Hesperus is Bosphorus

A group blog by philosophers in and from Turkey

Gender and Philosophy (in Turkey)

with 3 comments

I’ve been involved in discussion of the latest Hendricks scandal at the NewAPPS blog. (For those who have not followed this, information and discussion can be found here, here, here, here and here). And so I’ve been thinking a bit about gender and the profession. In the USA and UK there seems to be a quite significant gender imbalance in academic philosophy. So, for example, in many philosophy departments it seems that only between 20-30% of graduate applications for philosophy are from women. (See here. Other interesting discussions and data can be found here, here and here).

Based on personal experience of having taught in two philosophy departments here in  Turkey, however,  there does not seem to be the same gender imbalance in philosophy here in Turkey as in the US and UK. My experience of teaching here is that the majority of philosophy students are female. Here are the statistics for current philosophy students and faculty at Bogazici.

Undergrad: women 91, men 55.
Grad (MA and Phd): women 30, men 29.
Faculty: Women 6, men 8.

I have a feeling that there is a higher percentage of male grad students at present than there was in the past – but I haven’t been able to find the records to verify this. I should also point out that our department is pretty mainstream in terms of it’s curriculum: all ungergrads, for example, must take 2 semesters of logic, epistemology, philosophy of science. ontology etc.

The change in ratios between undergrad and graduate students is noticeable. I suspect that part of the reason for this is because I guess that Turkish families tend to put more pressure on sons than daughters to do engineering and other such subjects, and so more males than females who would perhaps have chosen to do philosophy undergrads are pressured by their families not to do so. Many of our grad students did their undergrad degree in engineering, maths etc. But I’m sure there are other factors in play too.

My impression is that statistics for other philosophy departments in Turkey is probably similar, at least in terms of student numbers. I wonder whether this impression is correct.  Do people have thoughts about this, or data about other departments. I wonder if things were similar 20- 30 years ago?

Comments are welcome. But, please, no personal attacks.


Written by Lucas Thorpe

February 27, 2012 at 4:50 pm

3 Responses

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  1. I think this is not surprising. When discussing these issues, especially with respect to hypotheses to explain the gender gap that focused on women’s intuitions, I always advised to look at analytic programs in other countries. Gender gaps (and other kind of minority gaps) are causally overdetermined, and factors will vary culturally. In Italy my anecdotal evidence is that undergrads are about fifty-fifty, then the percentage of women starts decreasing as you go up the ladder. This is is probably true anywhere: the higher you go in the hierarchy, the fewer women you find.


    February 28, 2012 at 3:03 pm

  2. As an ex – student of Bogazici University’s sociology, I experienced this phenomenon too. In 2006, 30 female and only 2 male students got into the department. It seems to me that social science is conceived to be an unsafe field and therefore choice to male students because it doesn’t guarantee a well paid job as probably medicine, law and engineering would do. Therefore, I strongly agree with you. I believe that the choice of study is indeed quite gendered; although in terms of the occupation that is followed after graduation, it doesn’t seem to be as much. Writing, teaching, finance, banking etc. seem to be occupied by both parties (almost regardless) of what they studied; yet I have to admit, that even though these occupations are not highly gendered, studying it – is. Namely, being a sociology student for (speaking of heterosexual) males was a struggle to prove that a) they are not gay and b) they are going to earn sufficient money, while being a male sociology teacher meant that he was a) charismatic and b) high-rank. Although there have been way more female students while I was studying, the number of female and male professors remained mostly balanced. (Personally, I don’t believe that this is due to change in numbers of male and female students over the years.) This might also be a reason (apart from family pressure) why male students do not choose to study social science during undergraduate years but later on choose to teach it.
    Since I live in Argentina, as an example, I’ve observed quite the opposite (so far). Undergraduate departments are usually not gendered, neither philosophy nor sociology, while professions like teaching are almost exclusively perceived as female-work. Thus, although I do not have any statistics on the matter, it looks like female students are choosing teaching, while male students go into research.
    Interesting world that we live in…

    Ayse Deniz Kavur

    February 28, 2012 at 3:54 pm

  3. Hi Ayse and Sara,

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I don’t think I disagree with anything you say.

    Sara: I think that one interesting fact is that my impression (from the departments I know) is that philosophy undergraduate majors in most departments in the US tend to be predominantly male, whereas in Turkey the reverse seems to be so. And from what you say about the situation in Italy, Italy would seem to lay between the US and Turkey on this.

    Ayse: I agree that in Turkey (and I’m sure elsewhere) choice of what to study is strongly gendered. I don’t know of much empirical work on this for Turkey. I found one paper about gender differences in applying for engineering programs, based on surveys of a quite large number of highschool students studying for OSS. The top preference for women when applying seems to be Genetic and Biological Engineering, whereas for males it seems to be mechanical Engineering. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/03043797.2011.606499

    I thought one interesting thing in this study is that for female students, ‘I believe it will make me happy because it is in accordance with my expectations and life style’ is of highest importance, followed by ‘the possibility of finding a job and financial expectations’, whereas for male students ‘the possibility of finding a job and financial expectations’ becomes most important.” This is consistent with my anecdotal observations. So one reason that women my choose philosophy is because they are more concerned about doing something that will make them happy.

    I wonder if anyone else knows of any empirical information on this. (Feel free to post links to articles in Turkish).

    I hope you are enjoying yourself in Argentina. Are you planning to stay there? Or will you come back to Turkey?

    Lucas Thorpe

    February 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm

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