Although the study of women and gender flourished at intersection of comparative politics (CP) and international relations (IR), mostly international political economy (IPE) and Development Studies, much of IR itself was resistant at its core. Explicitly feminist analysis challenged the core with several decades of research that instructors can incorporate into their classes. The incorporation/transformation challenge can be daunting, however, as publication outlets for research on women, gender, and feminism often remained separate from mainstream journals, with some promising exceptions. These separate tracks are now changing, but instructors still need to check multiple places to prepare for courses and identify good assignments. And although IR feminists seek interaction with the IR core, the core IR theorists are wedded to frameworks associated with realism, liberalism, Marxism, and others, or to positivist, quantitative methodologies that may rely on flawed and male-centric databases rather than grounded field research. A major challenge in the next 40 years involves growing the interactions among bordered subfields; analyzing the intersections of gender, race/ethnicity, class, and nationality; and engaging with southern voices outside the US and Western-centric IR field. In this vein, the classroom is a major arena in which critical thinking, contestation, new research, and action agendas emerge.
Meredith Reid Sarkees and Marijke Breuning
Women are underrepresented in the discipline of international studies, though the field has seen a sizeable influx of female professionals only within the last 30 years. As the percentage of women has grown, women have adopted a variety of strategies for “resisting at the margins,” or finding places for themselves within the profession, and for ensuring their professional success. Although the larger presence of women has led to activism and improvement, women still have a way to go before they will have achieved parity with their male colleagues in international studies. Due to their focus on the realm of “high politics,” international relations and international studies were often seen as disciplines that were not suited to the inclusion of women. Consequently, women in international studies have to confront significant barriers to their career progress, which has contributed to women’s disenchantment with the field and to the leaky pipeline in international studies. However, research has found that women in male-dominated fields (such as international studies) are strongly organizationally committed. Women in international studies are willing to structure their professional efforts to conform to the goals and practices of organizations such as the International Studies Association (ISA), especially as participating in annual meetings and conferences is critical for a career in international studies.
Success is not easy to define or measure. In the academic field, traditional indicators of success include level of educational attainment, type and place of employment, tenure status, promotion or position status, publication productivity, and compensation. Alternatively, success can be defined as “the achievement of something desired or planned.” This is a more inward-looking definition of success, and adopting it might improve the chances for women to attain recognized success because it rewards what women in higher education and in international studies actually do. Some measures about how to determine success in international studies are more quantifiable than others, such as identifying obstacles women have had to overcome to enter and to thrive within the discipline. Others are controversial, such as self-professed goals that do not align with the traditional success measures. For example, many women—and even men—are simply more concerned with seeking work–life–family balance than the “prestige” of a tenured, full-professor appointment at an Ivy League Institution. Clearly, there is a need to change perceptions about what success means and what a successful life looks like. To this end, the academy in general, and international studies as an academic discipline in particular, should rethink how to evaluate quality teaching, recognize a broader range of research as valuable, and honor all kinds of service. They should also undertake some seriously introspective studies focused on why women’s work in academia remains so undervalued. Such studies must include recommendations for action aimed at rectifying current gender imbalances.
Mary K. Meyer McAleese and Susan S. Northcutt
The interdisciplinary field of international studies has traditionally been a male-dominated field. Indeed, the field of international relations, both theory and practice, has been argued to be gendered in highly masculinist ways. Whether as practitioners or as scholars, women have had a difficult time entering and advancing in such male-dominated fields, both in the United States and around the world. Their admittance and full acceptance in the profession has been hindered by laws and regulations, institutional practices and inertia, gendered stereotypes and customary expectations, overt discrimination and subtle biases, or benign neglect. As such, women have adopted a number of different strategies to make their ways into such male-dominated fields. These include working to expand the field to encompass questions of interest to women, developing new networks with other women for mentorship and resource development, and organizing themselves into distinct groups to promote women’s professional interests and advancement. One of these women’s organizations is Women’s Caucus for International Studies (WCIS), a formal section within the International Studies Association (ISA). Since its formal organization in 1996, the Women’s Caucus has worked hard to fulfill its mission of upgrading the status of women in the profession. Specifically, it seeks to promote equal opportunities for women in their professional lives, as well as women’s professional development. The Caucus fulfills its mission in numerous ways, including sponsoring scores of panels and roundtables focused on women’s professional development, and organizing mentoring networks, both inside the Caucus and beyond.
A gender disparity in publishing hinders the ability of women to advance their careers in academia. A review of the literature shows that there is little published research on the status of women in international studies. Women’s access to, and progress in, the field of international studies has also been slower than many have thought. Feminist approaches to international relations emerged later compared to other subfields of political science, at around the end of the Cold War. Data suggests that there has not been substantial growth in the proportion of women in international studies since the mid-1990s: the data of Tétreault et al. (1997) reported 31.2 percent women for 1994 and Breuning et al. (2005) calculated that there were 31.8 percent women in the International Studies Association in 2004. With each successive rank on the academic career ladder, the percentage of women becomes smaller. In 2006, women accounted for 36 percent of the assistant professors in political science, but only 28 percent of the associate professors and just 17 percent of full professors. Some women—especially those engaged with the research communities on women and/or gender in international studies—have found high-quality outlets in journals such as the International Feminist Journal of Politics, Politics and Gender, and the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy. However, women whose work does not focus on those research communities are unlikely to benefit from the existence of these journals.
Mary N. Hampton and Kathleen A. Mahoney-Norris
One aspect of women’s professional experience in the field of international studies is that of teaching. Women’s experience in the gendered classroom has been shaped by three general factors: their identity, their interests, and the institutions in which they work. Major dimensions of identity can be grouped into: identity as reputation; identity as race and sex; and identity as role models and mentors. Meanwhile, women’s teaching is clearly affected by their scholarly interests, which impact on both the subjects they choose to teach and their pedagogical approaches. While it would not be surprising to find that women teachers tend to teach more about women and feminism, a major survey of International Relations (IR) faculty in the United States found other significant differences between women and men in the classroom, often linked to women’s differing research interests. Women’s teaching is also impacted by the institutional environment in which they work. Surveys and studies across the academic spectrum confirm the importance not only of gender equity at institutions, but also the presence of an institutional climate, or culture, that is friendly to women faculty. Major elements that affect the institutional environment include the number of faculty women (including senior women); the type of institution (its focus on research or teaching); and the ability to offer feminist and gender courses, and related pedagogies.