At first glance, the St. Thomas University philosophy department is a testament to the field’s lack of gender representation. Even though all four professors are male, STU’s female students aren’t deterred from pursuing philosophy.
Alex Cunningham, a fourth-year STU student, was one of the 14 women from North America who travelled to San Diego, Calif. in July to attend the 12-day Summer Program for Women in Philosophy. The program seeks to prepare women for graduate studies in that field.
“Before I went, I honestly didn’t think a lot about being a woman in philosophy,” Cunningham said.
“While philosophy is dominated by men, there are more women in our classrooms [at STU].”
The program allowed Cunningham to work directly with women who have done graduate studies in philosophy, which she plans to pursue. Even though she’s happy with her education at STU, Cunningham said wishes she was taught by a female philosophy professor. She recalled most of the women who organized the program expressed it was difficult to be taken seriously in comparison to their male colleagues.
“Women have a voice that has been absent from the discipline for a very long time. The perspective you bring as a woman is important and quite essential and unique,” Cunningham said.
“It does bring that kind of different perspective that’s been absent from my education.”
Vicky Loucks, fourth-year and vice president of the STU Philosophy Society, wished there was a female professor like the women she has come to admire, such as Sharon Ryan of West Virginia University. Ryan was one of the speakers at an epistemology workshop held at STU over the summer.
“We went out for breakfast and I sat through her lecture,” Loucks said.
“It was great.”
Loucks hopes to attract more interest in philosophy by hosting similar events through the STU Philosophy Society. The Society’s executive team consists entirely of women, which Loucks said is a big step forward.
“That probably wouldn’t have happened years ago,” she said.
“We have such a good representation [of women] and we’re all on the same path, so it’s kind of comforting that way.”
Sam Arthurs, fourth-year student and Philosophy Society executive team member said although the faculty is small and male-dominated, it’s not a misrepresentation of women in philosophy.
“[The department] held a workshop this summer which was hugely represented by women from all over the world, which was amazing to see,” Arthurs said.
Arthurs never considered her role as a woman in philosophy.
“We study [women’s work] and talk about them in-depth,” Arthurs said.
“It’s one of the few disciplines I find that your gender or gender identity doesn’t matter.”