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The Gender Gap in Peace Science


What we know, what we know we do not know, and what we can do to know more.

It is widely acknowledged that disparities in representation, participation, and recognition between genders permeate various aspects of social scientists' work in academia and manifest throughout different stages of academic careers. Political Science, as a discipline, is no exception, serving as a clear example where these inequalities are apparent. Recent analyses, such as the one featured in a post on the ECPR’s Political Science Blog 'The Loop' by Bosco and Verney, underscore a distinct numerical dominance of male authors in political science journals, with male authors outnumbering their female counterparts by an astonishing ratio of approximately two to one.

Bosco and Verney attribute these observed disparities to a 'confidence gap', but this appears unfounded. Considering existing evidence that female undergraduate students tend to be more confident in their grades and studying capabilities than male undergraduate students, it becomes challenging to assert that female political scientists belong to a demographic systematically exhibiting lower confidence levels in their academic performance. Furthermore, the 'confidence gap' argument holds dangerous political implications, as noted by Sierp, who highlights that assigning blame to women for purportedly lacking confidence and choosing supposedly incorrect career strategies places undue responsibility for gender disparities in academia on women alone, neglecting the institutionalized structures that contribute to these imbalances.

Moving beyond wobbly explanations, empirical evidence points to more systemic gender discrimination within the field. Women scholars persistently face underrepresentation in tenured and tenure-track positions within political science departments. Barriers to professional advancement abound for women scholars in political science, encompassing implicit biases in hiring and promotion processes, unequal access to research funding and resources, and the intricate challenge of balancing career aspirations with caregiving responsibilities. Gender disparities also manifest in educational settings, where women faculty members encounter biases and obstacles in fulfilling teaching and mentorship roles.

Notably, within Political Science, research on gender gaps in Peace and Conflict Science remains scarce. We know it is bad, but we just do not know how bad it is. There also remains a need, both subject-specific and broad, to explore the intersectionality of gender with other social identities such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class. Understanding how these intersecting factors shape professional experiences and outcomes is crucial for developing inclusive strategies to address disparities and for gaining a better understanding of the type of science we have produced so far. We also lack information on how disparities in representation and recognition early in one's academic career impact trajectories and outcomes over time. This knowledge is essential for comprehensively addressing systemic inequalities.

What we can do to know more? The new Editorial Team of Conflict Management (CMPS) and Peace Science takes the race, ethnicity, and gender gaps in Peace and Conflict Science seriously. We started a project to explicitly monitor gender representation among authors and reviewers in CMPS and are currently gathering data hoping to be able to track past and present trends and disseminate the findings from this summer. In the meantime, we also made an attempt to compile a list of female scholars in Peace and Conflict Science ‘bottom-up’ through twitter and have hand-coded geographical data from the reported institutional affiliations. While this data has, of course, clear shortcomings in terms of representativeness and selection, we hope that it nonetheless allows us to provide some initial findings and to initiate a wider collective effort and conversation.

In a first step, we have used this data to investigate where women working on peace and conflict using empirical methods are based. The size of the points in the map below indicates the number of individuals in a given geographical location, while the colour represents the share of faculty female scholars among total female scholars there. The resulting map is quite depressing. From this first iteration, it appears that the highest concentrations of women scholars in peace science is in Northern Europe and the American East Coast. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there are clusters in southern Sweden and southern Australia. The map also indicates that the percentage of faculty over total female scholars is overall surprisingly high, but again we cannot be very confident in this initial data.

For our confidence into these data to improve, and to accordingly learn more about the representation of women in peace and conflict science, we need more and better data, not only on the women in the discipline, but also on their male colleagues. We are thus also initiating a re-newed bottom-up data collection effort, asking people of all genders working in peace and conflict science to use this link to report their gender, career stage, affiliation, and the geographic coordinates of our universities. And because ultimately, we also hope to learn more about intersectionality in peace and conflict science, we ask you to self-report your ethnicity. We thus want to conclude with two requests:

If you are a Peace and Conflict Scientist at any stage of your academic career, please fill out the short questionnaire and share this blog post within your network, asking them to also take part in the survey.