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Philosophy

Women in philosophy

Female philosophy students
The proportion of women academics in philosophy is considerably lower than in most arts and humanities disciplines.

In the UK, women make up about 50% of undergraduate philosophy students, and only about a quarter of academic staff – and less than 20% of professors. The proportion of women academics in philosophy is considerably lower than in most arts and humanities disciplines, and much closer to the proportion found in sciences such as physics, mathematics and computer science. Why is this, and what can be done about it?

Helen Beebee has been conducting research on this issue, and helping to develop practical recommendations aimed at changing the situation. Her paper, ‘Women and Deviance in Philosophy’, is published in Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change?, eds. Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins (OUP 2013). In 2011, as co-chairs of the British Philosophical Association (BPA) and the UK's Society for Women in Philosophy (SWIP) joint Committee on Women in Philosophy, she and Jenny Saul wrote a report, Women in Philosophy in the UK, as a first step towards addressing these questions. 

More recently, in 2014 the BPA/SWIP committee launched a national ‘Good Practice Scheme’, aimed at philosophy departments, learned societies, journals and research projects in the UK and Ireland.

The aim of the scheme is to encourage philosophical institutions to implement changes that will have a real impact on the representation of women in philosophy – as students, academics, contributors to conferences and journals, members of learned society committees, and so on.

Recommendations range from ensuring that women are well represented on undergraduate reading lists to having clear and explicit guidelines on sexual harassment.

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