When texts by men dominate, is it surprising that fewer women enter the field?

Increasing readings by female authors could increase number of female professors

The gender gap in one field's assigned readings may contribute to the gender citation and faculty gaps as well, Jeff Colgan writes for The Conversation.

The assistance professor of political science at Brown University and his team analyzed data on 4,148 assigned readings from 73 international relations syllabi from 42 U.S. universities. Women taught 35 of the Ph.D. classes, men taught the others.

The study found that men wrote 76% of the readings, while co-ed teams and women accounted for just 24%.

"The differences that I found could have important implications for recruiting and retaining female scholars in political science," Colgan writes.

Forty-two percent of political science graduate students are women, but just 24% of full-time political science professors are female. But exposing students to research by female scholars may encourage more female students to remain in academia, he says.

When looking at male and female professors' syllabi, Colgan says his team found that women assign 36% more readings by women or co-ed teams.

"Statistically, that difference is very unlikely to happen by random chance," Colgan writes.

The hazards of teaching while female

Women instructors are also more averse to assigning readings that they wrote themselves. On average, they assigned just 1.68 readings they authored—compared with male instructors who assigned on average 3.18 readings they wrote.

"Again, the difference is very unlikely to be random," Colgan says.

"One or two readings written by the instructor is fine, and perhaps more if the instructor is especially senior and prominent. But too much could crowd out other valuable research – a disservice to the students," he says.

And this assigned reading gender gap may contribute to the citation gender gap as well, he says. International relations research done by women is less likely to be cited than men's, even when their institutional rank and professional standing are equal.

"Ultimately, our objective should be to generate a syllabus that best serves our students' needs: intellectual, professional and otherwise. Thinking about gender balance is one important way that we can do that," he concludes (Colgan, The Conversation, 10/9).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.


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