Women are seriously underrepresented in philosophy. The whys range from all-male reading lists that turn female students off, to philosophy’s aggressive discussion style, to blatant discrimination.
Despite popular beliefs to the contrary and frequent family pressure to pursue a more pragmatic course of study, a bachelor’s degree in philosophy is actually not a bad bet. By mid-career, according to PayScale, Inc., those holding a philosophy bachelor’s degree are in the top third of salaries, ahead of such fields as microbiology or business administration.
Typically about 30 percent of undergrad philosophy majors are women. There are even fewer female graduate students, and only about 20 percent become faculty, according to the American Philosophical Association.
Philosophers at UC San Diego are focused on improving those numbers. For the last two years, the university’s incoming philosophy graduate students have been nearly 40 percent women—well above the discipline average of about 25 percent. Although admission standards and policies have not changed, department members are meeting with the women admitted to the doctoral program and assuring them that they are welcome.
At the undergraduate level, the university’s new Summer Program for Women in Philosophy (SPWP) combines a rich philosophical learning experience with training in applying to graduate school. The only program of its kind for philosophy undergrads, SPWP attracted more than two hundred applicants in 2014. Of those, eighteen aspiring philosophers (primarily juniors) came to campus for the two-week academic boot camp featuring courses, workshops, social activities, and bonding opportunities. Childcare was also available throughout the session. All eighteen have agreed to be part of a long-term study that tracks their careers to assess the effect of the intervention.
Courses were taught by a senior and a junior faculty member, both female, from outside universities. The all-woman environment served as inspiration and provided the students—both the undergrads and UC San Diego’s own doctoral candidates—with networking opportunities.
The project leader was philosophy professor Rick Grush, and funding came from an Innovation Grant from UC San Diego’s Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion along with support from the university’s Graduate Division, the Division of Arts and Humanities, and the Department of Philosophy. Since housing, meals, transportation, and course materials were covered and each participant received a $600 stipend, the program was available to a broad demographic.
The Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (EDI) in academic year 2014–15 funded new projects that will advance systemic changes that exert a sustained and powerful influence on fostering an inclusive and equitable climate in the UC San Diego faculty, staff, and student ranks. The proposals and project leaders include:
Black Studies Research Collaborative
Professors Dayo Gore and Sara Kaplan
Peer EDI Educators for Greek Life
Emily Marx and Colin Gerker
Increasing the Participation of Women of Color in the Physical Sciences: The UC San Diego-Morehouse-Spelman Physics Bridge
Professor Adam Burgasser
Community College Partnership in Bioengineering
Professor Todd Coleman and Michelle Ferre
Militarism and Migration Research Center
Professors Wayne Yang and Yen Espiritu
Graduate Student Climate Intern (GSCI)
April Bjornson and Professor Kim Barrett
UC San Diego-Intertribal Youth Writing Program
Professor Olga Vasquez
REACH and BioChemCore 2015
Professors Olivia Graeve and Rommie Amaro