As many as 100 million women in the US are unable to afford to pursue a degree in philosophy, a landmark study shows.
The findings by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will fuel calls for an increase in the number of women studying philosophy, and also highlight how little we know about the profession.
A new report by the AAUW found that more than half of the roughly 50,000 people it surveyed did not consider philosophy as a viable career option.
It found that the average student-to-student transfer of students in philosophy from a traditional institution to a private school was about 20 percent, compared to about 12 percent in other fields.
Women are also underrepresented in many aspects of the profession, and a growing body of research has shown that women face barriers in applying for jobs in philosophy.
The report also found that women earn just $2,000 less per year than men on average for the same jobs.
This gap is partly due to the gender pay gap, which has grown from 12 cents per dollar in 1973 to about 40 cents today.
The AAUG report, which was co-authored by the AAAUW’s executive director of education, Rachel Bixby, also showed that a substantial number of students who enter the field have low-income backgrounds, while more than two-thirds of students with a bachelor’s degree in a humanities or social sciences field said they were not able to afford the fees for their degree.
This is especially true for women, the report said, noting that many of these women were not attending traditional university.
Women in philosophy also have lower salaries than women in other professional fields, with the average salary of women in philosophy at $20,000 more than the median male salary.
The study found that in economics, psychology and social sciences, women are paid less than men.
“If we are going to have a profession that is accessible to all people, we need to be open to all women,” said Bix by phone.
“We need to expand the pool of candidates.”
According to the AAOW, women earn an average of about $30,000 per year less than their male counterparts in philosophy departments.
In a response to the report, the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA) said that more funding and mentoring for women in humanities and social science fields is essential, as well as programs that allow women to earn higher salaries.
The association also said the AA study “should not be taken as a reflection of the academic climate” in the discipline, and that the report “applies only to the most elite schools in the country.”
Academic freedom and free speech should not be conflated, said Michael Rothberg, president of the American Studies Association, a nonprofit research group.
“It is a very serious problem, and there needs to be more funding to ensure that these institutions are properly staffed and that students have access to the courses they need,” he said.
The study is the latest evidence that women’s participation in the profession has declined over the past several decades, with women making up less than 10 percent of faculty in the field.
According to Rothberg’s organization, women make up less in philosophy than in all other disciplines except economics, where they comprise about 50 percent of professors.
Women also make up about a quarter of graduate students in history, less than one-fifth of those in political science, and about 10 percent in philosophy and philosophy-related fields.
The current gender gap in philosophy comes despite a number of advances in philosophy in recent decades, including the creation of the AA degree, the growing number of scholarships for female students, and the establishment of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Texas.