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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Male-Only Volumes and a Confession

Brian Weatherson recently called attention to a debate about female representations in volumes and at conferences. Over at TAR, he writes:

Andy Egan and I have (very slowly) put together a collection of papers on epistemic modals and epistemic modality, and it is coming out with OUP this spring. The collection isn’t perfect; it should have come out ages ago, and contributor list is missing a certain something [i.e., female contributors], but we hope it’s a valuable addition to the literature. I’ll hopefully write more about this closer to publication, especially about what I wish I’d done differently along the way to publication.

Interesting discussion of these issues can be found here.

As I say in my reply to the blog post. I don't want to defend male-only volumes (of course). But, as I say there, in some cases, it is difficult to get women to contribute. On average, an Oxford M&E volume has only 10% contributors. I am not sure whether that reflects the number of women working in M&E. There are 20% women employed in US departments. But they don't all work in M&E. So, I am not sure whether 10% is good or bad. No-women volumes are clearly a bad thing. But the editor is not always to blame.

I also have a confession to make: I actually reviewed Egan and Weatherson's volume proposal for Oxford and regrettedly did not point out that there weren't any female contributors. A friend and former colleague of mine, who is currently employed by a top-university department, has made a habit out of pointing out to the publisher that a volume she is asked to referee should not be published if it does not have a reasonable number of female contributions. I will adhere to her stricter and higher ethical standards in the future.


Catarina said...

Hi Brit, I have already replied to your point in comments at the original post in NewAPPS, and I agree that my original formulation in the post seemed to suggest that, in every single case of all-male lineups of contributors, implicit biases would be to blame.
But I want to second your suggestion that we should always remain alert and mention the issue of gender balance in the situations where we are in a certain position of authority (e.g. reviewing volumes, being invited as keynote speaker). I made a similar suggestion concerning invitations to be keynote speakers here:

But it can and should be seen as a very general principle, applying to a wide range of situations whenever we get to have a say on things.

Chris said...

A paper that could be of interest:

Anonymous said...

The thing I worry about with blanket policies such as 'always endeavour to include a reasonable number of women in edited volumes' is that on one reading, they are rigid, bad policies from the point of view of getting the best stuff in an edited volume every time (for why couldn't it happen sometimes that only males send in good contributions?), and on another reading, they are toothless (if including 0 articles by women counts as 'reasonable' in the sort of scenario touched on in the last parenthesis).

Brit Brogaard said...

Thanks to all of you for your comments and suggested readings. To address the last comment, I agree it could happen that only males send in good contributions.

However, most of the volumes we are talking about here are not volumes that issue calls for papers. They are by-invite only.

It is a bit harder to defend the view that sometimes only males can contribute good papers on a given topic. I can't think of a topic where that would be the case.

What sometimes happens is that you invite 20 percent women and 80 percent men and then all the women turn you down -- sometimes when it's too late to invite others (I assume 20 percent seems initially reasonable, since only 20 percent of people with a job in philosophy are women).

However, I agree with Catarina, Andy and Brian that more could be done to secure that 20 percent of volume contributors are women.

Anonymous said...

I agree too. (I'm the anonymous coward of two comments ago.)