Missing in Action: The Absence of Women Scholars on Foreign Policy Panels

By Dr. Federiga Bindi and Mimosa Giamanco

Women in International Security (WIIS), an organization committed to advancing women in the field of international peace and security, recently issued a policy report analyzing the presence of women in D.C. think tanks, compiling a ranking of the presence of women scholars in the foreign policy community. The report, titled “The WIIS Scorecard: Washington, DC Think Tanks 2018,” highlighted how men are still running the show in the foreign and security policy establishments. The D.C. think tank community is in fact far from being gender-balanced, especially when it comes to foreign policy. Expert-wise, only two out of the twenty-two think tanks reviewed have achieved gender parity among their scholars: the Stimson Center (52%) and the United States Institute for Peace (USIP, 49%). Only five think tanks have more than 40% female scholars: the Stimson Center (51%), Nuclear Threat Initiative (50%), the U.S. Institute for Peace (49%), the Institute for Policy Studies (44%), and the Rand Corporation (40%). The vast majority of the think tanks have less than 30% female scholars.

These findings are consistent with the numbers in academia, where women scholars in International Relations are still a minority: 70 percent of International Relations (IR) faculty is male. The discrimination begins early in one’s career: for instance, among PhDs at the country’s top institution, Harvard, 5 percent of males are in IR as opposed to two percent of women. Discrimination continues to occur throughout one’s career: despite women constituting half of the graduate population in political science, they constitute only 40 percent of IR faculty. They are also less likely to work at research universities: more women IR scholars (48 percent) teach at liberal arts colleges or universities without Ph.D. programs than men (39 percent). Women also tend to be more junior and less likely to hold tenure than their male colleagues and just a minority achieve senior positions such as Full Chair.

Women IR scholars’ work is not as well-recognized as that of male IR scholars—a problem for the whole of political science, as women are significantly underrepresented on the list of the 400 most frequently-cited political scientists and are cited less often than their male colleagues. Men also out-publish women by a ratio of two to one. The majority of the research assigned in IR graduate courses is written by men.

In the peculiar D.C. environment, however, citations are only one part of the problem. In the nation’s capital. what counts above all else is visibility, and the first step toward increased visibility is being invited to speak on panels. This article thus explores gender equality on foreign policy panels in the Nation’s Capital think tanks community.

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