I have organized 11 professional gatherings for Conflict Consortium (seven Triple C Dinners, two data Workshops, and two Virtual Workshops), and four of them have ended up being “boys clubs”: events in which those present were almost exclusively male. At one Courtenay Conrad chided me as she was the only woman present, and at another Idean Salehyan furled his eyebrows and asked why there were no women present (one woman arrived a few minutes later). The screen shot below is from the most recent meeting of the Conflict Consortium’s Virtual Workshop, and as you can see it was male only. As the football coach Vince Lombardi famously shouted, “What the hell is going on out there?”
While eight of the 11 events were effectively gender balanced, the three that failed were ridiculous, and I was quite properly called out at two of them. So what went wrong?
I tried to start out with a 50/50 gender split on my initial email invitations to each of the first three dinner events. For the dinner Conrad (one of two at MPSA, 2013) attended I flat out failed to pay attention to the gender ratio beyond the initial set of invitations. For one of those events the balance was great, but I wholly missed how imbalanced that night was until she pointed it out to me. I would like to see video of my face. D’oh!
The first three Triple C Dinners were set for APSA 2012 and thus never happened (hurricane). I extended 22 invitations, 12 of which went to women and 10 to men. 8 of the 12 women were unable to attend (66%) and 3 of the 10 men were unable (30%). During spring of 2013 I organized one dinner at ISA and two at MPSA, extending 28 invitations, 10 to women and 18 to men. Four of the 10 women were unable to attend (40%) and three of the men (17%). The ISA dinner was well balanced, but the MPSA dinners had gender ratios of 7:1 and 4:3 men to women. It is conceivable that males doing research on conflict disproportionately attend the MPSA more than females who study the topic, but I need to do a better job staying on top of the issue (perhaps especially for MPSA).
Not surprisingly, I paid better attention as I put together dinners for APSA. I extended 17 invitations, eight invitations to women and nine to men. Yet, six of the women were unable to attend (75%) compared with one of the men (11%). Thus, when Idean arrived, he looked around, saw zero women, and wanted to know what was up.
We have also put together two workshops on data collection in the field, for the first of which we extended 15 invitations, seven of which went to women and eight of which went to men. Two women (29%) and two men (25%) were unable to make it. For the second workshop we sent out 40 invitations, 19 of which went to women and 21 of which went to men. Nine women (47%) and nine of the men (43%) were unable to attend. So those went much better.
Last, I have organized three CC Virtual Workshops, for the first of which five women and six men were invited to discuss Courtney Hillbrecht’s paper. Four women (80%) and three men (50%) were unable to participate. I don’t have a precise count for the discsussant invitations for Yuri Zhukov, but none of the women we invited were able to participate, producing the photo above. For the next event, Anita Gohdes‘s paper, I skewed the initial invitations 2/3rd women and 1/3rd men, and sure enough the first three women I contacted are able to participate (though I received an email from one explaining that has to drop out as I was typing this post), and none of the first six males I invited are able to join us. At present I have two women and one man, with invitations out to two men.
My experience is, of course, a microcosm of a larger process reflected in a number of places in our field of late. In a post at Political Violence @ a Glance Taylor Marvin and Barb Walter asked why so few women contribute to IR blogs, and explained that Walter and co-founder Erica Chenoweth
invited a number of scholars to contribute to the blog. 66 percent of those we asked were men, and 33 percent were women. Of those women 35 percent said yes, compared to 48 percent of the men. This is just one data point, but it does suggest that women are both asked at a lower rate and they accept at a lower rate.
And the bias extends to citations. Barb Walter (writing at Political Violence @ a Glance) explains that
…. articles written by women in international relations are cited significantly less than articles written by men. This is true even if you control for institutional affiliation, productivity, publication venue, tenure, topic, methodology and anything else you can think of. Our hunch was that this gender citation gap was due to two things: (1) women citing themselves less than men, and (2) men tending to cite other men more than women in a field dominated by men.
Both David Lake (writing at The Monkey Cage) and Dan Nexon (writing at The Duck) have written about their surprise at how difficult they found it to increase the paltry percentage of works cited in a paper of theirs with a female first author. I recently exchanged email with someone having the same issue with an IR Proseminar syllabus. This is discouraging, but the glass half-full take notes that the first step to correcting a problem is to recognize the problem, so that’s the good news. For example, The Monkey Cage posted a symposium on the topic, several of which have actionable ideas (see Voeten, Mansbridge, Walter, Maliniak, Mitchell, Martin, Wilson, Breuning, Leeds, and Simmons).
I assume some folks have read this far wondering “What’s with the focus on women? What about X under represented minority in the profession?” To which I say, yup, good point. While I have focused in this post exclusively on (binary) gender, when putting together these events I also eyeball rank, race, geographic location, and other factors that strike me. And I pass the lists by my CC co-conspirator, Christian Davenport for feedback, thus getting his eyes involved. Yet, as you can see, even along a single, and I would argue easiest, dimension to strike balance, I am having a 64% success rate. Damnit! More work to do.
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