In our profession and other academic disciplines blogging has become the new hall talk. Philosophers operate their own blogs, post as members of group blogs, and enter into the discussion of philosophical and professional issues by commenting on posts. Women in the profession however are only half as likely to blog as their male colleagues. Women, I suggest, are reluctant to post because the risks of blogging for women are greater than they are for men and because they are less likely to benefit from assuming risk. If I am correct, gender dynamics in our profession induce women, as rational choosers, to play it safe when it comes to the decision whether to blog and, arguably, in making a range of other far more significant professional decisions.
There are a variety of reasons why academics should blog: Hugh McGuire, on his blog, lists nine, of which the following enjoy pride of place:
1. You need to improve your writing…blogging will help you get practice. 2. Some of your ideas are dumb. The sooner you get called out on bad ideas, the better…if you write a discipline-specific blog, then your colleagues around the world will read it…That means that when you have a dumb idea, you should hear about it quickly...when you have an incomplete idea, and some others chip in with suggestions, you’ll get a better-formed idea.
Most philosophers don’t blog, and that should hardly be surprising. Many of us would rather not practice our writing in public or display dumb ideas to “colleagues around the world.” There is however, compensation for assuming the risk of putting one’s unpolished drafts on display:
4. Blogging expands your readership…5. Blogging protects and promotes your ideas…6. Blogging is reputation.
Some philosophers are indeed willing to risk getting called out on dumb ideas in the interests of self-promotion and, more importantly, to engage in the public discussion that facilitates research. They blog: as members of group blogs, as commentators and as proprietors of their own online enterprises. Within this group however women are significantly underrepresented. While there is no clear data on the percentage of philosophers who are women—estimates range between 17 and 30 percent--the percentage of women in the profession who blog is significantly lower. Of the individual philosophy blogs maintained by philosophy faculty and students listed at David Chalmers’ site, fewer than 10% of their owners are women. Women are also disproportionately underrepresented amongst members of academic group blogs and less likely to comment at either group or individual blogs.
The underrepresentation of women on academic blogs is not restricted to philosophy and the cause has been the subject of widespread speculation. While I suspect there are a variety of factors at work, I shall suggest that the primary reason is that women are less able to afford risk than their male counterparts. As Donna Coker, commenting at Prawfsblog notes:
[B]logging equals huge exposure… Lots of us law prof types are very risk averse in terms of what we publish. But women may have reason to be even more risk averse than men. Male law professors may believe (and they may be right) that mistakes they make in a blog post are not going to harm their credibility, while female law professors believe (and again they may be right), that their mistakes will indicate their lack of seriousness or their lack of intelligence.
This is not to say that women are, in some global sense, more risk-averse, i.e. that given the same (perceived) costs, benefits and probabilities of achieving a desired outcome women are more likely to play it safe. The claim is rather that women, with good reason, asses the same action a male would do as riskier: less likely to yield a good outcome, more likely to produce a bad outcome and, if they don’t achieve the desired result, likely to bring about a much worse outcome than they would for males who are on the face of it similarly situated.
Women have reason to worry because implicit bias which leads even people of good will to undervalue the work of women and members of other disadvantaged groups has been well-documented in over four decades of empirical research including, most recently, the administration of the Implicit Association Test (IAT) to large groups of subjects. Members of disadvantaged groups are assessed less favorably than members of privileged groups. Women as well as men rate the same essays and professional resumes less favorably when women’s names are attached. Blacks as well as whites exhibit the same implicit bias in favor of white males.
The results of this research come as no surprise to most women or minorities who have always known that they have to work harder, produce superior results and, above all, be more careful than their white male counterparts in order to get comparable assessments of social acceptability and professional competence. White men can dress casually, behave boorishly and talk like good ole boys without untoward consequences; black men know that they have to maintain a higher level of respectability to avoid being tagged as members of a criminal underclass, tailed by security guards, shunned or hassled. Women know that they cannot afford to make mistakes. Men can afford to let their ideas, smart and dumb, fly without adverse consequences; women know that their dumb ideas are more likely to be taken as symptoms of incompetence or lack of seriousness, and that their smart ideas are less likely to be recognized and rewarded.
As a consequence, there are bigger sticks and fewer carrots for women in philosophy and other non-female-identified professions than there are for their male counterparts. Academic women know that they cannot afford to adopt McGuire’s cavalier attitude about exposing dumb, or even incomplete, ideas to public scrutiny and, indeed worry that blogging in and of itself may undermine their credibility. Writing anonymously on PrawfsBlog, an untenured legal scholar writes:
Dan also raised issues that I am particularly sensitive to as a woman of color -- blogging makes you incredibly visible (to the rest of the academy and to your own faculty). Certainly, it would be great to bring my work to the attention of those at other institutions, but the risk with blogging is that the blogging itself would be visible to my own faculty. I would be deeply worried (and perhaps I am overly paranoid) that blogging would be seen as "wasting time" I could be devoting to my scholarship. Further, the quick posts and responses typical in the blogosphere seem like they could come back to bite you. Suffice to say, I would not want blogging to come up as a centerpiece of my tenure review. Anyway, those are my thoughts. The fact that I didn't post [giving my name] suggests how paranoid I am about blogging, but there you are.
If, as I have suggested, implicit bias figures significantly in professional evaluation, she has reason to worry. But even if it doesn’t, the perception of implicit bias affects women’s professional behavior: women are careful because they believe that implicit bias is at work. Whether rightly or wrongly, women believe that exposing dumb or incomplete ideas is very risky.
Women recognize also that their chances of having good ideas rewarded are relatively slim and so, arguably, blogging in order to protect or promote ideas or to build reputation has less appeal for women than for men who blog for glory. Again, the suggestion is not that women are inherently less ambitious, less interested in display or less interested in building “reputation” than their male counterparts but rather that they assume, again I believe with good reason, that their efforts are far less likely to be recognized and could, indeed, backfire.
Turning again to the illuminating discussion on PrawfBlog, Orin Kerr comments:
I would flip the question and ask, what is it about men that attracts them to blogging? I would think the reason is that men love to hear themselves talk. They think they have something important to say; writing a lot becomes a way of showing off one's importance. Women usually have this baggage less often, so they're less likely to waste their precious few hours of free time in front of a computer blogging.
Men, Kerr claims, like blowing their own horns. Women, he suggests, are less likely to carry the egoistic “baggage” that prompts male display and so are less likely to waste time blogging to show off.
This may or may not be true: it is moot whether, either by nature or nurture, women are less likely than men to believe that what they have to say is important or to have a taste for display. What I suggest is that whether or not women have a taste for display they are less likely to be rewarded for display and so will be less motivated to show off—particularly when there are significant risks. Women, because they believe, with good reason, that they will be judged more harshly than their male colleagues for careless quick responses, off the cuff remarks and work that is not fully thought out or polished—the typical content of blog posts and comments—are cautious. And in a professional culture that values quick responses, boldness and bravado, caution translates as mediocrity.
Women, indeed, are expected to be mediocre and rewarded for mediocrity: for being careful, competent, hardworking, tidy, dutiful, diligent and solid—not brilliant or flashy. They are rarely rewarded for the bravado and swagger that are generally admired in bright young men, and may indeed be regarded as arrogant or “difficult to work with” if they show off or exhibit what is taken to be an inappropriately high degree of self-confidence. As Miranda McGowan notes:
For many sex stereotypes…it’s a short trip from description to prescription. For example, one common descriptive stereotype is that women are less competitive and more communal than men. It has a prescriptive side, too: people believe that ‘women should be communal and men should be agentic,’ that is, independent, individualistic, and competitive…Prescriptive stereotypes are enforced the same way as other social norms: violators suffer social sanctions, and both cross-typed men and women suffer. Women who are ambitious, self-promoting and competitive are perceived as unlikable and lacking social skills.
Bloggers are expected to be both spontaneous and bold, to throw out unpolished work for discussion and critique. Given the nature of the medium it is of course possible for careful writers to fake it: it is possible, in principle to contribute only posts and comments that are fully thought out, carefully articulated and thoroughly polished. But this would be to defeat the whole purpose of posting on academic blogs—the quick and dirty discussion and critique of incomplete, unpolished works in progress—and would likely be a waste of valuable time and energy. If your work is polished and complete you may as well submit it to a journal—a much less risky procedure since submissions are blind reviewed by one or two referees and will not be exposed to the scrutiny of “colleagues around the world” under your name. Parting out your paper as blog posts or comments for quick, off the cuff responses by other participants is likely to be a waste of your time since, in revising and polishing, you have probably considered and responded to the quick and dirty objections. Comments by journal referees are more likely to be interesting and illuminating. On the other hand, if you post genuine work in progress, which is unfinished and unpolished, you risk serious embarrassment. This is a dilemma for all academics, not only in deciding whether to blog but when it comes to exposing works in progress to public scrutiny in any medium. For women, who can ill-afford to assume risk, the dilemma is starker.
In short, blogging is risky but the risks of blogging are greater for women than they are for men and the benefits are harder to come by. Consequently women, acting as rational choosers, weighing the professional benefits, costs and risks of blogging are less likely to blog than their male counterparts. This is an economic explanation in the broad sense of women’s reluctance to blog and it is what might be called an “immediate-circumstance” explanation since it purports to explain a gender difference by reference to differences in the immediate circumstances of men and women. On this account, women in the aggregate behave differently from men, at least when it comes to blogging, because they are differently situated.
It remains to be seen how this explanation compares to competing explanations. I suggest that it the most plausible explanation for most, even if not all, the difference in the participation of men and women in academic blogs (1) because immediate-circumstance explanations for la difference are to be preferred to either nature or nurture explanations, (2) because it fits the data better than alternative explanations and (3) because it explains other discrepancies in the behavior of men and women in the profession, including choice of specialties and research projects.
In the aggregate, men and women play different roles in the family and in the labor force, behave differently, and make different choices. There are three different kinds of explanations available for these differences: biological/genetic explanations, “socialization” explanations and immediate-circumstance explanations. It is likely that all of these factors figure in explaining gender differences. However when looking for an explanation of differences in the ways in which humans behave we should, arguably, look first for immediate-circumstance explanations, then for explanations that appeal to socialization or early training, and last to biological explanations.
The purpose of this lexical ordering is not to “prove” in the teeth of empirical evidence that there are no biological-based psychological gender differences—there likely are statistical differences—or differences that are a consequence of early socialization, but to arrive at the best possible explanation of behavior. Humans are more similar to one another psychologically than they are to non-humans. Moreover, for all our interest in individual and cultural differences, human motivation and behavior is fairly consistent across culture and gender, and the assumption that individuals operate as rational choosers responding to incentives provides a decent, though imperfect, method for explaining and predicting behavior.
Such explanations are imperfect because homo economicus is an idealization. People are not ideally rational and do not operate with complete information. Behavioral economists challenge the neo-classical account and, incorporating empirical data from psychology and other social sciences, arguably, produce better explanations and more accurate predictions for human behavior. The fundamental assumption of such accounts however is the same: people respond to incentives and, when explaining their behavior we should look first, and look hard at the incentives to which they respond, the costs, benefits and risks they consider in making decisions under uncertainty, before looking for “deeper” nature or nurture explanations.
This suggests that in explaining statistical differences in the way men and women behave, we should look for differences in their immediate circumstances before reaching for socio-biological explanations or accounts that appeal to early socialization. Male philosophers are much more likely to post on academic blogs than women in the profession and, as Kerr suggests, this reflects a stronger preference for self-advertising. However on the current account, before concluding that this is a consequence of “baggage” most men but relatively few women carry, presumably as a consequence of early socialization, we should look first for differences in incentives, differences in costs and risks men and women incur when they blow their own horns and the benefits they might reasonably expect for engaging in this behavior.
Citing an extensive body of research on gender differences, Miranda McGowan notes that “men and women increasingly exhibit and identify themselves as possessing the same set of personality traits”:
The Bem Sex-Role Inventory is a list of different personality traits, such as loyal, warm, assertive, analytical, happy, tactful, and jealous, which are categorized as expressive (feminine) traits, instrumental (masculine) traits, or neutral traits. A meta-analysis of college students’ scores on the Bem Sex-Role Inventory shows that men and women’s scores on instrumental or masculine traits have been steadily converging. 
Increasingly, men and women are similarly situated; increasingly men’s and women’s scores converge suggesting strongly that some psychological gender differences which are commonly thought to be a consequence of early socialization or genetic hardwiring are likely a response to differences in immediate circumstances.
Moreover there is ample supporting data showing that in a range of cases where male and female behavior in the aggregate diverges, when data for men and women who are similarly situated are compared, the differences disappear. Consider, for example, the behavior of individuals in the labor forces. In the aggregate, women and blacks exhibit higher rates of absenteeism and quit behavior than white males. But looking for cultural, or biological, differences to explain this phenomenon would be seriously misleading since it turns out that when the figures are disaggregated, when women and blacks are compared to white men who do the same jobs the difference disappears. As it turns out and as we might expect, individuals who work at poorly paid, relatively unskilled, dead-end jobs are more likely take days off and to quit than those who work at better jobs with higher pay and more chance of advancement. And, as it turns out, women and blacks as a group are more likely to work at poorly paid, relatively unskilled, dead-end jobs than white men.
Surveying the literature on gender differences, including the extensive body of work McGowan cites in her extremely useful paper, it seems clear that the search for immediate-circumstance explanations is fruitful. In addition, the reflexive appeal to early socialization or socio-biological explanations can lead us to overlook important differences in the immediate circumstances of men and women. And that leads us to the last and, from the moral point of view, most compelling reason to look first and look hard for differences in immediate circumstances when it comes to explaining differences in the behavior of men and women in our profession. If we assume that these differences are a consequence of biological differences or differences in early socialization we are likely to overlook differences in circumstance that are the result of implicit bias and skew the male-female playing field.
Blogging is a matter of choice and, within our profession, women are only half as likely to men to blog. But when it comes to considerations of fairness, choice is not the end of the story. We make our choices in response to incentives and constraints. If the incentives and constraints men and women face are different that is unfair. And if those differences are a consequence of the way in which men and women are viewed and treated by colleagues it is a difference that we in the profession need to address in the interests of fairness.
We are supposed to treat likes alike. But if judgments of likeness and unlikeness depend on observations of behavior that is itself determined by the way in which people are treated the principle slips toward vicious circularity. If we treat people similarly, they are likely to behave similarly licensing further similar treatment; if we treat people differently, the will likely respond by behaving differently and so we shall infer that different treatment is warranted.
The discrepancy in the percentages of men and women in the profession who blog is striking, and exceedingly difficult to explain by reference to the small statistical differences in cognitive abilities and aggression that show up in psychological studies. Moreover, it seems likely that statistical psychological differences between men and women within the profession, selected and self-selected for similar aptitudes, interests and (high) levels of aggression, should be smaller than male-female differences in the general population. In these circumstances, such a discrepancy is strong evidence for differences in the incentives and constraints that men and women in profession face.
If such differences exist that is significant. Blogging is not a matter of great professional importance. Individuals’ choice of specialty areas and decisions they make about the allocation of time to research, teaching and other professional activities are. Men and women make different choices here too. Within the profession, women are less likely than men to work in metaphysics and other central areas and more likely to favor teaching over research. A consideration of the reasons why so few women in the profession choose to blog, a relatively trivial matter, may illuminate the factors that induce women to make other professional choices that are far from trivial.
Within philosophy, and some other academic disciplines including law, women are less likely to blog than their male counterparts. I have proposed an explanation. Blogging, I suggested, is risky and the risks for women in academia are greater than the risks for their male counterparts. Moreover, I argued, for women the potential benefits are harder to come by. Women within the profession, as rational choosers, have stronger incentives than their male counterparts to play it safe and, as a consequence, are less likely to participate in academic blogs. More importantly, as I shall suggest, the structure of incentives which discourage women from blogging influence women’s choice of specialties, decisions concerning their allocation of time between teaching and research and other professional decisions.
First I will consider my explanation of why women are less likely to blog than their male counterparts vis-ą-vis competing explanations. Then I shall suggest that the same factors that discourage women in philosophy from blogging influence other, more significant, professional choices.
One explanation for the dearth of women who participate in academic blogs is easy to dismiss. Women do not avoid blogging because of technical difficulties. Posting and commenting on blogs is easy and takes no more technical sophistication than sending email. Most academic business is now conducted on the internet: journals and conferences prefer, or require, submissions by email or through websites. Academic women, like academic men, of necessity use the internet. As Margaret Crouch notes in her discussion of online education, reports of a male-female “digital divide, with males having more access to computers and greater competence, were overstated and currently does not seem to be a factor in the US or other developed countries.
A more plausible explanation for some of the discrepancy in male and female participation on blogs concerns the relatively low percentage of women who are members of group blogs. On most group blogs, posting privileges are by invitation only: to become a member of most group blogs you have to be tapped and women are far less likely to be tapped than men. Old boy networks and informal procedures notoriously favor white males over women and minorities so, given the informal procedures for recruiting members for group blogs it comes as to surprise that far fewer women are members.
This does not however explain why women are less likely to comment on blogs or why they run fewer professional and quasi-professional blogs themselves. Women are not tapped to be members of group blogs as often as men, but this does not explain all or even most of the difference between male and female participation.
Currently one of the most popular explanations for differences in the choices men and women make appeals to women’s “second shift,” their responsibilities for housework and most particularly child care. Women do indeed work a second shift and that makes it more difficult for women in elite professions to get on the fast track and stay on. If it takes a 60+ hour per week work commitment to make partner in a glitzy law firm, then married women with children, who are de facto saddled with the major responsibility for housework and childcare, will be at a disadvantage relative to men and unmarried, childless women and at an even greater disadvantage relative to men who have stay-at-home wives to handle housework, child care and most of the business of life for them.
Nevertheless, though the second shift, matters it does not explain most occupational segregation or all of the difference in choices men and women in academic occupations make. As McGowan notes,
sex differences in interest don’t explain occupational segregation. Women’s supposed preference for more flexible schedules or a cushier work environment also explain little of the segregation. For one, many “pink collar” jobs are not flexible or family friendly. Retail jobs have inconsistent schedules that make scheduling childcare difficult, nurses work long hours and cannot telecommute. Low status workers usually have less control over when and where they can do their work than high status workers do.
Likewise, it seems unlikely that lack of time, as a consequence of domestic responsibilities, accounts for women’s reluctance to post and comment on academic blogs. At any given time, most women in the profession do not have young children and women who are students and so are less likely to have children and domestic responsibilities are no more likely to blog than other women in the profession. Moreover we don’t see the same discrepancy in male and female participation when it comes to other forms of academic engagement, for example participation in traditional conferences or other time-consuming professional activities. Lack of time may play some role in explaining why women are less likely to blog but it seems unlikely that that is the whole story.
I have suggested that the reluctance of women to participate in academic blogs this is a consequence of women’s rational risk-aversion. In the current section I argued that competing explanations are less plausible. I suggest further that the reasonable assumption by women that they cannot afford to assume risk influences their choice of specialties and other important professional decisions.
In an ideal world, disinterested scholars would pursue research projects because they regarded them as important or, at the very least, interesting. In the actual world, few of us can afford to pursue disinterested scholarship. We select specialty areas with an eye to getting publications and write papers to get on APA programs, in order to add entries to our vitae. This is, as most of us will agree, a miserable business. The tail is wagging the dog. The purpose of publication is to make scholarly work that is interesting and important widely available in order to advance knowledge. But because, in order to get and keep jobs, we need to document professional activity we pursue research projects to get publications and are pressed to select topics not because they are either important or interesting but because they are likely to yield vita entries.
If I am correct, women are under more pressure than men to adopt this cynical policy because they are under more pressure to produce vita entries in order to be taken seriously and because they have no viable fallback positions, insofar as the prospects for women with generic humanities degrees outside of academia are dismal. This poses a further question. Do women in philosophy tend to choose different specialty areas from men because they have different interests, because they are steered in different directions, or because they cannot afford to assume risk?
Sally Haslanger notes that “blatant discrimination [against women] has not disappeared…I know many women who have interests and talents in M&E who have been encouraged to do ethics or history of philosophy” and urges women to remember that they “have choices” and “don’t have to put up with mistreatment.” I am not so sure about this. Trivially we do, of course, “have choices” but I am not so sure that most women have seriously viable options. We can choose to drop out and get secretarial jobs or, if we have the time and money, to start over again, get second, more salable BAs, MBAs or law degrees. I seriously doubt however that most women in philosophy have, in any meaningful sense, choices.
This poses a serious question about women’s choice of specialties. Women are underrepresented in metaphysics, epistemology or other central areas in analytic philosophy. Does this reflect women’s interests or is it, as Haslanger suggests a result of the tendency to steer women into other areas or is it, as I suspect, a pragmatic decision to work in areas that are safer and less competitive, where it is easier to accumulate vita entries?
This is left as an open question—an exercise for the reader.
If I am correct, women in philosophy make different decisions from their male counterparts because they cannot afford to assume risk. These are free choices insofar as they are rationally considered and voluntary. But it does not follow that treatment of women in the profession is just for if, as I have suggested, women in the profession make the decisions they do because they are responding to different incentives and constraints than their mail colleagues, that is unfair.
In the literature on affirmative action it is customary to distinguish between “equality of opportunity” and “equality of result.” We should certainly, so the story goes, work to achieve equality of opportunity for women and members of other disadvantaged groups. But if, given the opportunity, it turns out that there are proportionately fewer women, or minorities or minorities than white males who are willing and able to occupy a range of positions, then there is no point in forcing unwilling or incompetent individuals to occupy these positions in the interests of achieving equality of result.
This is however a false dichotomy that arises from contrasting result with opportunity, which is not a matter of degree. The equality that matters for fairness in such cases is equality in costs, benefits and risks. Women have the opportunity to blog, or to pursue research in central areas of analytic philosophy. But, as I have argued, the costs and risks of pursuing these options are greater than they are for their male colleagues, and that is unfair. While there is nothing inherently desirable about equality of result, inequality of result is a symptom of inequitable differences in the incentives and constraints under which members of diverse groups operate.
Women in philosophy are far less likely to post on academic blogs than their male counterparts. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. It is, however, as I have suggested symptomatic of differences in the incentives and constraints which men and women in the profession face. And that, arguably, is something which in the interests of fairness, demands further consideration.
 Miranda McGowan. “Engendered Differences.” Presented at University of San Diego Law School colloquium, May 1, 2009, pp. 38-9. In support, McGowan cites Alice H. Eagly, et al., Transformational, Transactional, and Laissez-Faire Leadership Styles: A Meta-Analysis Comparing Women and Men, 129 PSYCH. BULL. 569, 569 (2003) and Laurie A. Rudman & Kimberly Fairchild, Reactions to Counterstereotypic Behavior: The Role of Backlash in Cultural Stereotype Maintenance, 87 J. PERSONALITY & SOC. PSYCH. 157, 163-64 (2004).
 Miranda McGowan. “Engendered Differences.” presented at University of San Diego Law School Colloquium, May 1, 2009.
 Francine D. Blau and Marianne A. Ferber. The Economics of Women, Men and Work. Prentice Hall, 2005.
 Margaret Crouch. “Gender and Online Education” in this publication (page #?)
 McGowan. “Engendered Differences, “p. 23
 vide, e.g. Robert Cherry. Who Gets the Good Jobs? Rutgers University Press, 2001. The male-female wage gap for non-graduates than it is for college graduates and sex segregation is higher for jobs that do not require a college degree. Women can avoid the worst effects of discrimination and sex segregation by getting special training and credentials. Without special training, credentials and qualifications women are more likely to be restricted to underpaid, dead-end, pink collar jobs. Men with “worthless” humanities degrees who drop out of academia had a reasonable chance of getting minimally decent white collar work; for comparably qualified women, without additional training and credentials, the options are strictly secretarial.
 Sally Haslanger. “Canging the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone).” Hypatia (2008)