Gender Gap in Publishing

Men are more likely than women to be authors of journal articles and influential textbooks in political science. Why?
September 6, 2005

Women make up about one third of political scientists and are earning 42 percent of Ph.D.'s awarded in the discipline. But research presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association indicated that, in publishing, women lag far behind men.

Women were the lead authors of 20.9 percent of the papers published in eight leading journals in political science from 1999 through 2004, according to a study by Marijke Breuning, associate professor of political science at Truman State University and editor of the Journal of Political Science Education. Breuning's data also indicated that the percentage was even lower -- 17.7 percent -- at the APSA's flagship journal, American Political Science Review.

Only one journal in the field, Comparative Politics, had a percentage of women as lead authors -- 32.5 percent -- that was comparable to the female representation in the field. And several journals besides APSR had percentages below 20. They were the American Journal of Political Science (17.9 percent), the Journal of Politics (17.9 percent) and International Studies Quarterly (19.4 percent).

In an attempt to explore why women lag behind men in publishing, Breuning also analyzed the subjects of the articles. She found that men were more likely than women to be publishing statistical works or papers on rational choice and women were more likely to publish case studies.

In an e-mail interview, Lee Sigelman, the editor of APSR and a professor at George Washington University, said that his data indicate that about one author in four at his journal over the last decade was a woman. He said that because women are still more likely to be younger scholars, starting their careers, it's not surprising that relatively few of them are "breaking into 'top' journals." He also said that women in political science are more likely to be in the fields of comparative politics or political theory, which would explain a higher percentage of women being published in Comparative Politics than in a journal like his, which covers the entire discipline.

At the panel on gender and publishing at the APSA meeting, other reasons were cited. A paper by Brigid C. Harrison, a professor of political science at Montclair State University, suggested numerous factors that may hold back women in publishing, including a lack of mentoring in graduate school, competing family and professional demands for young female academics, and a skepticism on the part of some leading journals on publishing work about gender issues.

One way to change that last problem is to create more journals committed to such issues, said Karen Beckwith, a professor of political science at the College of Wooster and one of the editors of Politics & Gender, a new journal from Cambridge University Press. Beckwith said she hoped her journal would provide new publishing opportunities for women, and show the high quality of research on gender issues.

Another paper at the session focused on the textbook industry and similar lopsidedness among others there. Barbara A. Bardes, a political scientist at the University of Cincinnati, looked at 14 leading textbooks in American government. She found that they collectively had 31 male authors and 5 female authors.

"We have a lack of diversity in voices," she said. Bardes and audience members said that the lack of diversity is evident in the content of textbooks, and a general focus on white men.

Bardes encouraged the female and minority scholars in the audience to be sure to accept any invitations they receive from publishers to critique new editions of textbooks and to push for a more inclusive approach. She also urged audience members to consider writing textbooks, noting that they can provide authors with influence and income.

"If you love to teach, you can teach to thousands," she said.


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