The push for more girls and women to pursue studies and professions in the STEM field is a movement that’s gaining a lot of attention, and rightly so. The inequality in numbers is shocking, and gaining greater representation is crucial for progress. But beyond STEM, there are other professional fields that women are severely underrepresented in. The first step in combating underrepresentation is being cognizant of the disparities.
The field of IR is one that is popularly characterized as power politics since the inception of diplomacy. Originating from male power-based regimes, the field itself continues to carry masculine connotations as value is placed on male-oriented traits as preferred tools of diplomacy. Male dominance is especially evident in IR’s gendered language (terms like statesman, manpower, etc). These biases clearly manifest in statistics when considering the percentage of IR faculty who are male (77%), the number of female foreign policy experts featured on major news programs (22%), and female ambassadors representing the US (18%).
Interestingly enough, studies show that women are far more likely to reach conflict resolution instead of escalation, promote fair social policies, and support inclusive peace strategies. This difference in approach is definitely in the public’s interests when considering who’s at the table when concerns like nuclear security are discussed.
Highly renowned economist Janet Yellen made headlines when she became the Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. But don’t let this one figure convince anyone that there’s anything close to equality in economics. Women earned 34% of doctorates, the lowest share among all the social sciences. In academia, there’s a serious “leaky pipeline.”
According to Jesse Romero, “women were 28% of assistant professors, the first rung on the academic ladder; 22% of associate professors with tenure; and less than 12% of full professors.” This has serious consequences as a lot of public policy decisions are influenced by economists and that “male and female economists have significantly different opinions on… the minimum wage, labor regulations, and health insurance.” There’s a serious chunk of the population whose important voices are missing out on shaping important policy.
When people think of philosophers, the general image that comes to mind is an old bespectacled man stroking his beard and smoking a pipe. According to Sally Haslanger, this is exactly the kind of stereotype that female philosophers face as an obstacle to gaining equal representation. The percentage of tenured or tenure-track faculty in philosophy departments summed up to just under 22%. Philosophy has a lower percentage of women doctorates than math, chemistry and economics.
Furthermore, female philosophers of color constitute an incredibly small slice of an already miniscule pie. Many point to the implicit biases within the subject as a result of discouragement. Syllabi are overwhelmingly filled with male philosophers, and women often find subjects less relatable and felt less comfortable engaging in class discussions.
So the next time you see a female IR scholar, economist, or philosopher, give them a shout out for defying the odds. Maybe even consider taking a course in the subject to see if it’s something you’d be interested in because as the statistics clearly show, we need more women in these fields.
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