2018 may have been the year of the woman, but 2019 is turning out to be the year to fight societal norms. Representation (for many) is becoming a shared demand— just look at Congress or the Grammy’s. Implicit bias is being challenged on a variety of platforms, from pop culture to politics, media to academia, hiring practices and more; however, this push towards impartiality is not a casual coincidence-- it is propelled by people working to transform dormant discrimination into conscious choice.
One of these organizations, Woman Also Know Stuff, is the perfect example. “Our goal is to promote and publicize the work and expertise of scholars in political science who identify as women,” the website states. “Implicit and explicit gender biases mean that women are often underrepresented as experts in the academy and in media. Our searchable database helps academics and journalists identify and connect with women academics conducting research on a multitude of issues related to the study of politics.”
With a current network of 1,906 female political scientists-- holding either a Ph.D, working towards one or involved in Poly-Sci academia-- the goal is to provide a vast amount of names to choose from when “writing syllabi; planning conferences, panels and speaker series; when citing research; when inviting essays and op-eds; and when identifying experts for articles.”
Who’s behind it?
Author, researcher and University of Arizona professor Samara Klar began the initiative “with no funding, a few emails and a crowd-sourced (free) website… While at the time still an untenured assistant professor,” a colleague wrote on Twitter.
Dr. Klar holds degrees from some of the most prestigious U.S. academic institutions: Columbia, Northwestern and McGill. Head to her website to read more about her (highly inspirational) work.
Is it making a difference?
According to Klar, “The site has since inspired spin-off sites across different disciplines and countries all over the world.” So, yes, but the success doesn’t stop there-- the political science field faces an epidemic of expert partiality and Women Also Know Stuff forces professionals in that field to confront the “why?” behind that common misconception.
The New York Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt wrote, “I’ve made the usual excuses to myself: Many of the subjects I cover, like politics and economics, are dominated by men… I made a simple rule: No [work] can cite the work of only one gender. Every newsletter has to be coed. The rule has changed my work. Without it, I would too often rely on familiar voices, most of which are male. Because of the rule, I have gone looking for a wider variety of experts. That’s not merely a matter of fairness. It broadens my worldview and improves my journalism.”
Professors Emily Beaulieu and Kathleen Searles wrote in The Conversation, “Only 26 percent of guests on the Sunday morning talk shows were women in 2013, and men were 3.4 times more likely to be quoted on the front page of The New York Times. Is this simply because there are fewer women faculty in political science, particularly in the more advanced professorial ranks? As women faculty in the discipline, we don’t believe this is the reason. Rather, a combination of ‘implicit gender biases’ whereby women’s lack of expertise is often simply assumed, and ‘network effects,’ which can inadvertently exclude women who do not share the same networks as individuals charged with finding experts, may lay the foundation for women’s absence in expert discussions. And ultimately, this can lead to a skewed perception of experts as men.”
Klar herself said to the Midwest Political Science Association, “I think a lot of political scientists– both men and women– are disappointed when they see conference programs, speaker series or articles that include few women, if any at all. The individuals in our field are, by and large, extremely inclusive and progressive– yet women nonetheless tend to be underrepresented in these types of public forums. It just seemed to me that the problem is not that anyone is intentionally excluding women but rather that it can simply be tricky to think of women when organizing these types of things. I myself have been in that position– putting together a panel and struggling to think of women who might be able to participate.”
What example does it set?
As the quotes above exemplify, inclusion may not come naturally immediately, but it starts with a conscious choice to embrace differences. Habits begin as a choice to change and later become customs-- as writers, as professionals and as scholars, taking advantage of sites like Women Also Know Stuff will extend the success of acceptance.
Speaking of taking advantage of resources that promote inclusion, including movements beyond gender discussions is critical. Head to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Racial Equity Resource Guide and the Institute for Religious Tolerance site and tweet us @HerCampusWVU to keep extending this list.