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a gatekeeper remarks on the gender gap

3 October 2013

As part of a symposium on the gender gap in academic political science, today The Monkey Cage (a blog run by political scientists that is now hosted at The Washington Post) featured a post by Rick Wilson, Professor of Political Science at Rice University and Editor of the American Journal of Political Science, one of the discipline’s leading journals. In Rick’s post, he talks about why diversity in science is important, the initiative he took as the AJPS Editor to diversify the members of the editorial board, and the lack of gender parity in the journal’s published articles (as measured by articles authored by women) — despite his efforts. 

What I like most about the piece is he gives advice to female political scientists, both reviewers and authors:

To female reviewers (who are overworked) please say no if you really do not have the time to review a manuscript.  Believe me, your male counterparts are doing so.  But, if you say no, send me the names of two or three well-qualified reviewers.  I will not advise that you only send me the names of female reviewers, but I certainly would not object if you did.  I want to know the most qualified people in the field, especially junior people who might be under my radar.


To female authors who have been asked to revise and resubmit your manuscript: keep two things in mind.  First, if you find that the editor is unclear about what is expected of you, then ask the editor.  I grant very few revisions and I have a vested interest in getting you to revise the manuscript so that it will be successful.  E-mail me or call me.  Your male counterparts are not shy about asking.


Second, if the revision is going to take more time than you anticipated, ask for an extension.  I would much rather have a well crafted piece of science than something that was hurried because of a deadline.  It may be that you need additional time because you need to collect additional data, because of health issues or child care duties.  The reason is not important. I want you to show me your best effort.  Again, your male counterparts are not shy about seeking extensions.

In particular, I like that he tells us that our asking for extensions or declining to review a paper would be consistent with what our male colleagues do. Sometimes we might need to be reminded that when we are asking for a break, we’re not doing it because we’re women; we’re doing it because like academics everywhere, sometimes we just need a break.

At the very end, Rick reminds us that: 

…editors are as busy, overworked and harried as any academic.  But being busy, overworked and harried often means falling back on rules of thumb.  If those rules of thumb admit implicit biases, then we should be held accountable.  Keep up the pressure on editors.

I will contend with one bit, though it might not be something about which Rick and I disagree. This part about keeping pressure on editors comes after Rick says he’s giving  advice to women. I don’t think female academics alone should keep up the pressure on editors (though it’s in our self-interest). As Rick said early in his piece, the quality and impact of science suffers when groups are excluded. For the sake of our discipline, then, political scientists generally — both men and women — have to keep up the pressure on editors. Rick is one example* of how men in our discipline can take initiative to deal with a problem not just of unfairness but of potentially limiting the potential of our field to advance our understanding of politics and society.


*NB: Rick Wilson was my NSF ADVANCE mentor and has been an exceptionally generous senior colleague to me since I met him at the NSF EITM Workshop at Washington University in St. Louis in 2009. Though I’ve never been shy to disagree with him, it doesn’t happen often. This is all to say that I’m probably not entirely unbiased in talking about him or his post.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Rick Wilson permalink
    3 October 2013 2:34 pm

    Kim, you are directly on the mark here. I think that the pressure on Editors should come from everyone. it is part of the process of science and ensures that any form of bias doesn’t intrude. I was asked to write something specific about women (in line with the symposium). But I tried to convey at the front end that I meant it for any group for which biases might be a problem.

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