Taylor Marvin and Barbara Walter at Political Violence @ a Glance have started an important conversation on the paucity of female bloggers in international affairs. IMHO, the issue of blogs is just one example of many arenas in which gender may be an issue. In the last three years, I’ve been involved in speaker series, dinners with speakers, committees, faculty presentations, research grants, and conferences & workshops, and in every one, the nature or composition of the invitees or participants is a question.
Four thoughts in the hopes of continuing the conversation:
1. Gender is one of MANY characteristics that people want to see represented. Others include race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, level of seniority, academic/practitioner, nationality, type of academic institutional affiliation (R1 vs others; location inside US; US vs rest of world; north/south; public vs private), political views, discipline or field, and method. People will vary as to which ones are most important, and, obviously, every invitee is some combination.
2. Judging whether someone is paying attention to such issues solely based on outcome is limiting. You can ask people to speak, to serve, to blog etc. You can do your best to meet their needs and make the environment conducive. In short, to me the process matters too: was a serious, concerted effort made to get diverse and excellent participants? Across a range of situations, I followed (or, in some cases, observed others following) roughly the same process to try to get broad representation; if I look at the outcomes, it worked better in some cases than others.
3. If you want diverse bloggers, panels, speakers, members etc, you have to reach out and be pro-active about it. Who do you know that I don’t know? Who do YOU think would be good that is not in my network or on my radar? Who is up and coming? You have to be willing to take the time to gather prospective names, talk with people, and have some (or many!) people decline. That is time consuming and may conflict with other time pressures or resource demands.
And it is not just about having the knowledge of who does what. As one colleague pointed out to me, friendship matters when you are trying to get people to do things, especially if such things may be onerous and take them away from things they’d rather or must be doing. A cold call/email may be very different from a friend asking.
4. Marvin and Walter rightly point to a structural factor, the high percentage of tenured, male faculty in IR programs. But I want to kick the question backward: is that a reflection of IR students in top PhD programs? Maybe the assessment has to start even before the hiring and tenure processes with the PhD admission process.
Awareness about the people invited to do academic things, both pleasant and burdensome, is helpful. But awareness alone only goes so far.