New Data on Women in Philosophy Journals

How many writings by women do philosophy journals publish? How does this vary by quality and type of journal? How does it vary depending on the type of manuscript revision? How have women’s publication rates changed over time?

These are the questions answered by a new study on the publication of women in philosophy journals, which has just appeared in Ethics. The study, by Nicole Hassoun (Binghamton), Sherri Conklin (AviAI Inc.), Michael Nekrasov (Santa Barbara) and Jevin West (Washington).

In their study, the researchers divided philosophy journals into three categories: “top” (based on an informal survey by Leiter Reports), “non-top” and “interdisciplinary” philosophy journals. They find:

  • “an overall increase in the proportion of women authors in philosophy journals between 1900 and 2009”
  • “Stagnant growth in the proportions of female authors in recent decades, especially in Nontop Philosophy journals”
  • “the proportion of female authors has been lowest in Top Philosophy journals over time, but these journals show the greatest increase in the proportion of female authors between the 1990s and the 2000s”
  • “women authors are underrepresented in Top Philosophy journals, even compared to the low proportion of women professors of philosophy in the United States as a whole”
  • “the proportions of female authors in lower-ranked philosophy journals and female professors of philosophy in the United States do not differ”
  • “Previously pointed out disparities in the theory of value [between the comparatively low proportion of women authorships and compartatively high proportion of women faculty] are maintained in all categories of philosophy journals, including lower-ranking journals where women authors publish in greater proportion”
  • “Top philosophy journals practicing non-anonymous review publish higher proportions of female authors… than Top Philosophy journals practicing double- or triple-anonymous review… Non-top philosophy journals publish the highest proportion of female authors when practicing double blind review, the strictest level of anonymization within that level of review…while interdisciplinary journals publish the highest proportion of female authors when practicing triple anonymous review »

Below, you can see the evolution of the number and proportion of female authors in each type of journal from the 1900s to the 2000s:

(Fig. 4 from Hassoun et al.) Total proportion of female authors by decade and journal category (1900s-2000s). The top chart shows the total number of authors by decade and journal category; the bottom graph shows the proportion of female authors by decade and by journal category.

In the following figure, you can see which are the 10 journals which have the highest proportion of articles written by women and which have the least, for the periods 1900-2009 and 2000-2009, with a color code by category :

(Fig. 2 from Hassoun et al.) Journals with the ten lowest and those with the ten highest proportions of female authors for the three categories of journals ranked by proportion of female authors. The top two graphs represent the total proportion of female authors for all years (1900–2009), and the bottom two graphs represent the proportion of authors from 2000 to 2009. The total number of authors per journal “n = is shown on the right of the graph.

The authors also used a Generalized Linear Model (GLM) to provide estimates of how the authorship of women in philosophy journals varies by field of specialization, and how this compares to the proportion of women working in these fields. :

(Fig. 9 from Hassoun et al). Generalized Linear Model (GLM) estimates of the proportion of female authors (2000-2009) per AOS journal compared to AOS faculty (2014). The estimated average proportion of female authors in all journals separated by journal category and AOS for the years 2000-2009. Error bars represent CI based on GLM output. The number of observations (articles for each AOS journal and category in the 2000s) is displayed at the top of the graph with the label “n=”. Note that this figure displays the average proportion estimated by the model across all articles in a journal category.

They also used the GLM to provide estimates of how the proportion of female authors varies by type of manuscript review (non-anonymous, double-anonymous, triple-anonymous):

(Fig. 11 from Hassoun et al) GLM estimates of the total proportion of female authors in all journals separated by journal category and review process for the years 2000–2009. Error bars represent CI based on GLM output (CIs are very wide due to limited data for non-anonymous review). The number of observations (articles for each journal category and journal type in the 2000s) is displayed at the top of the graph with the label “n=”. Again, note that this is the average proportion estimated by the model over all articles in a journal category.

The authors discuss their findings and possible explanations. For example, regarding the finding that “top” philosophy journals that use triple blind review publish a lower proportion of female authors than journals that employ other types of journals, they say:

our new analysis revealed the surprising finding that interdisciplinary journals using the Triple Anonymous journal and Nontop Philosophy journals using the Double Anonymous journal publish the highest proportion of female authors overall. The low proportion of female authors in journals using triple blind review in philosophy may have something to do with them being the top philosophy journals rather than their review process.

What then explains the low proportion of female authors in the best journals? Among the possible explanations offered as hypotheses for further investigation, the authors mention:

  • “women are particularly reluctant to submit to these journals”
  • “even with complete anonymity, gender markers, including the chosen research topic, might still be available to referees and editors,” leaving room for gender bias to operate
  • “Some suggest that men and women may have different views on what counts as valuable contributions to philosophy. Thus, if the editors and editorial boards of most philosophy journals are predominantly men (at around 73% in 2010 according to historical data collected from the websites of the journals included in this study), they may be more likely to reject the work of women philosophers based on subject matter, writing style, or citation practices”
  • “there is some evidence that academic writing produced by female scholars is held to higher standards than those produced by men during the peer review process, even, it would appear, when they are reviewed anonymously »
  • “women are… less likely to be co-authors than men, and perhaps co-authored papers are more likely to be accepted than single-authored papers”

The study is titled “The Last 110 Years: Historical Data on the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy Journals” (it may be behind a paywall). Readers may also be interested in exploring interactive versions of some of the above data on the Data on Women in Philosophy website.