If you are not a white cis-gendered man, you are pretty much guaranteed to belong to a group which is significantly under-represented in contemporary Anglophone philosophy. Although the recent years have seen some progress, we are still very far from equity in our discipline.
Gender disparity remains a significant problem. In the U.S. women constitute only 25% of U.S. Philosophical Gourmet Report-ranked faculty, 29% of recently placed philosophy PhDs and of recently graduated philosophy PhDs, and 24% of APA members who reported their gender (Schwitzgebel and Jennings 2017). Things are only slightly better in the UK, where in 2021 women constituted 30% of permanent staff (up from 24% in 2011), 33% of recently placed philosophy PhDs (up from 31% in 2011), and 32% of recently graduated PhDs; still, the drop-off from Undergraduate to Masters and PhD-levels has remained the same at -15% (BPA/SWIP 2021). Meanwhile, only 13% of authors published in top American and British philosophical journals are women (Schwitzgebel 2015a, 2015b).
Racial and ethnic disparities are even more pronounced. None of the PhDs graduated in the U.S. in 2017-2019 were Indigenous Americans or Alaskan Natives, 3% were Black or African American, 4% were Asian, 6% were Hispanic, and 3% were either more than one race or an unrecognized race (Schwitzgebel et al. 2021). Further, only 0.32% of U.S. authors of research publications in top philosophy journals are black (Bright 2016), and only 1.32% of philosophy faculty are black (Botts et al., 2014). No systematic data is currently available for the UK. But, what is obvious is that there are less than 1% permanent black philosophy faculty members in the UK (Coleman 2014) – and, more specifically, there appear to be only 6 (Curry and Tremain 2019).
Various sources indicate a ‘leaky pipeline’ effect: the representation of women and racial/ethnic groups is higher at the Undergraduate level, but decreases through Masters and PhD levels, and further throughout career progression (Paxton et al. 2012: 955; Dougherty et al. 2015; Thompson et al. 2016; BPA/SWIP 2021; and Schwitzgebel et al. 2021). A number of factors contribute to the “Perfect Storm” which washes non-male and non-white students out of the discipline (Antony 2012). One of them is the stereotype of a philosopher as a white man, grounded by the fact that the majority of the texts typically read in class are written by white men, and that the philosophical ideals of rationality and objectivity are associated with maleness and whiteness (Haslanger 2008). These stereotypes influence two psychological mechanisms which further disadvantage students and philosophers from underrepresented groups (Saul, 2013):
- Stereotype threat – members of a group which are stereotypically perceived as less able to perform at a given task, tend to under-perform at this task. Since the stereotypical philosopher is perceived to be a white male, people of a different gender or race are likely to under-perform in philosophy.
- Implicit bias – people who self-identify as being unprejudiced often exhibit subconscious or ‘implicit’ biases that follow past or present cultural stereotypes. In philosophy, this means that non-white-male students and authors may be treated more dismissively, or as less able, or be evaluated more harshly.
The aim of the Diversity Reading List is to help in addressing these inequalities in representation by helping to overcome their cause: the stereotype of the philosopher as a white male.
What can I do?
Implicit bias and stereotype threat in philosophy are both related to the fact that the great majority of widely read philosophers are white males (Kelly and Roedder 2008; Penaluna 2009). In effect, most people are implicitly biased to expect white males to be better philosophers, and members of under-represented groups perceive themselves as less philosophically able, which makes them likely to under-perform in class and in their careers.
One way to help combat this stereotype and its negative consequences is to decolonise the reading lists used to support teaching, by including philosophical writings by authors from under-represented groups. Including those texts in your teaching can give your students a chance to read good philosophy written by scholars coming from different backgrounds, making it less likely that they will perceive philosophy as something that can done well only by white men. As a result, the risk of them experiencing stereotype threat or developing an implicit bias will be reduced.
Making sure that a solid proportion of the readings in one’s class are by authors from under-represented groups, is not an easy task. Since such texts are likely to be less popular or less immediately available, finding them and assessing their usefulness involves considerable effort, adding to the already busy schedules of teachers and lecturers.
The Diversity Reading List is here to help you overcome this difficulty. It offers a quick way of finding texts and evaluating their relevance for your teaching. You can search the list for specific texts, authors or keywords, or browse by topic in a easily navigable structure of categories inspired by PhilPapers. Whenever possible, we included abstracts, author’s keywords, and links to online versions of texts and other resources.
What is on the list?
Following the existing body of evidence identifying inequalities with respect to gender and race, the list includes texts by authors who do not identify as cis-gender male or who are of a non-white racial background. In cases in which we were unsure whether or not to include an author, we contacted them and followed their suggestion. You will notice that we do not explicitly say why we included particular authors or allow you to search by gender, race, etc. This is deliberate and aimed at protect the authors’ privacy. We do, however, link to their profile pages where they likely disclose whatever information they are comfortable with sharing – thus the information you seek is likely just one click away.
The current version of the list does not include authors who are members of a minority with respect to other protected characteristics such as sexual orientation, ability or age. We are open to the possibility of revising this in the future and welcome all suggestions on the best ways of doing so.
All texts included in the List have been recommended by philosophers and assessed by our team of specialists. They are of the highest academic quality, and have been selected for their clarity and relevance to current research and teaching. If you would like to recommend a text to be included on the list, please use the form available on our Contribute page.
- The American Philosophical Association, (2013). Minorities in Philosophy. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].
- The British Philosophical Association and the Society for Women in Philosophy UK (2011). Women in Philosophy in the UK. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].
- Antony, L. (2012). Different Voices or Perfect Storm: Why Are There So Few Women in Philosophy?. Journal of Social Philosophy 43(3): 227-255.
- Beebee, Helen & Jennifer Saul (2021). Women in Philosophy in the UK. BPA and SWIP UK Report.
- Bright, L. K. (2016). Publications By Black Authors in Leiter Top 15 Journals 2003-2012. [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 23 Jan. 2016].
- Botts, T. F., L. K. Bright, M. Cherry, G. Mallarangeng, and Q. Spencer (2014). What Is the State of Blacks in Philosophy? Critical Philosophy of Race 2 (2): 224–42.
- Dougherty, T., Baron, S., & Miller, K. (2015). Why do female students leave philosophy? The story from Sydney. Hypatia, 30(2): 467-474.
- Haslanger, S (2008). Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone). Hypatia 23(2): 210-223.
- Irvin, S. (2015). Diversity in Aesthetics Publishing. [Blog] Aesthetics for Birds. [Accessed 16 Jan. 2015].
- Kelly, D., Roedder, E. (2008). Racial Cognition and the Ethics of Implicit Bias. Philosophy Compass 3(3): 522–540.
- Norlock, K. (2015). Women in the Profession. [online, accessed 16 Jan. 2015].
- Penaluna, R. (2009). Wanted: Female Philosophers, in the Classroom and in the Canon. The Chronicle of Higher Education. [Accessed 20 Feb. 2015].
- Paxton, M., Figdor, C., Tiberius, V. (2012). Quantifying the Gender Gap: An Empirical Study of the Underrepresentation of Women in Philosophy. Hypatia 27(4): 949-957.
- Saul, J. (2013). Implicit Bias, Stereotype Threat and Women in Philosophy. In Jenkins, F. and Hutchison, K. (eds.) Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? Oxford University Press.
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2014). Citation of Women and Ethnic Minorities in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 16 Jan. 2015].
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2015a). Only 13% of Authors in Five Leading Philosophy Journals Are Women [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2015b). How Prominently Is Women’s Philosophical Work Discussed? One Empirical Measure [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].
- Schwitzgebel, E. (2016). Percentages of U.S. Doctorates in Philosophy Given to Women and to Minorities, 1973-2014 [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2016].
- Schwitzgebel, E. & Carolyn Dicey Jennings (2017). Women in Philosophy: Quantitative Analyses of Specialization, Prevalence, Visibility, and Generational Change. Public Affairs Quarterly 31: 83-105.
- Schwitzgebel, E. et al. (2021). The Diversity of Philosophy Students and Faculty in the United States [Blog] The Splintered Mind. [Accessed 23 Mar. 2022].
- Tremain, Shelley (2019). Dialogues on Disability: Shelley Tremain Interviews Tommy Curry [Blog]. Biopolitical Philosophy.
- Thompson, Morgan, Toni Adleberg, Sam Sims, Eddy Nahmias (2016). Why Do Women Leave Philosophy? Surveying Students at the Introductory Level. Philosophers’ Imprint 16(6): 1-36.