Wednesday, October 14, 2015

All Male Panels and the Least One Can Do

The movement to reduce/end all male panels continues.  I saw this post a day after a friend asked me for a list of potential women's names to go with awards of a major association.  That is, the association would like to have more of its awards named after women, and it was not impossible but not easy to come up with a handful of senior women who had influenced the field before the 1990s (I kind of assumed they wanted people who had retired rather than currently active folks). 

But the leaky pipeline problem tends to mean that there are fewer women who can be nominated for all kinds of things than men.  The good news is that as long as one is not ageist or too beholden to titles, one can find suitable women for panels quite easily since there are many, many sharp women in most fields and especially IR at the junior/associate levels. 

My work, in the general area of international security, was once viewed as a male-dominated field.  However, as my favorite books list indicates, there are plenty of women doing excellent work in this area (and I am not well-read so there are certainly many sharp women whose work I would admire if was up on my reading).  So, it should not be that hard to organize panels that include women.

And, indeed, it is not.  The focus of the post at the top is on agreeing only to serve on panels where there is at least one woman, but many of us end up not just being invitees but organizers.  I have organized a speaker series at my previous job, and I have organized many panels for various events, including sections of annual meetings of professional associations.  Sometimes, the effort to have women involved is deliberate/intentional, such as when the aforementioned speaker series had traditionally been very much a male-dominated one.  But most of the time, it is actually pretty much a byproduct of including the most interesting people.*
* One complication is when organizing an international conference: the gender of individuals may not be clear from the names of those submitting proposals, and these events are big enough that organizers may not know anything about these people.  Given finite time, searching for the genders of all those submitting to such fora may be a challenge.  Something to think about.

It is true that the effort to produce mixed panels may be harder as more people make the effort, as people may have limited ideas of who the right people are, and those women cannot meet every request.  But as the Washpo piece suggests, then a little more effort is required.  The really good news is that there are more sharp, articulate women at all levels than there once was, so the all male panel should die off .... unless organizers remain/become deliberately obtuse about this. 

Anyhow, more attentiveness by males to the composition of the panels upon which they are invited to appear is, again, the least one can expect to do.

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