Layna Mosley is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research investigates the politics of sovereign debt, and the effects of global supply chains on worker rights. She joined the WAKS Editorial Board in November 2017. Website: laynamosley.web.unc.edu/ or find her on Twitter at @thwillow.
Duck of Minerva readers may have noticed Max Fisher’s recent New York Times Interpreter piece, addressing Taliban attacks against Afghan civilians. On Twitter, Fischer reported that he “made an effort to quote only women in this.” Six of the seven experts quoted were women; Fischer’s conclusion was that this “made the piece stronger.” He encouraged other writers to make similar efforts.
A couple weeks later, Fisher and Amanda Taub noted, in a piece on the Times’ op-ed page, that quoting women was only the tip of the iceberg: that the challenge of locating women experts in the fields of international politics, national security and foreign policy reflected deeper structural biases, ones that required much more than journalists diversifying their sources.
Fisher and Taub mentioned several studies that have become familiar to those involved in conversations about implicit bias in academic settings – for instance, that women’s research is cited less often than that of their male counterparts; and that women are asked to assume greater service responsibilities in their departments and in the profession. To these, they might add that women are often underrepresented in course syllabi, at the graduate as well as undergraduate level, and that women receive less professional credit for co-authored work.
These problems are not limited to women in international relations (or, more broadly, to women in political science). Indeed, we might comfort ourselves in the knowledge that things may be worse in other disciplines. And problems of bias, implicit or otherwise, affect not only women, but also persons of color and LGBTQ-identified individuals. Indeed, in this current moment, it is hard not to be discouraged by problems that numerous, deeply rooted and very difficult to rectify.
But here’s one thing all of us in international relations can do: promote and publicize the research and expertise of women-identified scholars. This is the mission of Women Also Know Stuff: the initiative, launched in February 2016, seeks to promote women’s work, both in the academy and in the media (for links to news coverage of WAKS, see https://womenalsoknowstuff.com/news).
Women Also Know Stuff (WAKS) is run by an all-volunteer editorial board; it has no permanent financial support. Its editorial board members (of which I am one), contribute their time to this initiative because we want to combat implicit as well as explicit bias. Through our Twitter feed – approaching 15,000 followers – and through our website – which provides a searchable database of women in political science and adjacent disciplines — we help academics and journalists identify and connect with women scholars. Our database is useful for writing syllabi; planning conferences, panels and speaker series; reviewing and citing academic literature; and inviting op-eds, essays and media commentary.
Although the founding members of WAKS represented a broad set of research interests and academic institutions, it’s fair to say that the international relations field was not as well represented as many areas of political science. The WAKS website now includes over 1300 women, from 44 countries of residence. But we want to expand our reach further – in general, and in international relations. Among those 1300 women, 213 scholars list interests in conflict processes, 150 in international law and organization, 146 in political economy, 138 in human rights and 67 in terrorism. (The database allows scholars to select multiple specific research interests, drawing on existing descriptors or adding new ones).
This is a significant number of scholars, and yet we know there are many women IR scholars who have not added themselves to the database. For instance, in 2014, the TRIPS (Teaching, Research and International Policy) expert survey identified over 12,000 individuals in 32 countries who met their criteria for inclusion in their survey of international relations professors.
So here’s what you can do to help:
- If you use Twitter, please DM or @womenalsoknow with links to forthcoming or recent research by women scholars – whether it’s yours or someone else’s. We’ll add it to our queue of research to share. The author doesn’t need to be on Twitter, and we are happy to feature work by co-authored teams including at least one woman. We also share calls for papers and grants, post-doc positions and award nominations.
- The same goes for blog posts by, or media stories, featuring women scholars of international politics (and politics more generally). And don’t just share the links with @womenalsoknow; promote it yourself, too!
- If you’re not a Twitter user, email these things along to me (or to any member of the editorial board), and we’ll promote them.
- If you’re a woman-identified scholar in a political science department (or an adjacent department/school, such as public policy, foreign policy, or international relations), register your expertise at womenalsoknowstuff.com. Your profile can be as simple or as detailed as you like; you can indicate whether you’re interested in media requests and whether you have a Twitter and/or web presence (neither of these things is necessary).
- Encourage women colleagues in your department and in your research communities to register as well. The site is open to those who already have a Ph.D., as well as Ph.D. candidates.
- When creating syllabi, conference programs and conference panels, use the site to identify experts. We each have our networks, and we often can improve the diversity of our events by stepping outside of our usual comfort zones. When women see other women in their classroom or on their syllabi, they can more easily imagine themselves following a similar path.
None of us likes to see a “manel” at a conference, on a speaker series poster, or in a journalist’s article. So please help us as we continue our efforts – now two plus years old – to recognize the scholarship of women in international relations and beyond. To return to Max Fisher’s reflections on his experience as a journalist, “the most rewarding feedback comes from young professional women, who see encouragement amid the many obstacles they face.”