Gender Statements

From the Status of Women in the Philosophy Profession Committee

Professional philosophy has a poor track record with regard to reflecting the diversity of wider human society in its ranks, both in Australasia and internationally, and compared to other Humanities disciplines. The AAP has been compiling a series of Notes designed to address this.

AAP Statement on Student Evaluations of Teaching Effectiveness (2017)

Student evaluations of teaching effectiveness (henceforth: SET) can play a significant role in hiring and promotions for academic philosophers in Australasia. Yet a number of recent empirical studies seem to show that SET are poor measures of teaching effectiveness. For instance (Braga et al, 2004) found that a 1-standard-deviation increase in university teachers’ effectiveness in boosting student performance reduces students’ evaluations of their professors’ teaching quality by about half of a standard deviation, on average, and that student evaluations improve when the weather gets warmer, and deteriorate on rainy days. (Bassett et al, 2015) shows that students often pay very little attention to the questions, as they ‘agree’ to patently false claims inserted in their questionnaires (e.g. 24% agreed that “the instructor was late or absent for all class meetings”, while 28% agreed that “the instructor never even attempted to answer any student questions related to the course”).

Secondly, studies show that marked biases exist in students’ appraisal of teaching performance. For instance, in (Basow and Silberg, 1987) over 1,000 male and female college students of 16 male and female professors evaluated their instructors in terms of teaching effectiveness. It was found that male students gave female professors significantly poorer ratings than male professors on all of the six teaching evaluation measures; their ratings of female professors were poorer than those of female students on four measures, while female students also evaluated female professors less favourably than male professors on three measures. (Martin, 2016) documents a similar effect across two large political science departments, finding it particularly marked in large courses. (Mitchell and Martin, 2018) demonstrates that even for entirely online courses, a male instructor administering an identical course as a female instructor receives higher ordinal scores in teaching evaluations, even when questions are not instructor-specific. (Boring et al, 2016) and (Boring, 2017) also demonstrate (drawing on data from French Universities) that bias exists, is statistically significant (sufficiently to cause more effective female instructors to get lower SET than less effective male instructors), that male students in particular discriminate in favour of male instructors, and that the bias affects how students rate even putatively objective aspects of teaching, such as how promptly assignments are graded. (Boring et al, 2016) concludes:

In two very different universities and in a broad range of course topics, SET measure students’ gender biases better than they measure the instructor’s teaching effectiveness….Hence, the onus should be on universities that rely on SET for employment decisions to provide convincing affirmative evidence that such reliance does not have disparate impact on women, underrepresented minorities, or other protected groups. Because the bias varies by course and institution, affirmative evidence needs to be specific to a given course in a given department in a given university. Absent such specific evidence, SET should not be used for personnel decisions.

The AAP is concerned about the possibility that philosophers from under-represented groups may be unfairly disadvantaged by these performance instruments. If this is the case, it is not entirely clear what remedy might best be applied, as SET policies often differ between institutions and are largely determined in upper levels of administration. Nevertheless, we here offer some suggestions:

1.     First and foremost, develop a more multidimensional approach to evaluating pedagogy. For instance, staff might develop a ‘teaching portfolio’ which includes syllabi and teaching materials; peer teaching observations; solicited letters from a significant number of students; and a personal narrative of pedagogical practice and development.
2.     Consciousness-raising amongst staff who draw on SET in employment and promotion decisions, about the limitations of these instruments.
3.     Where feasible, consciousness-raising amongst students about their own potential biases (possibly directing them to some of the empirical research cited below).
4.     In cases where, for whatever reason, asking students to ‘score’ staff on their teaching is deemed unavoidable, students might be asked to state in a line or two their reason for each ‘mark’ – both to encourage greater thoughtfulness in the students concerning their responses, and to provide further information for evaluating the staff member concerned. 

The AAP urges all members of our profession, particularly senior members and those involved in employment and promotion decisions, to be aware of these concerns and alert to ways in which, if there is a problem of equity in this regard, it might be justly addressed. 

Further Resources

Sylvia d’Apollonia and Philip C. Abrami. “Navigating student ratings of instruction.” American Psychologist 52.11 (1997): 1198

Jonathan Bassett, Amanda Cleveland, Deborah Acorn, Marie Nix, Timothy Snyder (2017). “Are they paying attention? Students’ lack of motivation and attention potentially threaten the utility of course evaluations.” Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education 42(3) (2017): 431-442.

Susan A. Basow, Nancy T. Silberg. “Student Evaluations of College Professors: Are Female and Male Professors Rated Differently?” Journal of Educational Psychology 79(3) (1987): 308–14.

Anne Boring (2017). “Gender Biases in Student Evaluations of Teaching.” Journal of Public Economics 145 (2017): 27–41.

Anne Boring, Kellie Ottoboni, Philip Stark, “Student evaluations of teaching (mostly) do not measure teaching effectiveness”,ScienceOpen Research (published online 6 January 2016), DOI: 10.14293/S2199-1006.1.SOR-EDU.AETBZC.v1

Michela Braga, Marco Paccagnella, and Michele Pellizzari. “Evaluating Students’ Evaluations of Professors." Economics of Education Review 41 (2014): 71-88.

Charles R. Emery, Tracy R. Kramer, and Robert G. Tian. “Return to academic standards: a critique of student evaluations of teaching effectiveness.” Quality Assurance in Education 11.1 (2003): 37-46.

Lisa Martin. “Gender, Teaching Evaluations, and Professional Success in Political Science”. PS: Political Science & Politics,49(2) (2016): 313-319.

Kristina Mitchell and Jonathan Martin. “Gender Bias in Student Evaluations”. PS: Political Science & Politics: 1-5 (published online 6 March 2018), DOI: 10.1017/S104909651800001X

Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching. “Student Evaluations of Teaching”

Committee for the Status of Women in the Philosophy Profession: Statement on Insecure Work (2017)

Insecure work - casual and limited term contract work -  is increasingly prevalent within academic philosophy in Australasia. Yet insecure work stands as an obstacle to career advancement within philosophy. Insecure appointments are often made at the lowest level regardless of experience; and pathways from insecure to secure employment are lacking. Many insecure positions are teaching-intensive, and lack the career opportunities of positions with a research component. In particular, teachers on hourly rates are expected to undertake any research outside of their paid hours; they face economic uncertainty from semester to semester; and their labour may be taken for granted beyond the strict terms of their employment.

The majority of those in insecure work in academia are women.1  Factors explaining this inequality appear to include:

  • The initial level of appointment is lower for women (Strachan et al, 2006).
  • Women are more likely than men to be in part-time work, and part-time work is less likely to be secure (Strachan et al, 2006).
  • Young women often take on casual work because it offers the flexibility they require to meet their caring responsibilities. They have strong career aspirations, but they face particular difficulty transitioning out of insecure employment: for the longer a person is in a casual appointment, the less likely is their advancement to secure work (Gottschalk & McEachern, 2010).

The AAP is concerned about the possibility that female philosophers are unfairly disadvantaged by insecure employment practices. While the larger industrial framework is determined at upper levels of administration in higher education institutions, members of our profession do retain control of some details of its implementation.

Possible suggestions for best practice include the following:

  • Offer more rather than less secure employment, for instance, limited term rather than casual contracts;
  • Minimise last-minute employment. For example: a department may not know until the last minute whether it needs 8 or 12 tutorial groups in a semester, but it will know in advance that it will need at least 8;
  • Invite casual staff to meetings and ensure they are paid to attend;
  • Do not ask casual staff to perform, or presume they will perform, tasks for which they are not specifically paid.

The AAP urges all members of the profession – particularly senior members and those involved in administration and employment decisions – to be aware of these concerns and and to be alert to ways in which, where there is a problem of equity in this regard, it might be justly ameliorated.

    1Strachan et al, 2006; Gottschalk & McEachern, 2010. The situation in philosophy not currently known, but is under investigation by the Australian Academy for the Humanities through an ARC Linkage Learned Academies Special Project. See also Zheng 2018 for an analysis of the gendered ethos of the contemporary academy.

    Further Resources

    • Glenda Strachan, David Peetz, Gillian Whitehouse, Janis Bailey, Kaye Broadbent, Robyn May, Carolyn Troup, Michelle Nesic (2006), Women, Careers, and Universities: Where To From Here? (Griffith University: Centre for Work, Organisation, and Wellbeing).
    • Robyn May, Linda Gale, Iain Campbell, 'Casually Appointed, Permanently Exploited: How is NTEU responding to the casualisation of academia in the current climate?',
    • Lorene Gottschalk, Steve McEachern (2010) 'The frustrated career: casual employment in higher education', Australian Universities Review 52 (1), 37-50.
    • Robin Zheng (2018), 'Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy', Hypatia doi: 10.1111/hypa.12401

    AAP Note on Hiring (2015)

    As the low level of women’s participation at all levels of employment in Philosophy has been identified as a problem, the AAP urgently recommends that gender should be prioritised as a consideration in recruitment, and especially that care be taken to eliminate implicit bias in hiring processes. 


    In 1982 the AAP made a statement asking departments to implement the affirmative action policies developed by FAUSA. At that time the AAP’s recommendations included:

    (a) actively seeking applications from suitably qualified female candidates for vacant positions;

    (b) taking up references and seeking written work from all female applicants; 

    (c) making available, on request, to unsuccessful applicants the reasons for their lack of success.

    In 2007 the ‘Improving the Participation of Women in the Philosophy Profession’ project was commissioned to collect data on the participation of women in Philosophy and to prepare a report based on collected information. The report acknowledged that more work needed to be done to facilitate structural change so that women are given fair consideration as job candidates. The report made a number of recommendations to improve recruitment of women, including:

    (a) that at least one senior female philosopher should be included as a member of every selection committee for continuing positions in philosophy;

    (b) that supervisors and mentors should provide more support to their women PhD students and graduates to prepare their suitability for academic positions;

    (c) that position descriptions should include administrative/governance, research and teaching components of the position and that candidates should be assessed in relation to all these aspects for appointments. By recognising the full range of academic activities, this action would ensure women’s contributions are more likely to be taken into consideration in appointment decisions;

    (d) that targets for hiring women be set;

    (e) that Philosophy staff and Heads should discuss with each other strategies that will enable Philosophy departments to meet those targets.

    Current recommendations

    Over thirty years since FAUSA’s affirmative action recommendations were communicated to philosophers working in Australasia, there has been insufficient progress in representation of women in Philosophy employment. We need to take advantage of the significant recent research in this area. Particularly, evidence suggests that even people who view themselves as egalitarian and progressive may be affected by implicit gender bias: i.e., bias that is not necessarily undertaken consciously, but which nonetheless allows appointment committee members to be unduly swayed by stereotypes regarding women’s capacities, as well as expectations concerning how philosophers are supposed to look, their appropriate manner of presentation and discursive style, and the areas of philosophy that are considered to be serious and important (see Saul; Haslanger). 

    In addition to previous recommendations that there should be more women (and especially senior women) on hiring committees, and that departments should proactively recruit women and adopt gender targets, there are also strategies that should be used specifically to address implicit bias. The AAP strongly recommends that hiring committees work with University human resources departments to engage a checklist approach to managing and counteracting potential gender bias, including:

    • Informing selection committee members about implicit bias and stereotype threat, and asking them to keep this in mind as a factor that may affect their decisions regarding their hiring needs (specialties, departmental ‘fit’) and decisions to exclude or prioritise particular candidates (see the resources below);
    • Discussing with Human Resources the possibility of putting in place systems to alleviate the effects of implicit gender bias and stereotype threat — e.g., including a statement in the job advertisement explicitly encouraging women to apply, and requesting anonymising of [first pass] application materials, to prevent committee members from being influenced by gendered names;
    • Taking serious consideration of research track record relative to opportunity, especially where candidates have taken time out to care for others or have experienced insecure work;
    • Developing explicit, objective, and valid criteria carefully before advertising the position, and with reference to the effects of gender schemas and implicit bias (see Valian, 318-19);
    • Taking into account the full range of academic activities — teaching, research and admin — when assessing applications for positions;
    • Keeping in mind that privileging the building of a department’s ‘existing strengths’ may serve to perpetuate that department’s existing gender imbalance, committees should check that undue consideration is not given to feelings about whether or not female candidates will ‘fit in’ with the culture of the department; 
    • Checking expectations regarding what areas of philosophy are serious and which journals are considered ‘good,’ in consideration of the fact that such judgements may involve implicit biases against areas in which more women specialise;
    • Framing hiring discussions generally according to ‘all who would suit the position well’ rather than what ‘the ideal person’ would be like.

    Finally, note that not all positions are advertised (e.g. conversion from fixed-term to continuing employment; employment associated with the award of fellowships such as DECRAs; casual appointments including teaching by HDR students) and applying the above recommendations to non-advertised positions may not be possible. In light of this, departments should undertake regular reviews of their hiring patterns to non-advertised positions to check for patterns suggestive of gender bias, and take steps to address any biases identified.

      Further Resources

      • AAP announcement of FAUSA’s recommendations on affirmative action, AAP AGM 1982, updated 1990
      • Glenys Bishop with Helen Beebee, Eliza Goddard and Adriane Rini,” in Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change, Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins (eds) (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 231-52.
      • Eliza Goddard, Improving the participation of Women in the Philosophy Profession, on behalf of Susan Dodds, Lynda Burns, Mark Colyvan, Frank Jackson, Karen Jones and Catriona Mackenzie (IPWPP report, 2008):
      • Workplace Gender Equality Agency advice on setting gender diversity targets:
      • Implicit bias in philosophy project:
      • Sally Haslanger, “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone),” Hypatia 23[2] (2008): 210-23.
      • Jennifer Saul, “Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Philosophy,” in Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change, Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins (eds) (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013): 39-60.
      • Virginia Valian, Why So Slow? (Boston, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1999), especially chapter 14, ‘Remedies.’
      • Shelly J. Correll et al, “Getting a Job: Is there a Motherhood Penalty?,” American Journal of Sociology 112[5] (March 2007): 1297-1339,

      download AAP Note on Hiring (2015) 

      Statement on Gender (2014)

      Philosophy has a poor track record with regard to gender balance, both in Australasia and internationally. Compared to other Humanities disciplines, Philosophy has a significantly smaller proportion of women in continuing positions (including, in particular, senior continuing positions). For instance in Australia in 2009, females comprised only 28% of full-time continuing Philosophy staff, and the largest group of female staff (~15) were employed at the lecturer B (Lecturer) level, while the largest group of male staff (~40) were employed at the lecturer D/E (Associate Professor/Professor) level (Bishop et al, in Hutchison and Jenkins (eds.) 2013, pp. 232-3). Moreover, compared to other disciplines, Philosophy has significantly higher attrition rates for women at all levels: end of first year; end of bachelor’s degree; end of Honours year; end of higher degree by research; end of post-doctoral fellowship; and end of non-continuing position.

      The AAP is concerned about this data, and is compiling a series of Notes designed to address different factors that may explain the drop off in women's participation at all levels of the profession.

      Note on Predatory Sexual Behaviour (2014)

      One factor has been brought to particular prominence in the past twelve months by a series of distressing allegations in the UK and the US concerning predatory sexual behaviour by more senior, higher status male philosophers towards more junior, lower status female philosophers - allegations which are currently in various stages of investigation. Such behaviour can cause its targets to seriously doubt their own philosophical abilities and, in many cases, destroy their love of philosophy. The blog What It Is Like to be a Woman in Philosophy is playing a valuable role in raising awareness of how such behaviours can discourage women from pursuing our discipline. Although its evidence is anecdotal and submitted anonymously, the number and the consistency of the stories accumulating there invites serious reflection.

      The AAP is extremely concerned about these matters and urges everyone engaged in philosophy in Australasia to educate themselves about the issues involved. It urges all Australasian philosophers not to engage in, or support, behaviour targeted at more junior or lower status philosophers that is (or may be perceived to be) sexually predatory. It particularly urges senior male philosophers to challenge any colleagues they feel might be engaged in predatory sexual behaviour, to offer support to any junior philosophers they perceive might be on the receiving end of such behaviour (with tact and sensitivity to their needs and wishes), and to show leadership in their own sphere of influence in creating a philosophical environment that is equally welcoming to any gender.

      The AAP is extremely concerned about these matters and urges everyone engaged in philosophy in Australasia to educate themselves about the issues involved. It urges all Australasian philosophers not to engage in, or support, behaviour targeted at more junior or lower status philosophers that is (or may be perceived to be) sexually predatory. It particularly urges senior male philosophers to challenge any colleagues they feel might be engaged in predatory sexual behaviour, to offer support to any junior philosophers they perceive might be on the receiving end of such behaviour (with tact and sensitivity to their needs and wishes), and to show leadership in their own sphere of influence in creating a philosophical environment that is equally welcoming to any gender.

      Further Resources

      • Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins (ed.s), Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013)

      Download AAP Note on Predatory Sexual Behaviour (2014) 

      Note on Non-Discriminatory Language (2008)

       AAP encourages its members to be aware of the need to use non-discriminatory language in preparing papers, and advises consultation of the guidelines on the website of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission.

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