Making a Radical Philosophy Programme

April 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

Beth Matthews writes:

In 2013 I was reading a book titled “Women in philosophy, what needs to change”, edited by Dr Katrina Hutchinson and Dr Fiona Jenkins and it really encouraged me to do something in a practical sense to raise the profile of women philosophers. At that time I was a volunteer co-host on a breakfast show on 3CR community radio, I not only enjoyed the broadcasting and panelling immensely, but also editing interviews as well. So I decided to put forth my proposal to do a solo radio program, ”Radical Philosophy”. As part of my proposal I stated that women in philosophy would be given preference to be interviewed on my program, because women in philosophy do not have as strong a voice as men in philosophy. In fact, I did a small survey myself to prove my point: I asked 10 people if they could name a philosopher and they could, but when I asked them to name a woman philosopher, none of them could, so I submitted this data with my program proposal. Included with my proposal was an interview that I conducted with Dr Fiona Jenkins on the subject of women in philosophy, and what needs to change. I discussed various concepts with Dr Jenkins connected to the under representation of women in philosophy such as stereotype threat, unconscious bias and micro inequities. Also the concept of how it is just assumed that women have to change to fit into the existing philosophical institutions. This combined with a program planner for the first month which included interviews on happiness, existentialism and who was the first woman philosopher? My program proposal was approved.

Over the last six months I have unearthed an incredible amount of talent in the topics I have sought interviews for: these topics have ranged from logic and reason, two-dimensional semantics and personal identity. I have also thought outside the standard philosophical box and have aired interviews about the philosophy of female football fans, feminist geography, the sexualisation of young girls and feminist bioethics; I think that these topics are of great philosophical importance. In fact, for every topic that I have wanted to cover in my program, I have been able to find an Australian woman philosopher to interview who has the required amount of expertise in the given research area. Often philosophers have many interests and areas of expertise, so it can be quite difficult in choosing one topic for an interview. I begin each program with a quote from an insightful woman such as Emma Goldman, Helen Keller and Iris Murdoch. The quotes are from “The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women”. The quotes appear under headings ranging from ‘absence’ to ‘youth’ so I have a quote to suit every interview I do.
I have studied philosophy and gender studies at the University of Tasmania and was fortunate enough to have Dr Lucy Tatman as one of my lecturers. Dr Tatman introduced me to many female philosophers such as Luce Irigaray, Hannah Arendt and Julia Kristeva. I had little knowledge of these women before, so this made me quite curious about current women philosophers particularly in Australia. Women who I have spoken to who have studied philosophy 20 or so years ago have said that they did not study any women philosophers.

3CR is a community radio station based in Fitzroy, Melbourne, there are mainly talk-based programs that have political themes, there are over 130 programs. 3CR was established to give a voice to various groups within the community that would not normally have a voice within the mass media. These groups include women, people with disabilities, indigenous people and the working class. 3CR is a financially independent organisation that does not have commercial advertising therefore relies on donations and membership for financial support.

“Radical Philosophy” is live to air every Thursday between 3.30 and 4.00 pm on 3CR Community Radio, 855 on your AM dial. If you’re not able to listen to the show live you can go to the 3CR website: also facebook has some podcasts, The current program will be available on audio on demand for seven days and some previous programs will be available to listen to on podcast. Even though “Radical Philosophy” has only been on the air for six months, at the 3CR awards night I was thrilled to receive an award for the best new program. My main aim with the program, apart from giving women in philosophy a voice in the media, is to make philosophy more accessible to a generalist audience. So rather than just focusing on academic questions, I always ask the interviewee what was it that inspired them to study their particular topic. I think this also to give the listeners a snapshot about who the interviewee is on a more personal

Women’s events at recruitment weekends

February 21, 2015 § Leave a comment

Lauren Leydon-Hardy writes:

When I visited Northwestern as a prospective student in 2011, I used an opportunity to be alone with a female faculty member to discuss the climate within the department. She was gracious and welcoming, and we spent the better part of half an hour alone in her office, chatting openly about their strengths and their shortcomings. She then directed me to a couple of female graduate students, with whom she encouraged me to continue this conversation. Those conversations were invaluable to me, as a prospective student, facing an enormous question about where to dedicate the next 5-6 years of my life.

Here’s a worry, though – what if some female grads are uncomfortable bringing up these concerns with faculty and current students? What if we’re not doing enough to make those conversations possible?

I worried about these questions. So, two years ago, together with a group of female graduate students, we began hosting an informal get-together for visiting female prospective students. We use this time to host a discussion about the climate in the profession, what it’s like to be a female graduate student at Northwestern, and what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy, more generally. The get-together has been productive for a host of reasons, chief among them being that it establishes a low-stakes social setting in which prospective female graduate students can meet and chat with current female graduate students, to ask difficult questions and explore mutually shared experiences. These conversations are highly relevant to prospective female students making informed decisions about what their best future looks like.

I’m so proud to say that, as of this year, the admissions committee at Northwestern has decided to formalize the women’s get-together, as a standing feature of our annual recruitment weekend. I think this is a tremendous step forward, and signals Northwestern’s continued commitment to fostering an environment that enables every student to put her best foot forward. We have found that this works, and we encourage other departments to try this at home. Set aside time for your visiting female students to sit and chat with current female students. Make space for these conversations. We are sure that you, too, will find it incredibly rewarding.

What Brown is Doing

February 13, 2015 § Leave a comment

The Brown Philosophy Department is pleased to announce a call for applications for the Summer Immersion Program in Philosophy at Brown University. SIPP@Brown is a two-week residential program for members of traditionally underrepresented groups in philosophy, including women and students of color. This year’s program will run from May 31, 2015 to June 13, 2015 and will feature seminars taught by Brown faculty and the SIPP@Brown research conference. Students will have travel and lodging expenses covered and will receive a $500 stipend. More information is available at The application deadline is March 15.

I’m standing up to a bully

January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

I’m standing up to the Famous Philosopher bully in my faculty who claims that he is a feminist but belittles, abuses and even rages at any woman who dares to disagree with him. He is rude to any woman who speaks in a meeting, unless she parrots him. He drove my predecessor to despair – literally destroying her health through abusive emails and vicious verbal attacks. Having moved to this new institution recently and learned of the impunity with which this has been allowed to go on, and for how long, I am doing something about it. I’m calling him out: I don’t care who your are, I don’t care how famous you are, no bullying women colleagues. No bullying in the work place. No bullying at all.

What UC Davis is doing about what it’s like

November 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

Marina Oshana writes:

We launched a mentoring group for undergraduate women in the Fall of 2013. Our group, u-POW (undergraduate Philosophically Oriented Women) meets for social camaraderie and consciousness raising. Current and planned activities include meetings, movies, conferences, and writing feedback sessions. We are a strong and wonderful group of energetic young women, and dedicated faculty and graduate student mentors.

What Durham’s doing about what it’s like

August 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

Ian Kidd writes:

The Gender Action Group at the Department of Philosophy, Durham University (UK), was founded, inspired by the work of the British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy UK, as well as by the many other groups and organisations working to improve the representation of women in philosophy. The Group consists of staff, postgraduates, and invited undergraduates and, based on the work of BPA/SWIP, produced a comprehensive fifteen-page set of proposals, covering everything from teaching to research, seminar conduct to implicit bias training, and more besides. Our launch event in May included talks on implicit bias, stereotype threat, and chilly climates, and issues such as work-life balance and balancing families and philosophy. We are currently developing a climate survey for our postgraduates, and are implementing a gender balance survey of all of our undergraduate modules. Early signs show that great progress can often be made very quickly – in next academic year show, we have almost 50/50 balance for our research seminars, and two thirds of our Royal Institute of Philosophy lecturers are women – the best it has ever been. We take inspiration from the other reports that appear on this blog, and are glad to contribute our own efforts.

On mitigating bias in a job search

July 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

Jennifer Saul writes:

I write a lot about implicit bias, and about how we should all be taking steps to mitigate it. I’m also Head of Department. So when I was placed in the position of hiring for two permanent posts, I decided to take the opportunity to put in place what seemed to me, based on what I know about implicit bias, to be the best practises. It went remarkably well, so I thought I’d report on what we did, and how and why we did it. And also on some of the difficulties, because it wasn’t QUITE as smooth as it could have been.

1. What we had candidates send: Anonymised CV and writing sample, with identifying information on a detachable cover sheet. In keeping with widespread UK practise, we only asked for names of referees at this stage, not references.

a. Detachable cover sheet only actually makes sense if these things are going to be printed out, and if they’re not being submitted electronically. I’m not sure why I asked for it, but I wouldn’t do it again. For electronic documents, removing it is a tedious bit of editing. Just ask for anonymised CV and writing sample.
b. Candidates weren’t always sure what was meant by ‘anonymised’ or ‘identifying information’. Some worried they should leave off their publications, or place of PhD, or employment. Much better to put in brief clarification of what to leave in. [What we actually wanted left off was just name and email.]
c. The e-recruitment system sticks candidates names into the file names of every file downloaded by those on the committee, adding *another* bit of anonymisation to do. Unless you have a system which doesn’t do this, you’ll need a bit of administrative help retitling all of these. (And we really should advocate for systems that don’t do this!)

It IS vital to have a bit of administrative help– someone who can check to make sure that everything actually is anonymised, who can also write assign numbers to the candidates and keep a list of name-number pairings.

2. How we long-listed: We long-listed on the basis of CV alone, to get down to 15-30 candidates. Our focus was primarily on meeting area needs and publication record.

3. After long-listing, we read anonymised writing samples. We also sent away for references. This decision was the subject of debate. I favoured waiting until we’d shortlisted, because of well-documented biases in reference-writing, and also because of national differences (e.g. US references are MUCH more glowing than UK ones). However, some wanted references to be used in shortlisting. Our compromise was to have references sent to a special email account, to which committee members would only be given access a couple of days before the shortlisting meeting. At that point, they were also given access to the name-number pairings.

4. How we shortlisted: Shortlisting was based on full information: CV, writing sample and references. Fascinatingly, though, even those who had advocated the use of references in shortlisting found them to be not of much interest after close examination of CV and writing sample. All felt that use of references had in the past been a merely apparently useful short-cut, which probably served to short-circuit proper consideration of more significant information. We also found that in many cases we had failed to recognise the written work of those we actually knew, so the anonymity had worked remarkably well.

You might wonder why we didn’t anonymise references. One reason is that it’s a lot of work– need to eliminate every occurrence of name or gendered pronoun. Another is that if a reference is anonymised you can’t try to take into account the tendency for referees to e.g. describe women as ‘hard-working’ and men as ‘brilliant’.

5. How we hired: Our process is a long one by UK standards and a short one by US standards. The main events are job talk (1.5 hours, including discussion) and interview, though there are also a couple of meals. The most important bias-fighting measure I took at this stage was in the discussion of each candidate post-interview. I did not allow overall gestalt evaluations or comparative evaluations until the very end. Instead, we agreed a list of topics we would discuss about each candidate in turn. I listed these on a whiteboard to make sure they got covered in every case. We carefully distinguished such things as written work, job talk, and discussion period so as not to give any of these undue weight. (There’s a good case to be made that written work is a better indication of research ability than job talk under immensely stressful conditions, including in many cases stereotype threat. Yet nonetheless it’s all too easy to focus more on job talk.) Only after each candidate was discussed in detail did we turn to comparative judgements. This lead to much richer and more useful discussion than I’d experienced before in such circumstances (and I’ve lost count of the number of hiring committees I’ve been on!). In both cases, we had very strong fields, and therefore extremely difficult decisions to make. But we all felt that this process helped enormously in making these decisions.

By the way, I’ve cross-posted this at Feminist Philosophers, and a discussion has kicked off. Feel free to join in!


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