Inside Higher Ed, Gender Gap Without Gender Bias?:
A major political science study from last year explored publication patterns across 10 prominent journals, finding a significant gap in publication rates for men and women. The gap couldn’t be explained away by a low overall share of women in the field, the article said, prompting soul-searching among editors about whether they were biased against female authors.
A new PS: Political Science & Politics report involving self-audits at five major journals suggests that editorial practices are not, in fact, biased against women. While positive, the findings are also disconcerting, since it remains unclear as to why women are underrepresented as authors in esteemed journals in the discipline.
“Even though the journals differ in terms of substantive focus, management/ownership, as well editorial structure and process, none found evidence of systematic gender bias in editorial decisions,” symposium co-chairs Nadia Brown, associate professor of political science and African-American studies at Purdue University, and David Samuels, Distinguished McKnight University Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota, wrote in their introduction to the PS report.
“These findings raise additional questions about where gender bias may occur and why,” they said. “We urge a continued conversation and examination of why women remain underrepresented as authors in political science journals, particularly top-ranked journals.”
If not gender bias, Brown and Samuels wrote, other factors may be at play. For example, they said, the American Political Science Association in 2017 surveyed members as to where and why they prefer to submit manuscripts. The suspicion is that women may be self-selecting out of submitting to the kinds of journals that grease tenure and promotion wheels and otherwise benefit their careers.
“It is very, very difficult to earn tenure at, let’s say, the top 50 departments without publishing in one of the top journals” studied in the 2017 report on gender and publication rates, said Maya Sen, an associate professor of political science at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who has studied gender in the discipline. “It really screams at you, we need to understand why and where this is happening.”
Possible alternative explanations, she said, include “pipeline” issues regarding potential future political scientists who are women, possible underconfidence among women and overconfidence among men seeking to publish, and the subtopics most studied by women. ...
The PS symposium was inspired by an article published last year in the journal, called "Gender in the Journals: Publication Patterns in Political Science." For their study, Dawn Langan Teele, Janice and Julian Bers Assistant Professor in the Social Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and Kathleen Thelen, Ford Professor of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and president of the political science association, counted all authors, by gender, who published in 10 of the field’s best known journals over 15 years. While women made up 31 percent of members of the APSA, they wrote, women made up just 18 percent of authors in the American Journal of Political Science over the period studied and 23 percent in the American Political Science Review, which is widely considered the field's premier research journal. Publication rates for other journals were similarly slanted toward men, save two. Political Theory and Perspectives on Politics saw women writing about one-third of articles.
Beyond a general gender gap, Teele and Thelen also found that women remain underrepresented in terms of co-authorship. While single male authors still represented the biggest share of all bylines (about 41 percent), the second most common byline type was all-male teams (24 percent). Mixed-gender teams were about 15 percent of the sample. All-female teams and single female authors were 2 percent and 17 percent of the sample, respectively.
A possible explanation is political science’s qualitative-quantitative divide, they said, in that female authors wrote more of the published qualitative articles in the study. Flagship journals, meanwhile, tend to publish more quantitative studies.