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There’s a gender gap in political science. Our series examines the problem — and looks at some solutions.

It’s as important as any other issue our profession studies.

- August 18, 2019

In the past two years, gender inequality has repeatedly made headlines. Consider a few examples from this summer. Since the Women’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s national team has been fighting for equal pay and equal working conditions. A Google employee shared a memo in which she accused the company of pregnancy discrimination and retaliation after she reported it. The management consulting firm McKinsey & Company released a study of women in the workplace that argues that progress on gender diversity isn’t slow — “it’s stalled.” Women — especially women of color — remain underrepresented in the corporate workforce, from entry-level positions all the way up to the C-suite.

Gender inequities throughout academia

Colleges and universities struggle with many of the same issues. Among U.S.-based tenure-track faculty, women have increased their share of jobs from 41.1 percent in 1993 to 48.4 percent in 2013, according to a recent study. But that falls off at full professor, the highest rank on the tenure track, where women make up only 36.1 percent.

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So what’s the story among political science faculty, who write the vast majority of pieces for The Monkey Cage? A report shows our discipline has come a long way: Women made up only 10.3 percent of full-time faculty in 1980, but that number jumped to 28.6 percent in 2010. An earlier report pointed to a “leaking pipeline” — a problem for women in the natural sciences, too — in which women drop out of doctoral programs or exit the profession after earning political science degrees to pursue alternative careers.

Small leaks all along the political science pipeline

There’s more to gender inequality in political science than just what percentage of faculty are women. The leaks in those pipelines are many and often subtle. That’s why TMC is launching a two-week series spotlighting the gender gap in political science — and the efforts being made to combat it. (Given the fact that the overwhelming majority of faculty members identify as either male or female, we have focused our analyses on those two categories.)

Six years since TMC’s last Gender Gap Symposium, what have we learned?

We start by documenting gender bias in the classroom. Research shows that students systematically evaluate female professors less positively than men. Ellen Key and Phillip Ardoin will share their research on how informing students about gender bias can change how students evaluate female faculty — if only slightly. Although their research is specifically about academic faculty, their findings have implications for other fields in which performance evaluations are used in hiring, pay and promotion decisions.

Second, professors assign fewer readings by women than by men, as we learn from Heidi Hardt and Amy Erica Smith, who will share their analysis of 840 course syllabi and 65 mandatory comprehensive exam reading lists from PhD programs in the United States.

But wait, there’s more. Women’s political science books receive fewer awards than men’s, as Raymond Tatalovich and John Frendreis will explain. And despite “Women Also Know Stuff,” a source for anyone seeking women’s political science expertise, the profession still hosts too many event panels with only male speakers, a.k.a. manels. Federiga Bindi and Mimosa Giamanco will examine how women are underrepresented on foreign policy panels hosted by major think tanks in Washington. Spoiler: Some think tanks have this problem more than others.

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Political science professors’ careers depend in no small part on their ability to publish research in reputable outlets. Several authors in our series will outline their empirical research substantiating a significant gender gap in academic publishing. Michelle Dion and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell will show that the publication gender gap spans different research areas. Examining 38 political science journals, Dion and Mitchell found that women’s articles are proportionally fewer than their rates of membership in the journals’ sponsoring organizations.

Some of the top political science journals are biased against women. Here’s the evidence.

Paul Djupe, Amy Erica Smith and Anand Sokhey also examine the gender publication gap. Using survey data collected from 1,700 political scientists and sociologists, Djupe et al. find — among other things — that women submit their research for publication in peer-reviewed journals less frequently than do men. Reading their study, one might imagine the solution would be simple: Encourage women to submit more research for publication. But that fails to examine why women submit research with less frequency — a question Dawn Teele will discuss in her piece on the strategies of article submission and the broader ecosystem shaping female political scientists’ choices.

New gender equity efforts throughout political science

The political science ecosystem may be on the verge of a big shift. This summer, the discipline’s flagship journal, the American Political Science Review (APSR), appointed a new editorial team. Starting in June 2020, all 12 political scientists who will edit the APSR will be women. Those incoming APSR editors will publish a piece in our series discussing the journal’s record of underrepresentation, what that underrepresentation means for our understanding of the broader political world and their plan to disrupt that record.

The makeup of the new APSR editorial board is among a handful of collaborative initiatives to combat the implicit bias that has emerged in political science over the past few years. In 2016, a team of political scientists (myself included) launched the Women Also Know Stuff initiative, a searchable database and Twitter account to promote the research of female political science experts. And in 2018, teams of political scientists led by Mala Htun and Alvin Tillery coordinated the APSA Diversity and Inclusion Hackathon to develop strategies to address key challenges our discipline faces. These build on similar efforts from groups like the National Conference of Black Political Scientists and the APSA Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession.

Here’s a list of smart female political scientists. They know stuff, too.

Nadia Brown and colleagues will have a piece in the series documenting the need for and the emergence of another collaborative women-led effort, the #MeTooPoliSci collective. After national news outlets reported on the sexual harassment of two political scientists, the #MeTooPoliSci collective mobilized to support them. Brown et al.’ s piece will document how the #MeTooPoliSci collective formed and what it has done to expose and counter identity-based discrimination in political science.

We hope you’ll tune in to TMC every weekday for the next two weeks to read these pieces.

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