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The Social Underpinnings of Women's Worth in the Study of World Politics: Culture, Leader Emergence, and Coauthorship

Kelly M. Kadera
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/insp.12028 463-475 First published online: 1 November 2013


Using personal observations and the results from a variety of studies on gender and scholarship, this paper demonstrates that our discipline often holds women's research in lower esteem. It does so by examining gendered patterns in various cultures of academic life, the processes by which intellectual leaders emerge, and coauthorship as one of the most significant social activities undertaken by researchers. Solutions at all institutional levels—professional organizations, journals, grant organizations, universities and colleges, graduate colleges, departments—are suggested. And even well-intentioned individuals, in a variety of roles—departmental leaders, panel organizers, discussants, bloggers, instructors, mentors, colleagues, authors, and journalists—must be willing to examine and change their own practices. The result is win-win: valuing women's research is better for female and male academics, students’ intellectual health, the strength of colleges and universities, and the long-run vitality of professional organizations and journals.

  • academic culture
  • gender
  • citations
  • coauthorship
  • academic reform

For more than two decades, I have been a student, a researcher, a colleague, a mentor, and an instructor in the field of international relations (IR). In these roles, I notice the seemingly subtle ways in which women's scholarship is undervalued in the classroom, in departments, at professional conferences, in journals, and in public fora outside the discipline. Is it just my imagination, or is there a genuine pattern? The papers in this symposium, as well as other studies, empirically demonstrate that our discipline does often hold women's research in lower esteem. In other words, they confirm that my impressions are not merely fictitious notions and evidence a premise that has long served feminist scholars of world politics: research is socially gendered.

To highlight the socialness of the study of international politics, and how it leads to the undervaluation of female scholarship, I offer my thoughts and observations on the various cultural contexts of academic endeavors, the processes by which intellectual leaders emerge, and coauthorship as one of the most significant social activities undertaken by researchers. Before concluding, I also suggest some prescriptions for improving the appreciation of female scholars’ contributions to knowledge about international politics, with an emphasis on institutional practices and self-reflection, even for those with laudable intentions.

The Cultural Contexts of Citations

Intellectual exchanges, including the publication of research, happen within a cultural context, and that context exists at many levels. Varying cultural norms and practices that regulate and guide academics can be readily seen across different countries, disciplines, journals, professional organizations, departments, and the like. For example, consider the American academic culture in which we find persistent, albeit perhaps improving, gender inequality in terms of both overt disparities (such as salary discrepancies and attaining tenure) and more subtle problems (such as marginalization of positions when women hold them or female-unfriendly work environments) (APSA 2005; Hesli, Lee, and Mitchell 2012; Monroe, Ozyurt, Wrigley, and Alexander 2008; Tolleson-Rinehart and Carroll 2006; inter alia).2 In this setting, we also find that one important indicator of how women's scholarship is valued, citation rates, shows reason for concern: Women's publications have lower citation rates than men's publications in US-based journals (Ferber and Brun 2011; Mitchell, Lange, and Brus 2013; Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming). Contrast this case with the Scandinavian countries, which have a strong reputation for gender equality. In this context, it comes as no surprise that Østby, Strand, Gleditsch, and Nordås (2013) find that the Journal of Peace Research (JPR), founded and edited by Norwegians, has a fairly good record when it comes to the rate at which manuscripts submitted by women are published and the rate at which women's JPR publications are cited by others. We might expect that a society that boasts a high percentage of female legislators, more female than male students in colleges and universities, and one of the smallest national gender pay gaps, would also produce an academic journal that equalizes female authors, even before it adopted contemporary best practices such as double-blind reviews (see Monroe 2013).

Cultural norms and practices vary across disciplines as well. Mitchell et al. (2013) attribute this, at least in part, to demographics. Citing Ferber's (1988) work, they note that authors exhibit smaller gaps in the rates at which they cite men's and women's scholarship as the proportion of women in a discipline increases. As the percent of female researchers increases, the reasoning goes, a bigger supply of work by women becomes available for citation. But are large demographic shifts alone able to change our tendency to undervalue women's research? Apparently not. Female membership in the American Political Science Association (APSA) has climbed to 26% (Sedowski and Brintall 2007), and the percentage of women presenting at the International Studies Association (ISA) has overcome the 33% tipping point benchmark (Breuning 2007).3 Additionally, Kadera and Zinnes (2012) note, there has been a “skirts with skills” phenomenon by which methodological and formal theory training and the surge of women in the discipline came at the same time. Although these notable demographic patterns appear promising, women's scholarship is still cited less in political science's top journals (Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming) and in at least two of ISA's journals (Mitchell et al. 2013).

How Disciplinary Leaders Emerge

Disciplinary norms are perhaps most strikingly revealed in articles meant to reflect on the contributions made by a particular school of thought or strand of literature or to offer broad summaries of the state of knowledge on a particularly salient phenomenon, problem, or concept to more general audiences. These sweeping pronouncements anoint leaders of the field, select and name authorities, and determine who will be remembered as having profoundly marked the direction of research. For example, in 2006, the APSA's annual convention theme was Power Reconsidered, and Co-Program Chair Richard Valelly, well regarded for his scholarship on African American voting rights, penned a Chronicle of Higher Education (CHE) cover story heralding political scientists’ longstanding and renewed contributions to our understanding of power. He lauded work by Floyd Hunter and C. Wright Mills, calling them “legendary sociologists,” praised Steven Lukes’ power trichotomy as “extraordinarily useful” and “elegant,” regaled Nelson W. Polsby, Peter Bachrach, Jack H. Nagel, and J. Donald Moon as “luminaries,” trumpeted John Gaventa's “masterful” and “classic” book as the winner of “the American Political Science Association's most distinguished award,” noted that Terry M. Moe had written a “provocative” and “rich” article in a “leading journal,” and extolled Dahl's “famous…masterpiece,” Who Governs? It is impossible to compare Valelly's superlative treatment of men's scholarship with his evaluation of women's research because ironically, not a single female scholar is mentioned in this essay which underscores the types of serious societal problems that emerge from “power asymmetry,” “negative agenda control,” and “inequality.”

Valelly briefly notes that power “retain[ed] a central and respected status” in international security and world politics even when it temporarily fell out of fashion in scholarship on domestic politics, but he does not discuss IR work in depth. For that type of essay, we could turn to David Glenn's (2002) article, “Calculus of the Battlefield,” in the CHE. Glenn, a Chronicle writer who specialized in articles on social science research, offered the journal's well-educated readership a glimpse into what game theory and statistical analyses, in contrast with more traditional approaches, could tell us about the United States’ war with Iraq. As experts, to whom did Glenn turn? In order of appearance in the article: Jack Levy, Daniel Treisman, T. Clifton Morgan, Robert Powell, Thomas Schelling, William Wohlforth, Daniel Kahneman, Robert Jervis, John Mearsheimer, Dale Copeland, Richard Betts, Robert Art, Lars-Erik Cederman, Randall Schweller, and Phil Schrodt. All men. Not a single woman. In 2002, how does an article about the contributions different epistemologies bring to our understanding of international conflict get written without any reference to outstanding authors like Page Fortna, Deborah Gerner, Joanne Gowa, Kelly Kadera (hey, why not?), Catherine Langlois, Ashley Leeds, Lisa Martin, Rose McDermott, Sara Mitchell, Karen Rasler, Diana Richards, Meredith Sarkees, Beth Simmons, Barbara Tuchman, Suzanne Werner, or Dina Zinnes? These scholars were making great strides in data collection, novel theory-building, formal modeling, and data analysis. But Glenn overlooked their work.

When I have pointed out these glaring omissions, some have responded that there is no female Polsby, no woman whose work is on par with Lukes, or who has ever produced “seminal” work on war. But making that claim simply makes it so. In the words of feminists, it reifies the problem. Grand summaries such as Valelly's and Glenn's canonize names like Dahl and make inconsequential names like Enloe, Gowa, Gross Stein, Lohmann, Ostrom, Tickner, Reingold, Martin, and Zinnes. They do not merely reflect the sociological truths of the discipline; they create and reinforce them (see Stevens’ 1995 APSR discussion of the same process by which “mainstream” work on liberalism was defined).

Mitchell et al. (2013) are somewhat surprised that International Studies Perspectives (ISP), despite being more focused on teaching and the profession than is ISQ, exhibits gendered citation patterns, albeit slightly attenuated ones in comparison with ISQ. But ISP's frequent use of summary articles might reinforce those gendered patterns if such articles are indeed prone to excluding women's scholarship. As the Mitchell team expands its analysis to other journals, we should pay keen attention to whether journals such as International Studies Review (ISR), which are almost exclusively devoted to state-of-the-discipline reflections, have stronger gendered citation patterns than other journals.

Further analysis of paper citations offers additional clues about the social processes by which particular scholars become exemplars in a discipline. The Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) project assessed articles in 12 of the top IR journals, and the resulting descriptive statistics4 on citations of articles authored by men, women, or mixed gender coauthorship teams reveals a stark pattern: citations of men's work undoubtedly constitute the high-end outliers for all time periods (1980–2006, 1980–1989, 2000–2006) (Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming). Masuoka, Grofman, and Feld's (2007) presentation of the 400 most-cited political scientists (circa 2002) confirms this. Almost no women make the list, and women's appearance in the top 400 is far below what would be expected based on the percentage of women in the discipline. Sadly, among the top 20 IR scholars who make the top 400 list, there is not a single woman (Masuoka et al. 2007:140).

More sophisticated analyses that weight citation counts by the importance of the papers doing the citing reveal more troublesome patterns. Using network analysis, Maliniak and his colleagues examine authority scores, explaining that “an article that is cited by many widely cited articles will have a higher authority score than an article that is cited by many articles that themselves are only rarely cited” (Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming, 20). After controlling for a variety of standard predictors of citation frequency, Maliniak and his coauthors find this “striking and disturbing” gender gap persists; women are cited less frequently, and they are less likely to be cited by the most authoritative papers (Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming, 22). Similarly, West and his colleagues’ eigenfactor analysis reveals no women authors in the top 10 most influential international relations papers in the JSTOR database (West, Jacquet, King, Correll, and Bergstrom 2012), even when limiting the analysis to the most recent time period, 1990–2011. One explanation for this clear trend is that the citation networks we see in the literature reflect social ties among members of the discipline (Bornmann and Daniel 2008), and women are less connected to these collegial networks than their male peers (Hesli et al. 2012:3).

Is it possible for women to break into these networks and get their work into the top citation tier? Let's look at an interesting case from political science's flagship journal, the American Political Science Review (APSR). In 1997, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, James Morrow, and Ethan Zorick published an APSR paper titled “Capabilities, Perception, and Escalation.” It had the hallmarks of what was widely seen as a good paper: a game-theoretic model of an important topic with a successful statistical test of the implications using well-vetted data. GoogleScholar indicates it has been cited 123 times, and the Web of Knowledge (WOK) records 58 citations. In 2000, a savvy female scholar named M. Cristina Molinari wrote a succinct paper, which the APSR published at the back of the issue in the Forum section, demonstrating that Bueno de Mesquita and his colleagues had incorrectly found a key equilibrium of their game. Correcting their mistake, Molinari shows that this equilibrium does not exist. As a consequence, the original prediction regarding the relationship between observable military capabilities and conflict escalation is wrong. In fact, Molinari explains, the game shows that observable capabilities should be completely uncorrelated with escalation. Molinari's paper is cited only three times according to GoogleScholar: once by Lisa Carlson (2005), another female scholar working on escalation, once in Bueno de Mesquita, Morrow, and Zorick's reply to her correction, and once by Weisiger (2008), who makes a footnote reference to Molinari's gutsy work saying no one has paid much attention to it. The only citation picked up by WOK is the one by the original authors in their reply.

A useful comparison case is the 1999 APSR Forum article in which Morrow and his coauthors make pronounced corrections to their own statistical analysis in a APSR Research Note on “the political determinants of trade” (Morrow, Siverson, and Tabares 1998). It too is a correction, published in the Forum section, on an IR topic, around the same time, but with an authorship team dominated by two senior male scholars (Tabares, a woman, was a graduate student at UC Davis at the time). This correction received a healthy 43 citations according to GoogleScholar and 17 according to WOK (with the original, erroneous, paper (Morrow et al. 1998) receiving 235 and 96, respectively), easily 10 times as many citations as the Molinari correction.

Alas, despite the fact that Bueno de Mesquita and his colleagues graciously and professionally confirm that Molinari is correct (Bueno de Mesquita, Morrow, and Zorick 2000), her elegantly executed formal analysis, the extraordinary reputation of the journal in which her results appear, and the importance of Molinari's findings for the conflict escalation and selection effects literatures, her work remains virtually unknown. The social networks explanation (Fox 1991; Stack 2002; Hesli et al. 2012) seems especially salient: not only is Molinari female, she is also Italian, and an economist. It is unlikely that she is well connected to American political science scholars who dominate the top journals. A lack of social, professional ties can prevent even fantastic ideas generated by female scholars from becoming prominent.


Coauthored papers are increasingly prevalent and more likely to be cited, generally speaking (see Wuchty, Jones, and Uzzi 2007; inter alia), so is coauthoring with men a good way for women to enter into the scholarly network that helps generate public recognition of their work? Yes and no. My own experiences coauthoring with men have been enjoyable and intellectually rewarding (see Kadera, Crescenzi, and Shannon 2003; Kadera and Morey 2008; Crescenzi, Kadera, Mitchell, and Thyne 2011). However, the general findings about the effects of coauthorship on the value of women's scholarship are nuanced and mixed.

On the plus side, some evidence shows that women have a greater propensity to seek out collaborative research arrangements such as coauthorship and group-based projects more frequently than men (Ward and Grant 1991), and Østby and her colleagues suggest that coauthorship is at least partially responsible for the dramatic rise in the percentage of JPR submissions with at least one female author. Combining these findings with the fact that coauthored papers are more likely to be cited, and that they are a good way to become integrated into scholarly networks (Stack 2002), the coauthorship route seems promising. In addition, when men and women coauthor, the rate at which their papers are cited parallels that for articles written only by men (Maliniak, Powers, and Walter, Forthcoming), suggesting that coauthoring with men benefits women, at least in the immediate sense.

Other findings are less optimistic about coauthorship as a route for women seeking higher visibility for their research. Some results (albeit from another discipline) indicate that women and men tend to seek same-sex coauthors (Boschini and Sjögren 2007), and Young (1995) and Breuning and Sanders (2007) find that coauthored work by teams with two or more women is almost non-existent in the top political science journals. Disturbingly, Mitchell et al. (2013) demonstrate that when women coauthor with men, they become less likely to cite women's work, suggesting that the diffuse effects of women coauthoring with men may not be ideal. Moreover, some findings directly contradict the women-prefer-collaboration hypothesis, suggesting that they instead lean toward solo-authorship (see Boschini and Sjögren 2007 for a discussion of these findings).

Another important question is how we view women's roles as coauthors. As Monroe (2013) would ask, what is our cognitive model of a female coauthor? Are they typists, research assistants, editorial assistants, or peer contributors who bring novel approaches, innovative ideas, and top-notch analytic skills to a paper? One answer might be found in the patterns associated with author ordership. West and his colleagues (2012) examine author order in all articles available on JSTOR. Looking at all IR articles published from 1990 to 2011, they demonstrate that an alarmingly low 12.3% of all authors are women.5 Yet, almost the same percentage of first authors are also women. However, women are overrepresented at author positions 2, 3, and 4,6 suggesting there is still a tendency to see their role on collaborative work to be less important.7 A few subfields, such as international norms and operational code analysis, favor women in the first authorship position; and others, such as Presidential use of force and terrorism underrepresent women in the first authorship position (West et al. 2012). Perhaps female scholars should assess the usefulness of the coauthorship strategy based on their coauthors’ and their subfield's norms for equally valuing women as first authors.

Another answer can be found by looking at the kind of assumptions readers and colleagues make when evaluating coauthored work. Consider a case in which female author X is listed first and in which her name alphabetically precedes her male coauthor Y's name. Unfortunately, I have all too often witnessed situations in which an X-Y authorship is interpreted as a project in which X played a secondary role but is only serendipitously first author by virtue of her name's alphabetical priority. I have noticed such interpretations in letters of recommendation, evaluations of promotion and tenure cases, assessments of job candidates, and nominations for officers or appointments of committee members for professional societies. In one case, a senior woman was passed over for a prestigious taskforce because her contributions to a long series of highly visible publications with a male coauthor were seen as “really his work,” despite the consistent use of the X-Y authorship pattern and despite her two solo-authored papers in two different disciplines’ flagship journals. Citing Fisher, Cobane, Vander Ven, and Cullen (1998:846–847), two female faculty members who underwent difficult tenure reviews note that “[w]hen women are joint authors, they may be characterized as coasting on the work of others, be they graduate students or senior” (Anonymous and Anonymous 1999:93). Such perceptions suggest that coauthorship may in fact undermine how women's contributions to academic inquiry and knowledge are seen.

Institutional Prescriptions

The sociological underpinnings of scholarship laid out above suggest some remedies that might improve women's status as knowledge generators. Because institutions are socializers that shape cultural norms, they are a good place to begin.

One of the biggest difficulties of sorting out the various effects of factors such as coauthorship on publications of women's work and the citation of their work is that most current studies are based on papers published in journals and on demographic trends within disciplines. In other words, we know about the output stage and the input stage, but we are missing data on the middle stage, the production of research. The study by Østby et al. (2013) is rare because JPR is one of the very few journals currently tracking demographic data on authors who submit papers. I have served on a variety of journal editorial boards and committees and councils for professional organizations that own and operate journals. I am astounded by the reluctance of well-educated scholars to request or require that journal editors collect these data. I have heard strident arguments about how it is virtually impossible to get reliable and valid information by asking authors for their gender (and other demographics such as race and ethnicity) when they submit papers and about how manuscripts’ authors are likely to be offended by such questions.

Political scientists have managed to produce highly reputable data sets with annual, cross-national data for variables representing complex concepts such as press freedom, democraticness, power, war, and human rights violations, but are alarmingly unsettled by the methodological challenges of coding author gender based on self-identification. And why would we expect academics—who willingly complete demographic questionnaires when applying for jobs and grants from government agencies and who regularly administer such questionnaires to their own study subjects—to rebel against similar requests when submitting manuscripts to journals? Would the refusal rate be so pronounced that the resulting data would be less accurate and less efficiently gathered than data generated by the labor- and time-intensive task of coding author gender by third parties after publication (for example, Young 1995; Breuning and Sanders 2007; Mitchell et al. 2013)? Furthermore, claims of resource constraints ring hollow when, even during a difficult economy, a professional association like ISA has reserve funds in the neighborhood of $1.5 million. If journals and professional organizations aim to value women's scholarship, and if they aim to encourage scholars to do the same, they must be proponents and practitioners of collecting data on manuscript authors and seize the opportunities such data sets create for assessment.

Journal editors and conference program chairs can make a difference in more immediate ways as well. They can ensure that state-of-the-discipline articles and roundtable organizers incorporate relevant women's scholarship. Progress along these lines is already evident. The 2012 meeting of the ISA featured classic roundtables honoring the body of work and influence of notable male scholars such as Karl Deutsch and Chadwick Alger, but it also held similar sessions lauding the distinctive marks made by Mary Ann Tetreault, Sara Ruddick, and other female luminaries.8 Editors and program chairs should also recruit more women to pen sweeping assessments of research programs and organize lifetime achievement roundtables. And when soliciting manuscript reviewers, editors should take care to include female reviewers, who might be more inclined to suggest, for example, that an author adopt Page Fortna's (2008) research design for determining “hard cases.” American journal editors might also take operational cues from JPR; and entities that own or govern journals must diversify editorships at the very top, not by merely appointing one or two female associate editors. In general, journal editors must establish operational cultures in which women's research is seen as being on par with men's.

Colleges and universities also have a role to play. While great strides have been made in terms of the percentage of the professoriate that is now female, some mistakenly believe that this is sufficient. Many institutions, for example, award prestigious graduate scholarships based on the underrepresentation of applicants’ demographic groups in their intended disciplines. While the intentions of such programs are laudable, they do not address issues such as the leaky pipeline, differential canonical models, and female PhD students’ sense of a lesser degree of respect from faculty (see Fox 2004; Monroe 2013) that result from and contribute to a culture in which female academics are disadvantaged and undervalued. Sears’ (2003) survey notably demonstrates that shifting toward demographic parity in science and math graduate programs at the University of California at Davis has not alone removed gender equity barriers created by female students’ downgrading their expectations and professional ambitions during the course of their graduate careers. And Fox's recommendation to APSA, based on decades’ worth of her research, emphatically states that “increasing numbers of doctoral-level women…by itself, will not necessarily change patterns of gender and status in academic employment (Fox 2004:7, emphasis in original). Solutions must also focus on changing norms and practices. Institutional resources, such as graduate student scholarships, should be allocated based in part on recipient departments’ efforts to foster better environments for female graduate students and female faculty members who serve as their role models so that representation of women in the academy is lasting and meaningful.

As the other papers in this symposium argue, a variety of gender equity issues persist at many universities, and they all contribute to a culture in which women and their work are undervalued. The authors point out that although the problems are improving somewhat, several linger, including: pay disparity, differential valuation of service, disparity in teaching loads, sexist climates, different responses to negotiation efforts by women and men, the leaky pipeline, and so on. In my mind, one of the oddest features of colleges and universities is that they perpetuate a culture in which women are expected to nurture their students (see Monroe's 2013 discussion of students’ reactions to and evaluations of their female vs. male instructors), but not their own children (Fishman 2005; Jaschik 2005; Reuter 2005). Only 26 percent of US colleges and universities offer parental leave beyond the 6 weeks mandated by federal law (Rhoades 2004). Several studies suggest that having children negatively affects women's productivity and promotion (for example, Ginther and Hayes 2003; Perna 2005). And faculty members frequently express frustration with low institutional support for balancing career and family, such as sufficient on-campus day care (Acker and Armenti 2004; Anthony 2011; Monroe et al. 2008). For example, in the 2008 Working at Iowa survey, the statement that the university helps “faculty/staff balance work/personal responsibilities” was in the top five (out of 45 questions administered) for overall rates of disagreement among the approximately 1400 faculty respondents. Even though Iowa faculty scored their employer better on the balancing dimension than they did in the 2006 survey, the 2008 balancing work and life indicator showed the most dissatisfaction among all the measures of institutional commitment to employee well-being, suggesting that the University of Iowa still needs to make progress in this area.

My own observations are consistent with the survey results. Over the last 20 years, Iowa's parental leave policy has unfortunately worsened. When my son was born in the late summer of 1996, the department chair and I negotiated a one-course reduction for the fall, for which I was not required to use any sick leave. Current policy has taken those negotiations out of the department and mandated that course reductions are paid for with sick leave or salary reductions. As a result, mid-level administrators bicker with junior female faculty over minutiae such as whether their twins count as one delivery or two. Additionally, new parents have recently been forced to give up planned parental leaves because university leaders who successfully promote market wages for football and basketball coaches cannot bring themselves to advocate for regularized parental leave. How can we build top-rate institutions without offering our faculty, regardless of gender and family circumstances, attractive environments that foster productivity and creativity (Anthony 2011)? Alleviating the work-family tension is a key area in which universities can drastically improve institutional culture.

Perhaps most importantly, adjustments to institutional culture must also happen at lower levels where we see and experience the day-to-day effects of gendered valuation of scholars that have become infamously known as the “chilly climate” (Anonymous and Anonymous 1999). Systematically observing the chilly climate, or what many refer to as “subtle” forms of gender discrimination (APSA 2005; Reuter 2005; National Academy of Sciences 2007; Monroe et al. 2008; Henehan and Sarkees 2009; Monroe and Chiu 2010; Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, and Handelsman 2012; Monroe 2013) is not easy. For now, it requires that as departmental citizens and unit leaders, we examine our own practices and ask tough questions. Are female job candidates who cite themselves during job talks criticized for being self-absorbed and arrogant, while male candidates who do the same are praised as being confident and productive? Do administrative staffers discriminate against women when allocating office space, assigning TAs, processing travel monies, doling out teaching schedules, or providing staff support for faculty? Is sexual harassment quietly swept under the rug?9 Do senior female colleagues garner the same level of deference and respect as their male counterparts during faculty meetings? Are women nominated for college- and university-level awards for teaching and research at the same rate as men? Are they carrying heavier service loads?

Answers to these questions reveal whether, to what extent, and how the climate is gendered. In hostile environments, women begin to doubt their own value, and they expend a lot of extra energy trying to survive at the expense of creating, marketing, and cultivating their research (Anonymous and Anonymous 1999). Cultures that demoralize female scholars and lessen their productivity dilute the intellectual impact of women. But in healthy environments, women's confidence soars, their scholarship benefits, and departments and the discipline expand the supply of valuable knowledge.

Frasch, Stacy, Mason, Page-Medrich, and Goulden (2009) argue that changes in official university policies mean little without department-level leaders who are willing to take steps such as reviewing departmental practices, holding reading groups and workshops to help themselves and their colleagues become conscious about gender bias, proactively hiring diverse faculty, and setting zero tolerance norms for “discriminatory and disparaging comments and behaviors” (Frasch et al. 2009:100). Strong and enlightened departmental leaders can and must reshape departmental cultures.

Two mentoring workshops, Journeys in World Politics and Visions in Methodology, help junior women navigate troubled environments. Both are funded by the National Science Foundation. In addition to offering advice on dealing with the challenges of gendered climates, the workshops give thorough feedback on participants’ research, provide opportunities for women to speak as knowledgeable discussants, showcase female authorities on international politics, and establish lasting collegial networks. Those enduring professional connections can help promote the worth of women's scholarship, given the socialness of how we value research. Additionally, the workshops’ contributions can help fill the gap when gendered cultures remain entrenched in local institutions and departments. In the absence of female-friendly departmental cultures, outside actors can and must step in to provide substitute scholarly networks and environments.


At the most basic level, changing the discipline's social norms requires a critical mass of individuals who are willing to examine their own practices. As Monroe states, “the basic problem lies within us all” (Monroe 2013). That includes the well intentioned. A good place to start is to look at our syllabi. Do the required readings cover a mix of female and male authors (and other demographic categories)? My own web searches for graduate-level syllabi suggest that it is quite common, for example, for the 1997 Bueno de Mesquita, Morrow, and Zorick paper to be on a reading list, but not Molinari's 2000 correction (which would seem to be even more important for graduate training than the flawed original); and for sections on alliances to not mention a single paper by Ashley Leeds. Habitually checking our syllabi to ensure they are representative helps ensure subsequent generations of scholars will better value women's contributions to knowledge, both because students become aware of women's work and because their mentors foster an environment in which that work is deemed important.

Democratizing public conversation is another benefit of individual-level solutions. As an illustration, consider the 2007 Washington Post story about how academics answer the question of why no one wants to intervene in civil wars. The writer, Shankar Vedantam interviewed Stephen Gent, Todd Sandler, Michael Barnett, and Stephen Krasner, and summarized their relevant research findings. Apparently, Vedantam considered neither Barbara Walter's nor Page Fortna's path-breaking work on civil wars sufficiently noteworthy. Although Vedantam's article is decidedly not an improvement over Valelly's or Glenn's, a variety of scholars motivated by Vedantam's piece broadened the scope of the discussion on professional blogs and Facebook pages, where there were good intellectual conversations in which women participated and were cited. Hopefully, these grass roots, social media summaries of lessons from the literature will trickle up to the mainstream media and professional journals.

It is also important to recognize that even the subtle language we use when describing women's accomplishments can be problematic (Trix and Psenka 2003). Proclaiming work as seminal, despite its laudatory sense, for example, is a bit unsettling. Consider the irony in this well-intentioned summary of Carol Cohn's critique of the defense analyst culture:one of the early, if not seminal, feminist reconceptualizations of security…. [Cohn's] analysis provides us with important insights, … in terms of her uncovering of sexual imagery (with its obvious Freudian implications…) (author intentionally omitted; emphasis added)

Skeptics who suspect this is a fluke case should try typing “seminal feminist” (no quotation marks) into GoogleScholar's search engine. There is no shortage of results; feminist work is quite frequently referred to as seminal. And when lauding women's research, we should label it as leading, or influential, or path-breaking, not merely as reputable or good. Furthermore, we should examine the extent to which we attribute agency. Do women get published, or do they publish? Are women granted tenure, or do they earn tenure? Do we describe women as good team players and men as leaders?

A last bit of self-reflection advice is to not assume that good intentions guarantee non-gendered outcomes. I doubt that Valelly or Glenn or Vedantam set out to write summaries that purposely excluded women's research. But had they checked over their work for gender patterns, they surely would have seen them and had the opportunity to revise. I once recommended Trix and Psenka's (2003) article to a colleague. They find gendered patterns in letters of recommendation, such as portraying female candidates as teachers and men as researchers, and the use of doubt-raising phrases in female candidate's letters. Afterward, my colleague decided to examine letters she had written and was shocked to find herself replicating the very same patterns. The key here is that she did not see herself as above reproach and was willing to examine her own tendencies. A recent experimental study at Yale shows that male and female faculty alike are biased in favor of male students, rating them as more competent and more hireable, choosing average starting salaries for them that were over $3,700 higher, and being more willing to mentor them (Moss-Racusin et al. 2012). Faculty members, regardless of gender, have an obligation to examine and address their gender biases.

In sum, as commentators, scientists, educators, mentors, and community members, we are each individually responsible for monitoring our own practices and setting good examples.


Feminists tell us that IR research is an undeniably social enterprise, with gendered practices that have consequences for how we understand the world. They are right. I have shared a variety of personal anecdotes and observations and summarized a sizeable number of analyses and large-n studies that demonstrate that this is so. In particular, our cultures, institutions, and practices result in the undervaluing of women's scholarship.

The solutions I have outlined exist at every level; professional organizations, journals, grant organizations, universities and colleges, graduate colleges, departments, departmental leaders, panel organizers, discussants, bloggers, instructors, mentors, colleagues, authors, and journalists all play a role. The key is to recognize that the outcome is win-win. Valuing women's research is better for female academics. But it is also better for male academics interested in playing more diverse roles in the academy, the intellectual health of our students, the progression of knowledge, the strength of our institutions of higher learning, and the long-run vitality of our professional associations and journals.


  • 1 Author's notes: I am indebted to Mark Crescenzi and Dina Zinnes, for their thoughtful and challenging comments and for providing me with years of great collegial support and advice. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers for their helpful questions and critiques. I would also like to thank Sara Mitchell for organizing the ISA panel that led to this symposium and the other panel participants and audience members. Last, I would like to thank Cameron Thies for his significant efforts toward making my department into the kind of environment where women's scholarship is valued and can thrive.

  • 2 The literature on gender problems in US colleges and universities, in the American political science profession, and among IR scholars is now fairly well established and is reviewed by the other papers in this symposium.

  • 3 ISA has historically not collected gender data on its membership, relying instead on verbal estimates from its Director (Henehan and Sarkees 2009). Managing your membership can now be done through the new online tool MyISA, which asks members to fill out profiles that include gender and race. However, I know of no publically available data on membership demographics.

  • 4 Papers written exclusively by men have a much bigger mean than those by only women. Men's standard deviation dwarfs those for women, is about three or four times as big as the mean citation for women's work, and easily encompasses zero for both men's and women's citations.

  • 5 Recall that women constitute 26% of the US professoriate in political science (Sedowski and Brintall 2007).

  • 6 West et al.'s “last author” analysis and author gender in positions after 4 are not very useful in this context, because political science does not have a tradition of large research teams or the convention of listing the most prestigious author in the final position, as do many of the laboratory sciences.

  • 7 In an older study of articles in 14 sociology journals, Wilkie and Allen (1975) assume alphabetical order implies either equal contribution or more significant contributions by the alphabetically dominant author. Unequal collaborations were by far the most likely in mixed-gender papers, and in such cases, men were more likely to be the primary author than were women (63% vs. 37%) (Wilkie and Allen 1975:20).

  • 8 Additionally, during the 2006 APSA meeting, two prominent female scholars—Nannerl Keohane and Linda Faye Williams—joined Steven Lukes, Matthew Crenson, and Jack Nagel on the plenary roundtable Thinking About Power (though the panel did not directly address world politics).

  • 9 For example, Monroe et al. (2008) find that faculty consistently reported a broad culture of complacence—spanning departments, colleges, and upper administration—at UC Irvine, where there is a tendency to “keep things under wraps by discouraging official reports of discrimination and harassment” (221). And Foley (2012) disturbingly reports that even the Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity, which investigates sexual harassment cases at the University of Iowa, was complicit in the institution's slow response when a complaint was filed about a male professor groping a female student meeting with him about her course grade. In this case, the delay allowed the professor to victimize three additional young women, and no meaningful response came from any level at the University until the Johnson County attorney's office began an investigation (Foley 2012).


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