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Tenured now

It sucks. It sucks, sucks, sucks. I've dealt with it for years, too, and unfortunately I haven't found good, reliable ways to change people's behavior towards me. But what has helped, enormously, has been finding a group of absolutely wonderful women philosophers at my same career stage, and really leaning in to both venting about this bullshit and celebrating all of the amazing philosophy we all do. Being with them makes me feel so excited and hopeful about philosophy, and I now choose which conferences to go to at least as much for chances to see them as for more traditional professional reasons. If you're untenured, I highly recommend the Mentoring Workshop for Pre-tenure Women in Philosophy. It's where I met some of my favorite people. https://marcsandersfoundation.org/mentoring-workshop-2023/

newly tt

This sucks, and I am sorry to OP!

These are very much your colleagues' and students issues, so addressing them is tricky. I know some people make a point of displaying their PhD diploma in their office and having very full book shelves. Perhaps making sure colleagues know when you have new publications or applying to in-house prizes could be another strategy? When introducing yourself to students at the beginning of class, you could try describing your educational history, perhaps. Sometimes framing this as explaining how universities work to students can help you - and since it is new information to many students, can help them, too.

It is tricky to insist on ones credentials, since it can backfire. The opposite strategy is, I suppose, expressing cool amusement or skepticism when one is underestimated.

That, of course, can also backfire, since people do not like to be embarrassed. Them's the breaks.


I feel you and I am very sorry that you are experiencing this situation.

I haven't found a real solution to the problem. But some things I have found helpful are:

-Collaborating with women philosophers (co-authoring articles, co-organizing workshops, participating in online reading and discussion groups, etc.). I find it empowering and always enriching.

-Sharing my experience with other women philosophers and listening to their experiences. It makes me feel less alone and helps me remember that the problem is not me, but the widespread sexism in academic philosophy.

-Minimize interactions with those who undermine women and maximize interactions with positive and supportive colleagues and mentors. And remind myself that missed interactions with people who make me uncomfortable because of my gender are a loss for them and a gain for me.

Derek Bowman

One of my undergraduate professors, by then a full professor, dealt with one aspect of the problem this way. She was overall very informal, and allowed her students to call her by her first name, which many did. But when announcing this option to the class, she warned us:

"But don't call me , then come talk to me about what you did in "Doctor" 's class. I *hired* Dr. ."

This had a pretty big impact on me, a well-meaning young man who was rather clueless about how widespread such casual sexism was (and is).

One advantage of this approach was that it was preemptive rather than reactive. If she had publicly rebuked someone for doing this, they may have become embarrassed or defensive. By presenting it as something embarrassing other unnamed someones had done, the lesson could be conveyed without triggering such defensiveness.

Derek Bowman

It looks like the brackets in my first comment got misinterpreted as code:

"Don't call me (Firstname) and then tell me about something you did in "Doctor" (Lastname)'s class. I *hired* Dr. (Lastname)."

woman professor

1) Adding a +1 to the suggestions about finding a group of women colleagues and friends who understand what you are dealing with and who will support and uplift you.

2) It helps that I have a small group of male friends in the field who have other women philosopher friends and who understand the BS we deal with. So find women friends who understand and also find guys who "get it."

3) I try to make my different experiences in the field and in the department salient to my male colleagues. I don't ever directly accuse anyone of anything, and I try to bring the topic up in an off-handed, casual manner, like "Urgh can you believe this other annoying thing happened to me?" It's been really effective at raising my well-meaning male colleagues' awareness of how different my experiences are from theirs.

3) When male colleagues really get under my skin, I just take a break from them.

4) I remember times when very young women in the field have told me that I was inspirational or a role model for them and remind myself that in my own small way, I'm making the field better for the women who come after me.

5) This doesn't always help, but sometimes I find "radical acceptance" (often Buddhist inspired) practices helpful. I remind myself, "You just have to be better than the men to get the same amount of respect. That's what oppression is. It's unfair, and you're doing things to change it. But this shouldn't come as a surprise, and getting angry and upset right now won't fix it." This attitude isn't always called for--anger is cathartic and sometimes you really do just need to viscerally feel the unfairness. But it keeps me from going insane or burning out with rage.

anon postdoc

As much as I can, I try to do what @woman professor notes in (2). There was an accomplished female faculty member in the dept. where I did my graduate work. On more than one occasion, a guest lecturer (or the like) treated questions I asked (and I was a grad student at the time) more seriously and looked at me more as a peer than they did this faculty member. I tried to make a point of explicitly mentioning this to the faculty member, noting that it seemed we'd been treated asymmetrically by the guest.

I also think it's important to remember that it's documented that students have bias, which have very real impacts when it comes to things like student evaluations (see https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2019/06/24/relying-often-biased-student-evaluations-assess-faculty-could-lead-lawsuits-opinion ) Departments should take this into account whenever possible.

I will also note that I've experienced, not the kind of unfavorable bias female academics often experience, but occasionally some fairly explicit discouragement for being male. I once had a keynote speaker tell me I should stop pursuing philosophy because there are too many white men in the profession. Additionally, a search committee member once said to me, during a flyout, that they wanted to hire a women, but they didn't get any female applicants. Things like that make me want to give up on the field.


I am a woman philosopher and have experienced the same thing. I very rarely get the sort of respect from colleagues and students (including my supervisee) that I think I deserve. So rare that I would feel ashamed if they do treat me with respect. And I agree with all the advice above, many of which would be my advice too.

It is important to acknowledge this feeling, but maybe not to fixate on looking at things this way. For example, I also experience sinophobia and bias towards low socio-economic status. I am not sure which one is more damning, but the point is that bias is everywhere, in all forms. We as women philosophers do get some explicit encouragement for pursuing philosophy, and at least that is a good thing to appreciate. *Not trying to minimize your experience--not at all. I do hope putting things into perspective could help a little. Again, I endorse all the advice above.*

hang in there

Given that it's other people who are at fault, there is not a lot you can do, because you can't really change other people. I think a good idea might be to "pick your battles" and focus on areas that would make a tangible impact to your career. For example- students calling other profs "Dr." but you by your first name is annoying, but it's not as damaging as if they leave poor evals for you and your department treats evals super seriously. If the latter happens, see if you can convince your chair and colleagues to recognize the bias in evals and take them less seriously.

Similarly, admins assuming you are a wife of a colleague is super annoying. But if it's just the event receptionists, it's likely not going lead to too much harm. However, do higher admins also give you less raise, award, or grant because they assume you are less competent? Try to establish a system where you can tell if you're passed over for raise/recognition/award for sexist reasons. E.g., you might befriend a male colleague around the same career stage who's willing to share his salary info with you, or a senior person who's involved in this kind of decision making who can alert you if they think something systematic is going on.

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