Local Initiatives

What can I do locally?

We believe that some of the most effective, and in any case most immediately felt changes for the situation of women and other minorities in philosophy happen at the local, that is, departmental or university level. We here collected examples of some tried and tested local initiatives. Working conditions and institutional structures differ greatly between European countries, and so does the extent to which the below suggestions are already regularly implemented. We still hope that for most contexts at least some of these ideas are useful inspiration. Please get in touch with any further ideas or experiences of local initiatives!  

Getting organised

The first step is usually to set up a local group of women and/or other minorities in philosophy. This can range from the very informal (a WhatsApp group or email list) to becoming a formal chapter of your national or regional SWIP or MAP (we collected a list of these societies here), which usually involves selecting a representative or ambassador of your group. 

Some things to keep in mind: 

    • The numbers of women and members of other under-represented groups are very small in many departments. Especially then, it can be useful to network regionally with philosophers at other universities. Here is an example of a very active regional SWIP group.
    • It can also be helpful to network across departments at the same university, in particular if you would like to initiate change at the university level, or require peer support in navigating your institution. Here are examples of such grassroots staff networks at LSE.
    • Consider including graduate or even advanced undergraduate students, but remember that this puts a greater burden of mentorship on the (often already overburdened) faculty members involved. To facilitate peer support, separate groups may be needed.

Educating Ourselves

We have put together some literature on diversity and inclusion here. Also consider organising: 

    • Reading groups or book clubs on relevant topics. See, e.g., this one set up by SWIP Switzerland
    • Women and/or Minorities in Philosophy talks or conferences. See, e.g., this lecture series at the University of Graz), or these conferences organized by SWIP Spain and here at the University of Cambridge.
    • Workshops or Webinars to empower women and/or other minorities in your department, for instance on negotiation skills, navigating the workplace, productivity, or effective mentoring. If you have the funds, it can be very helpful to bring in an outside consultant to run these.
    • Debiasing training for all faculty and teaching staff.

Mentoring and Support

Regular informal get-togethers (a lunch, a potluck, a pub night, a barbecue, a hike…) can be very effective for creating community, facilitating peer support, exchanging information, and building coalitions for initiating change. When scheduling, keep in mind potential caring responsibilities. You may also want to set up a potentially more formal one-on-one mentoring scheme. Where it doesn’t exist yet, consider setting up a mechanism for students and staff to raise concerns confidentially to your department or university. Many departments have an appointed faculty member (e.g. an “EDI Officer”) and/or student contact for this. 

Not all mentoring needs can be appropriately met at the local level, of course — Note that EPSA now also has its own mentoring scheme.

Teaching Inclusively

We have put together this list of resources on how to develop a more inclusive teaching practice and more inclusive syllabi. In addition, consider: 

    • Marking all student work anonymously, if this is not already common practice in your department.
    • Getting your department to agree on a policy that sets a norm to have at least a certain percentage of readings by women or other under-represented groups.
    • Displaying pictures of women and minority philosophers in prominent places in your teaching rooms and department. See this visibility by posters campaign by SWIP Switzerland.
    • Where students are involved in the organisation of departmental events or other aspects of the wider departmental life, encourage and ensure good representation of women and minority students for such roles.

Initiating Change

Two general suggestions for initiating change in your department and at your university: First, to find out more about what the obstacles for women and other minorities in your department are, it can be useful to conduct what is sometimes called a ‘climate survey’. Here is an example, from Rutgers University, aimed at students. Many departments regularly run similar surveys for staff, and will be happy to share a template (we can assist if you don’t know who to contact). Second, where these exist, get your department to sign up to a good practice scheme, such as the BPA/SWIP one (aimed primarily at the UK and Ireland): This can be a good way to set a positive incentive for your department to improve its culture.  

Here are examples of specific issues to raise in departmental or university-level discussions, and potential improvements to push for: 

    • Ensuring equitable workload distribution: e.g., keep formal tabs of who does what, and the workload involved; raise awareness of the problem that women and other minorities often get more demands on their time from students; make sure women and other minorities are not disproportionately put in student-facing caring roles.
    • Mentoring and Career Advancement: Where informal mentoring within a department is not equitable, set up formal and equitable mentoring structures.
    • Improving hiring practices: e.g., make sure all on a hiring panel are aware of unconscious bias, applications are anonymized where possible, and hiring criteria and their respective weights are agreed in advance. Find more guidance here or here (in German).
    • Review policies on staff-student relationships, making sure these are well-known and enforced. We can assist in sharing templates for such policies.
    • Review policies on sexual harassment, making sure these are well-known and enforced. We can assist in sharing templates for such policies. See also this guidance from the BPA/SWIP Good Practice Scheme, and SWIP Germany’s list of resources and contacts here (in German).
    • Organisation of departmental events and conferences: e.g., make sure there is a seminar conduct policy (see here for guidance), and women and other minorities are well represented in seminar series and conferences. See also SWIP Germany’s guidance on events (in German).
    • Provision of childcare and accommodation of other caring responsibilities: e.g., demand your university makes provision and advertising of flexible and affordable childcare a priority; Ensure family-friendly scheduling of events, meetings and teaching; Ensure parental leave funds are used for their intended purpose.

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