Friday, October 4, 2013

Gender, Citation and Networks

Heaps of great posts at the Monkey Cage pondering the status of women in the poli sci profession, including David Lake thinking aloud about how gendered networks might lead to citation outcomes that are problematic. 

Lake's central point is that you cite who you know more than those you do not know.  If you know more males due to all male panels, due to friendships, conference interactions, etc, then you are more likely to cite males.  He then discusses the challenges of cross-gender networking, including awkwardness on both sides.  It is a very thoughtful piece.*  One of the ways that Lake has unconsciously bridged this particular gap is that he has been a dissertation adviser to a great crew of young female scholars.  Hopefully, his connections to them will lead to connections to other great female scholars.
 *  The one thing he kind of gets wrong is this: "The job placement blogs were, until this line of discussion was shut down by the moderators, full of innuendo that female job candidates were getting more interviews for reasons completely unrelated to the quality of their work."  Sorry, but the misogyny of anonymous posters has not abated and moderators have a hard time keeping up with the sludge. 
That is my hope in part because half of my PhD students are females who have their own networks.  I hope they connect me to the sharp young folks that they meet, male and female, just as I try to introduce them to the folks that I know.  I tend not to think about this stuff very much, just doing what I think is right--helping all of my students out.  But I do think about it sometimes, as these discussions arise.

I guess I am lucky in that the areas I have researched throughout my career--ethnic conflict and civil war, alliances, civil-military relations--have had key sharp women (such as Toft, Jenne, Fortna, Kreps, Weitsman, Avant, Zegart, etc) producing great work.  I also have not been so inhibited about asking women to meet up at the conference bar (and now the pubs in Ottawa) to chat IR and chat about their research.  Maybe it is easier because I am married, maybe it is easier because I am just tone deaf.  Maybe it is because I have always felt more comfortable hanging out with women than with men, as my best friends at most of my stops along the way have been women.  When I look at my schedule of meetings every conference, which I do call my dance card (I guess I dance with men and women), to see who I am meeting up with, the list seems to be pretty diverse--old and new friends, acquaintances, virtual friends (from twitter, FB, and the blogosphere)--that my networks are not so gendered.  When they are, such as in poker, I get uncomfortable and am glad to see progress.

While I was writing this, a former McGill M.A. student (and Lake student) reminded me via facebook of a story back a few years ago, where I responded to her tale of a sexist/condescending senior faculty member  with, well, volume.  I have never had much of a filter, and I have always been offended and outraged by the words and deeds of "colleagues" so her tale was most amusing to me.  I had not remembered it until she brought it up, but I am not surprised.  Neither was David Lake, apparently, who upon hearing this story, said "I can definitely see Steve doing this....."

Of course, my record here is hardly perfect.  I commented on the height of one of my female students at a conference rather than her tenacity, intelligence and curiosity, but I learned from that experience (my students are not shy about informing me when I screw up--always a good trait to encourage however inadvertently).  I am sure that if one tracks my citation patterns, I probably over-cite men and under-cite women.  I will pay more attention as I go forward, but given my favorite books of late, maybe I will not have to extend myself too much to make sure that I am not reproducing citation inequities.  While I have co-authored books with men, I have co-authored articles with women and men, and I plan to do more co-authoring with women if I can ever get past the current set of projects on my plate.

The debate this week and in the past couple of months reminds me that we have made some progress but certainly not enough.  I will try to do better.  It is reasonable to ask people to have a greater awareness and try a bit harder. 

1 comment:

Erin Jenne said...

This is a great post, Steve, I really appreciate your contributions on the matter, they are really insightful, empathetic and appropriate. I think that informal social networks matter a lot, but I have never felt inhibited in seeking out and co-authoring with more senior/prominent men in the profession. I do think, however, that older generations of male scholars have tended to unconsciously promote and seek out younger versions of themselves, while (I'm sure unintentionally) overlooking the work of women who are coming up in the discipline. I think it is getting better, however, with newer generations of male scholars who are far more progressive (inc. yourself) as well as a higher proportion of women in the field.