Despite substantial progress, it is irrefutable that a gender gap persists in academia – as it does in many other professions.   By 2010, women constituted 40 percent of assistant professors and 30 percent of associate professors but only 19 percent of full professors in the political science profession (source). These figures have gone up steadily but slowly (see here) and it would be tempting to believe that the disappearance of the gender gap is merely a matter of time.

Yet, there are still structural obstacles that stand in the way of full equality. Those range from overt sexism to (more commonly) implicit biases and the fact that men on average still do less than 50 percent of childcare and household tasks. The intense discussions surrounding Anne-Marie’s Slaughter‘s article on work-life balance,  Sheryl Sandberg‘s Lean In, and the New York Times article on gender issues at the Harvard Business school illustrate that concerns about gender equality in universities and workplaces are alive and well.

And for good reasons. Women are still more likely to consider dropping out of graduate school. There is ample evidence of persistent implicit biases. For example, psychologists have found that women are described in more communal terms in letters of recommendation and that such communal characteristics negatively affect hiring decisions in academia. A particularly striking finding concerns the gender gap in citations, as documented in a forthcoming article in International Organization by Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers and Barbara Walter. The image below is the network of citations they analyze, with blue dots representing male-authored articles and red dots female authored articles. The size of the dot reflects the authority of the citation. To fully understand the analysis, I encourage you to read the temporarily ungated article or the coverage it received in the EconomistChronicle of Higher Education and Inside Higher Ed.

Visualization of citation network Notes:Green nodes are authored by all females. Blue nodes are authored by all males. Red nodes ar authored by at least one male and at least one female. The size of the node is proportional to its HITS centrality score. From: Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers and Barbara F. Walter. The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations. International Organization, available on CJO2013. doi:10.1017/S0020818313000209.
Visualization of citation network (From: Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers and Barbara F. Walter. The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations. International Organization.)

Here is why the finding is so compelling and disturbing. Academic articles are accepted through a double-blind peer review process. On average, articles published by men and women in the same journal should be of equal importance and quality. There is no affirmative action in the journal publication process. Yet, once published, articles written by women are cited less frequently then those written by men– even if they are published in the same journal. This matters because citation counts are used in our profession as indicators of authoritativeness and as one metric for promotion decisions.

Why is this so? And what can be done about this? This week, we are organizing a symposium that debates these questions. We believe that many of the issues raised by our roster of impressive contributors will be relevant not just to those in political science or other academic professions but also to others interested in understanding why, despite so much progress, barriers to the professional advancement of women continue to exist.

We start with a framing contribution by Jane Mansbridge, the Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard University. She was the 2012-2013 president of the American Political Science Association and is a leading scholar on issues of inequality, including gender inequality.

Next up are the authors of the citation article. Barbara Walter,  a professor of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California in San Diego, will offer a relatively straightforward proposal to reduce the citations gap based on ample social science research showing that women do better the more anonymity is introduced in the evaluations process. Her co-authors, Daniel Maliniak and Ryan Powers, then discuss a tool that allows users to prepare citation lists in a more effective and, plausibly, more gender neutral way.

We then turn to two other empirical studies. Sara Mitchell, a professor and the chair of the political science department at the University of Iowa, examines how the gender citation gap depends on having a critical mass of women participate in a specific subfield. Lisa Martin, a professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, offers insights from a study she conducted on the gender gap in teaching evaluations.

Next we turn to  broader perspectives on the gender gap in political science and academia more generally. Rick Wilson is a professor at Rice University and will write from his perspective as the editor of the American Journal of Political ScienceBrett Ashley Leeds, also  a professor at Rice University, will discuss broader social science evidence that the work of women tends to be devalued more than that of men.

We close with reflections from two of the most distinguished scholars of international relations. Beth Simmons is the Clarence Dillon Professor of International Affairs at Harvard University and a former president of the International Studies Association. David Lake, is the Jerri-Ann and Gary E. Jacobs Professor of Social Sciences, Distinguished Professor of Political Science at the University of California at San Diego. He is also a former president of the International Studies Association.

I will roll out the posts over the course of this week.