Women Also Know Stuff. Does that sound obvious? It’s not, alas. We’re a group of political scientists who started that website when, as we consumed media reports on politics, we noted a gaping absence of … well, women.
Take, for example, a recent Vox post titled “We asked 6 political scientists if Bernie Sanders would have a shot in a general election.” The story was missing even a single woman or scholar of color, as noted by our colleague, Laura Seay:
— Laura Seay (@texasinafrica) February 5, 2016
The journalist who wrote that Vox post said the homogeneity of sources was an oversight and that he would do better next time.
We know that’s how the human mind works; unconscious bias affects how people behave, and has real consequences in the world. Unfortunately, he’s not the first journalist whose piece relied entirely on male scholars for insights. (And entirely on white scholars, for that matter. While our focus here is on gender, not race/ethnicity, there is considerable work to do on that front as well.)
Academics do it, too. A systematic review of international relations scholarship shows that, in scholarly citations, women are consistently cited less often than men. Another study found that male authors were less likely than female authors to cite the work of female scholars. And women are often underrepresented as invited speakers in research colloquia or on panels at conferences. In 2016, there are still a lot of all-male panels at academic conferences — a phenomenon well documented on Twitter and Tumblr.
Even here — on The Monkey Cage, a scholar-led blog on politics and political science — men outnumber women as authors of posts. For example, the 35 posts on The Monkey Cage so far this month break down like this: 22 by men (or co-author groups of men), nine by women (or co-author groups of women), and four by mixed-gender co-author groups.
Of course, men outnumber women in faculty positions (women hold 28.6 percent of full-time faculty positions in political science) and in earning PhDs (41.5 percent of PhDs awarded in political science in 2013 went to women). But men don’t outnumber women enough to explain the gaps we’ve outlined.
What explains the underrepresentation of women scholars in the public sphere? It’s not a “men vs. women” problem; many men champion their women colleagues, and women academics can be just as guilty of underrepresenting other women in scholarly citations and conference invitations. The problem, rather, is that people hold implicit biases about gender and race (as well as other attributes) that shape their attitudes and behavior, including the tendency to think of — and reference — men rather than women as experts. All-male panels can perpetuate this in the academic community much like single-gender expertise referenced in media reports can reinforce it in the broader public.
Whether it’s malicious or unconscious, personal or institutional, leaving women out of the story is harmful — both in general, and in political discussions. When women are missing, the world loses out on the expertise and perspective they have to offer — some of it directly related to women’s different experiences in life, and some of it simply because we’re missing roughly half of the available expertise. The absence of women perpetuates stereotypes about who knows stuff and who does not. It misrepresents this discipline and the world.
Who you gonna call?
If you’re reading this, you may well know this pattern and its consequences by now. So what are we gonna do about it?
Sometimes when an organizer is asked why a panel only features men (or a journalist is asked why an article only quotes men), they say it’s because they simply could not think of any women doing relevant work.
Well, that’s something we can fix. That’s why we started our website: to offer online “binders full of women” in political science, making it easy to find those scholars. Samara Klar had the original idea. The rest of us have joined her in seeking, collecting, and posting information about our colleagues. Other groups have worked on fixing the problem as well; for instance, The OpEd Project takes a different approach to getting women and other underrepresented voices into public discourse. This is our contribution.
Women Also Know Stuff has a series of pages sorted by topics and subfields, ranging from African Politics to Parties and Elections, from Research Methods/Research Design to Political Theory — and so much more. Our growing list of scholars includes women at all stages of their careers — from junior women with novel approaches to tackling new problems, to senior scholars whose groundbreaking work continues to influence the entire field of political science. When available, we include links to scholars’ websites so that anyone using the site can find more information about each scholar. We encourage women and gender-variant scholars to add themselves to Women Also Know Stuff; it’s as simple as filling out a Google Form.
The editors here at The Monkey Cage support Women Also Know Stuff. And this is not the first time they’ve been advocates and allies. In 2013, The Monkey Cage featured a symposium on the gender gap in academic citations to raise awareness. Going forward, The Monkey Cage editors will be finding guest contributors from Women Also Know Stuff.
Come take a look. We hope other journalists and political scientists will use the site to identify someone who could handle a media request, chair a conference panel, or present research in a series or colloquium at your institution.
The site has been live for less than a week, and we’re so pleased to report that it has already had hundreds of submissions and thousands of views. Let us know what you think, so we can make it better. And let’s get women in the story, where we belong.
Emily Beaulieu, Amber Boydstun, Kim Yi Dionne, Samara Klar, Yanna Krupnikov, Melissa Michelson, Kathleen Searles and Christina Wolbrecht are political scientists and the founding editorial board of “Women Also Know Stuff.” For swift material support of the Women Also Know Stuff initiative, they thank Menlo College, Smith College, the University of Arizona College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the University of California-Davis and the University of Notre Dame.
Follow Women Also Know Stuff on Twitter at @womenalsoknow.