/130 (11%)

Here are the data in a graph, with 95% confidence intervals:

As you can see from the CIs, the numbers are small enough to be consistent with considerable chance variation. Still, to me, three things are immediately striking:

(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.)


Jeremy Goodman said...

Is the recent data for Mind and Ethics any better? I ask because (I think) Mind is the only one that is fully triple blind, and Ethics is very close to triple blind (as explained here http://dailynous.com/2015/01/20/closer-look-philosophy-journal-practices/). One might also look at recent issues of Analysis in this connection.

I'd also be interested to know what the trend is in multiple authorship over time.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

I hesitate to analyze journal-by-journal, since with such small denominators, it could be misleading, but the trend is Mind lower, Ethics higher, and on average not much difference from the remainder of the group.

Susan Schneider said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan Schneider said...

Thank you, Eric, for this important information. Very concerned to figure out why this is happening. Say, do you know the percentage of *submissions* to these journals that are by females? I wonder if the journal editors could share this. It would be helpful to know what is going wrong: is it that females tend to underrate their work, not submitting it to top venues? Or, perhaps the review process is not genuinely blind. It is not hard to figure out who's work you are reviewing, sadly. Or perhaps things sometimes go wrong at the level of editorial decisions.

Kathrin Gl├╝er said...

Are submission statistics available for these journals?

Nicole Hassoun said...

Dear all, I have some data on Mind this year - no women were included at all (though not many articles are published per year).

Jessica Wilson said...

I don't find this surprising. Since there's really very little truly blind review, especially if one is associated with a position or has workshopped a paper around, the usual implicit bias pressures continue to do their unsavory work. Case in point: my paper 'No Work for a Theory of Grounding', which has about 50 citations one year after publication, was rejected from Phil Review with comments from two referees which were trivially easy to respond to, and which didn't at all affect the main thrust of the paper, whereas I could name any number of papers by elitish males that have been published in PR with argumentative holes that you could drive a truck through predicated on implausible breezily stipulated claims, no questions asked. I then sent 'No Work' to Nous and got an R&R where one of the reports chastised me for not charitably trying to come up with reasons to posit primitive Grounding, even though I had spent half the paper doing that. Yes, I know that sometimes men suffer from these sorts of ills as well. The difference is that if you are a woman, and with few exceptions, you can be counted on to have to jump through countless hoops, crossing every t and dotting every i until your paper turns into a massive iterated footnote, before you can get published in a top journal.

Anonymous said...

I hope that this will be data that can be used to create double-blind review for all journals. Although you can get something hilarious like this.


I think there should be an agreement that referees are not allowed to referee papers if they know whom the author is and everyone must agree to stay off google or use other methods to find out who the author is. (In fact, there perhaps could be penalties for authors who make their work too easy to find.)

Another option would be for the author to be able to find out whom their referees were.

Gender bias can still creep in in certain ways.

Arnold said...

Today Meena Krishnamurthy's discussion could always restart with past definition having no relevance To woman's thought and speech (intuition of Plato) in order to look at "what's going on here?"...
...each phrasing then has the chance to be new in meaning and no longer reliant on male originations about gender....

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Susan and Kathrin -- That would be good to look at. I have a memory that some of the ethics journals, at least, have done this, but I'm not now remembering where those numbers are. It would be interesting to look at to get a sense of where in the process the reduction is happening -- in submissions, acceptances, or both.

Nicole: That matches my data, except that I was unable to confirm the gender of "Jan Hauska". I'm inclined to think that "Jan" is a male gendered name in Hauska's home country (Poland, seemingly), but I'd want to be sure of that before making that specific statement about Mind.

Jessica: I wonder if there's a way to begin to quantify and measure that. For example, as a start, do women's papers have more references and footnotes?

Anon: I hadn't seen that post before -- funny! Thanks for the link. Improving the anonymity of refereeing seems like a natural step, though I doubt it will suffice on its own.

Jessica Wilson said...

Great question/suggestion re footnotes etc., Eric. Someone should explore that; I anticipate that the answer will be affirmative, especially for papers published in 'top' journals.

Eric Schwitzgebel said...

Hm... I'm tempted, Jessica!