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Gender Polls: Women Underrepresent Philosophy

January 3, 2017 

It was realized during past decades that women underrepresent the field of Philosophy.  Since the mid-1980s to present, only about 30% of bachelor degrees in philosophy were held by women, and as little as 17% of philosophy faculty are women.  According to a recent commentary on Science and Society (NPR, June 2013) women account for only 6 percent of the authors of introductory philosophy textbooks.  In the early 1990s, the Canadian Philosophical Association claimed “there is gender imbalance and gender bias in the academic field of philosophy” and cited four prestigious philosophy journals where female authors comprise just 3.6 percent of the total.

On the doctoral level, the percent of women doctorates is less than most physical sciences, and less than math and economics.  It has been noted that philosophy is predominantly white and predominantly male, and according to Jennifer Saul of the University of Sheffield, "philosophy, the oldest of the humanities, is also the malest (and the whitest).  While other areas of the humanities are at or near gender parity, philosophy is actually more overwhelmingly male than even mathematics."

By some, the lack of women in philosophy is answered with such claim as “their minds are not adapted to the higher sciences” (Hegel1).  Perhaps women are turned off by philosophy's confrontational style and are more inclined toward careers with practical applications.  But are they cutting themselves short by not fathoming the extent of philosophy, and zagging directly to a money career ?

It was found that male and female students seem to have quite different experiences in introductory philosophy courses.  Overall, female students found the course less enjoyable and the material less interesting and relevant to their lives than male students, and that females come to college already with certain attitudes that discourage them from studying philosophy. 

Although it was recognized the existence of women philosophers since early times, almost no woman philosopher has entered the philosophical Western canon.  The Western canon is the body of books, music, and art that scholars generally accept as the most important and influential in shaping Western culture.  It includes works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, music, art, sculpture, and architecture generally perceived as being of major artistic merit and representing the high culture of Europe and North America.

Some have pointed out that a man’s beard indicates a philosopher (and women don’t have beards).  In Greco-Roman antiquity the beard was "seen as the defining characteristic of the philosopher; philosophers had to have beards, and anyone with a beard was assumed to be a philosopher.”  Socially, it has been observed how a woman can react to a man’s beard:

“She is at times fancied, bewildered, and playful towards a man’s
beard; perhaps bewildered in that it is something she cannot sport

However, if a beard was ever thought an indicator of a philosopher, seventy-five percent of the male population shave their face everyday (which perhaps is the men’s way of imposing equality onto their female counterparts).

In contemporary society, it should be easily concluded that it doesn’t require a beard to be a philosopher, or at least study philosophy, of which the embodiment of knowledge is preserved in various philosophical essays. 


1.       Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (often known as G. W. F. Hegel or Georg Hegel) (1770 – 1831) German philosopher of the
early Modern period and important figure of German idealism.