Last week, I asked a question online that was asked of me and then I asked at the ISA two weeks ago:
Can you name women of color working in the US or Canada who do IR and are full professors?
At the ISA, folks could only name one or two. On twitter and facebook and my blog since then, the total has increased to eleven:
Not great. Sure, we could be missing a few, but this short list demonstrates the point that my friend was making: there are damn few role models/mentors in US/Canada IR for women who are not white.
One can quibble with the various modifiers/restrictions in the question:
- what is IR? I tended to exclude a few names of those who are experts on one country or an area and do not do foreign policy/international relations type questions. I am sure we could get the list to be significantly longer if we included women who do one area of the world. Indeed, some of the women above can be considered area studies people but have done some IR-ish stuff. While the ISA is
broadly inclusive so that it includes area studies people, the point of this exercise was about whether women who do IR might have mentors, not whether there are women who do IR or comparative. Also, in the conversation I had with my friend, her concern was in part about the implicit and sometimes explicit expectations to be an expert in the area of the world her family comes from rather than being an expert on general IR stuff. There is a tendency to push people of color to study stuff like an area of the world or race and ethnicity, whereas white people can be expected to study anything.
- why US/Canada? Well, the friend is in US/Canada North America and was pondering the availability of mentors. There was no intent to diminish the contributions of women of color at schools in other parts of the world. While the internet makes it possible to confer with people around the world, one is likely to meet up with people in the same region
- why women of color? That was the way it was put to me. We could use other ways to talk about race, such as visible minority (the Canadian way to refer to these kinds of identities), but I stuck with the term that was most inclusive. And identity is always tricky: are Arab Americans people of color? Traditionally, not so much. Since 9/11? Maybe. I asked a full prof I know whether she was a person of color and she said she was not, but understood how some might see her fit that category. Anyhow, I was not aiming at perfect coding, but at getting a general idea, and the paucity of names is suggestive.
A quick look at this reveals a few patterns: no Latinas, three African-Americans and then Asian-Americans making the majority of the list. So, yeah, there are few role models for African-American women and none for Latinas who want to do IR. There are few women of color that undergraduates, grad students and junior profs can look to and think “well, they made it so maybe I can, too.””
Most of the women listed are post-positivist, which could mean either that women who do such work are more likely to make it through the leaky pipeline, or there might be an affinity for a particular kind of IR by women of color, or maybe sampling bias as one of my key sources of names knew these people because their work speaks to each other.
One Canadian, several in the Northeast/New England area, a few from the West Coast, and nothing in between or down south. So, if you want to meet your mentor, it means traveling for most folks.
How do we “fix” this? How do we have more women full professors of color in IR? Obviously, whatever barriers exist to promoting women and people of color need to be broken down. I used to work at a university where there was an apparent barrier between associate and full, and that helped to perpetuate the gender imbalance. Indeed, in Canada anyway, it seems like the process to become tenured is far easier than becoming Full even though the former means lifetime employment and the latter might mean a raise. In the US? I don’t know. But there has been stuff written on the leaky pipeline, so we need to find the leaks and plug them, including discrimination in citation patterns and in listings on syllabi and differential service obligations (women end up doing more service, which may not help them get promoted).
A different friend of mine told me at the ISA that none of the female associates have received outside offers, and all of the male associate profs in her department have received such offers even though the women have better research scores. How does that happen? Such a perfect (and awful) correlation of gender and opportunities? Getting outside offers is one way for people to get promoted faster, and it seems at least in that one case (more survey work required) one key tool to fast promotion has been denied. So, perhaps one way to deal with this problem is to make sure that senior searches take seriously the full range of candidates and not just the first names that come to mind?