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5 ways to close the Gender Gap in International Relations

Scholarship in both international relations and foreign policy are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Although there are many prominent female researchers and indeed a subfield of feminist international relations theory, women are still underrepresented in the field.

It has been discussed elsewhere that women are routinely less cited than men across international relations publications, even if they publish in the same journals.  Moreover, work from women are utilized less in course syllabi (just take out your last IR syllabus and count the number of female authors to male).  Now taking into account the precariousness of balancing a professional, family and personal life, these issues altogether impact a woman scholar’s opportunities to advance.

Offline and online support networks do exist however. Here are five ways that young and established scholars alike can begin to address this problem and help overcome the gender gap:


Discuss work written by women

Instead of always relying on the oft cited (male) authors,  search for newer essays and publications written by women. When other scholars attempted to do this exercise, they found it made their own work more engaging and thoughtful. It’s quite easy, and you might end up finding fresh theories and ideas that can have a tremendous influence on your thought and practice.

If you engage with feminist international relations theory, you will find most of the scholars are female and they offer new perspectives with which to analyze the international security, peace and conflict.


Ask young women to do more policy and research work

Early in their careers, women are more asked to do work related to administrative tasks in university departments. Women professors, for example, generally spend more time with their students outside of class, but this does not necessarily reflect in better evaluations.  This means women have less access to the kind of experience that can advance their careers.  And if you are a budding female IR researcher, do not be afraid to ask for research assistance work from professors or graduate students.


Foster female mentorship

Universities, think tanks and other institutions should think about ways to implement programs that allow female students and young graduates to find female mentors. These kinds of mentorship systems are crucial in advancing careers, but women usually have a tough time finding mentors.

One example of great mentorship support is the Women’s Foreign Policy Group Mentoring Fairs. If you are just starting your career in foreign policy, this is fantastic resource and the best place to go to ask questions from practictioners and scholars around the world.


Give visibility to women scholars

There is a great project called Women Also Know Stuff which highlights women scholars in a wide array of disciplines, including international relations.  These kinds of initiatives are a clever way to make women scholars more visible, as you can find women scholars from virtually all political fields, universities, and locations. If you are a young female graduate, you might consider signing up for Women Also Know Stuff and support their work. You can also follow them on Twitter at either @womenalsoknow or #womenalsoknowstuff for updates on notable female scholarship, publications and events.


Create networks of support

Women usually have to make tougher choices as their careers progress. Careers in international relations involve a lot of travelling and an intensive work schedule, so it can be hard to balance commitments with family and personal life. Having the opportunity to discuss these issues with other women and feel supported can have a very positive effect. As women might work in only-male teams and departments, having the chance to network with other women with similar issues can make everything feel easier and less lonely. Take the initiative and reach out to other women in your own school or job. Opening a dialogue on the gender gap can lead to discovering new resources in your own area or online.

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