Policy Forum on the Gender Gap in Political Science43 min read

Mind The GapPolitical scientists have grown increasingly worried about the gender gap in their profession. According to data provided by the American Political Science Association, while women make up 42 percent of graduate students in the field, they account for only 24 percent of full time professors. While there are far more women in the discipline than even a decade before, most are assistant professors; only 23 percent of associate and full professors are women.[1] Women in academic careers are less likely to get tenure (especially if they have children), and take longer to get promoted than their male colleagues.

H-Diplo | ISSF Forum, No. 17 (2017)

A production of H-Diplo with the journals Security Studies, International Security, Journal of Strategic Studies, and the International Studies Association’s Security Studies Section (ISSS).

Editors:  Stacie Goddard and Diane Labrosse
H-Diplo/ISSF Web and Production Editor:  George Fujii
Introduction by Stacie Goddard

H-Diplo/ISSF Policy Forum on the Gender Gap in Political Science

Published by H-Diplo/ISSF on 22 September 2017

Permalink:  https://issforum.org/forums/gender-gap
Shortlink:  http://tiny.cc/ISSF-Forum-17
PDF URL:  https://issforum.org/ISSF/PDF/ISSF-Forum-17.pdf


© Copyright 2017 The Authors

Introduction by Stacie Goddard, Wellesley College

Political scientists have grown increasingly worried about the gender gap in their profession. According to data provided by the American Political Science Association, while women make up 42 percent of graduate students in the field, they account for only 24 percent of full time professors. While there are far more women in the discipline than even a decade before, most are assistant professors; only 23 percent of associate and full professors are women.[1] Women in academic careers are less likely to get tenure (especially if they have children), and take longer to get promoted than their male colleagues.

While these numbers have improved in the last decade, scholars remain concerned that structural obstacles will continue to undercut female academics at every stage of their careers. In 2013, the Monkey Cage published a symposium of pieces examining the gender gap in political science. Contributors pointed to disparities in teaching evaluations, in citation patterns, and in scholarly recognition of published work.[2] Another study found that 82 percent of all reading assigned in international relations seminars is authored by men or all-male teams, suggesting that women’s published work will remain less visible than their male colleagues.[3]

In 2017, Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen provided more evidence and insight into the persistent gender gap.[4] Collecting data from ten leading journals in the field of political science, they found that these journals publish a lower proportion of articles written by women than there are women in the discipline as a whole. From 2000 to 2015, the percentage of articles authored by women, as solo or co-authors, ranged from about 18 to about 34 percent. Yet within the 20 largest political science Ph.D. programs in the United States, women make up 39 percent of assistant professors and 27 percent of tenure track faculty. Teele and Thelen offer two possible explanations for this under-representation. First, women co-author less than men: women working alone account for 17.1 percent of publications, and all-female teams take a mere 2.4 percent of all journal articles. Second, women are more likely to engage in qualitative research, and thus may be unable or unlikely to publish their work in journals that favors quantitative approaches.

Is there a similar gender gap in security studies journals? What reasons might drive the gap, and what can editors do to address it? On the one hand, there is reason to believe that women face greater obstacles in security studies than they might in the broader discipline. Security studies is often seen as a male-dominated field. Women make up about 36 percent of the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association. To compare, women make up about 50 percent of scholars in sections on international organization and international law. At the same time, some of the field’s leading journals publish significant amounts of qualitative research, suggesting that women in security studies might be better positioned than other fields to place their work in prominent outlets.

In this symposium, we asked editors of leading security studies journals to respond to Teele and Thelen’s findings. Deborah Avant, editor of the new International Studies Association (ISA) journal, Journal of Global Security Studies, sees reason for optimism. She notes that, since its inception, 39 percent of the articles published in the journal were authored by women, and that female co-authored teams are more prevalent than Teele and Thelen suggest. Michael Desch and William Wohlforth, co-chairs of the Editorial Board of Security Studies, offer important data about the representation of women on the journal’s editorial team and board. They note that in the journal’s first dozen years, “the number of women on the journal’s editorial team and board… was zero. That’s not eyebrow-raising. That is jaw-dropping.” Today women account for about 40 percent of the editorial team, and 30 percent of the editorial board. Sean Lynn-Jones, editor of International Security, notes that “since 2006, 23 percent of all authors published in International Security have been women…This percentage is comparable to, although slightly lower than, the percentage of female authors that Teele and Thelen report for other journals of international relations.” He also provides new evidence about submission and acceptance rates for women at the journal.

At H-Diplo/ISSF, we also used Teele and Thelen’s article as motivation for internal examination. Our goal is to call attention to significant, cutting edge work in the field of historically-oriented security studies. We hope, in particular, to raise the visibility of authors who are not always represented in the field, including work by female authors. Since our inception, we have published 83 reviews, 67 of which were of single-authored articles. Of those, 52 of the reviewed articles—77%–were authored by men, while 15—22%–were authored by women. Our reviews are thus consistent with the publication rates in the journals we most often look to for our review articles, but it is not in sync with the percentage of women in international security. We have taken up discussions on how to improve these numbers as an editorial team.

Overall, there is no longer any dispute that women are under-represented in journals. Time is unlikely to remedy the gap on its own, but the editors’ thoughtful contributions to this symposium shine some light on potential pathways forward.



Stacie Goddard is the Jane Bishop ’51 Associate Professor of Political Science at Wellesley College. Her research explores issues of identity, legitimacy, and conflict in international relations. She has been a fellow at the John M. Olin Institute of Strategic Studies at Harvard University, the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University, and a Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellow with the American Council on Learned Societies. Her articles have appeared in outlets such as International Organization, International Security, International Studies Quarterly, International Theory, and Security Studies. Her book, Indivisible Territory and the Politics of Legitimacy: Jerusalem and Northern Ireland, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010. Her new book, on legitimacy and rising powers, is forthcoming with Cornell University Press.

Deborah Avant is the Sié Chéou-Kang Chair for International Security and Diplomacy and Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. She is author/editor of The New Power Politics: Networks and Transnational Security Governance with Oliver Westerwinter (Oxford University Press, 2016); Who Governs the Globe? with Martha Finnemore and Susan Sell (Cambridge University Press, 2010); The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security (Cambridge University Press, 2005); and Political Institutions and Military Change: Lessons From Peripheral Wars (Cornell University Press, 1994), along with articles in such journals as International Organization, International Studies Quarterly, Security Studies, Perspectives on Politics, and Foreign Policy. Her research (funded by the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Smith Richardson Foundation, and the Carnegie Corporation, among others) has focused on the politics of controlling violence at local, national, and global levels. In 2013 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from University of St. Gallen for her research and contribution toward regulating private military and security companies and she is editor-in-chief of the International Studies Association’s newest journal: the Journal of Global Security Studies.

Michael C. Desch is professor of political science and founding director of the Notre Dame International Security Center. He is author Cult of the Irrelevant: Political Science and the Relevance Question in American Foreign Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming 2018); Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2012) [with Kenneth Michael Absher, Roman Popadiuk, and the 2006 Bush School Capstone Team]; Power and Military Effectiveness: The Fallacy of Democratic Triumphalism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008); Civilian Control of the Military: The Changing Security Environment (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999); and When the Third World Matters: Latin America and U.S. Grand Strategy (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993).

Sean M. Lynn-Jones is editor of International Security and a research associate at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He is also series editor of the Belfer Center Studies in International Security, a book series published by the MIT Press. He has served on the Editorial Board of Security Studies and the governing boards of the International Security and Arms Control Section of the American Political Science Association and the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association. His articles have appeared in Foreign Policy, International Security, and Security Studies, as well as in many edited volumes. He has edited or co-edited many anthologies of International Security articles, including Do Democracies Win Their Wars? (2011); Contending with Terrorism: Roots, Strategies, and Responses (2010); Going Nuclear: Nuclear Proliferation and International Security in the 21st Century (2010); Primacy and Its Discontents: American Power and International Stability (2009); Offense, Defense, and War (2004); Theories of War and Peace (1998); America’s Strategic Choices (1997); Nationalism and Ethnic Conflict (1997); East Asian Security (1996); Debating the Democratic Peace (1996); The Perils of Anarchy: Contemporary Realism and International Security (1995); Global Dangers: Changing Dimensions of International Security (1995); The Cold War and After (1991; expanded edition 1993); and Military Strategy and the Origins of the First World War (1991).

William C. Wohlforth is the Daniel Webster Professor at Dartmouth College, where he teaches in Department of Government. He is the coeditor, with Alexandra Gheciu, of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of International Security (March 2018). His most recent publications are “An Abiding Antagonism: realism, idealism, and the mirage of US-Russian partnership in the end of the Cold War” (with Vladislav Zubok), International Politics; “Is US Grand Strategy Self Defeating? Deep Engagement, Military Spending and Sovereign Debt,” with Carla Norrlof, Conflict Management and Peace Science; and America Abroad: The United States’ Global Role in the 21st Century, with Stephen Brooks.

Essay by Deborah Avant, University of Denver

The research by Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen in their article, “Gender in the Journals,” is depressingly familiar.[5] Recent studies have shown that women are not well represented in the International Relations (IR) field, in top IR journals, or in citation analyses.[6] And these recent studies only ratify the long-held belief that women are under-represented in the IR field – a belief often assumed to be even more the case in the field of security studies. So I dug into the Journal of Global Security Studies (JoGSS) statistics expecting to see a similar trend.

But I found a pleasant surprise. As of December 2016, women were corresponding authors[7] on 39% of the articles JoGSS accepted. A closer count[8] shows even greater female representation: 44% of accepted articles have at least one author who is a woman. That is on par with the percentage of women members of ISA (~42%) and greater than the percentage of women members of ISA’s International Security Studies Section (~35%), the section that proposed the creation of the journal. Interestingly, the percentage of accepted articles with at least one female author in JoGSS is greater than the percentage (32%) of submitted articles. Among papers considered by JoGSS, having a woman as author or co-author is associated with a higher acceptance rate.

JoGSS also shows a different pattern of co-authorship than Teele and Thelen find. As of the April 2017 issue, seven of eight articles that had more than one author have at least one female author. Though submitted manuscripts show a bias toward all-male teams (59.5% of all co-authored submitted manuscripts have only male authors, 14% have only women, and 26.5% are mixed) mixed teams have a markedly better acceptance rate than a manuscript with all-male authors.

A variety of issues may account for the difference. First is the newness of the journal. That may mean it is less competitive. There is no doubt that JoGSS receives fewer submissions than some established security journals, but its acceptance rate is a respectable 20%. Newness also means, though, that the editorial team and editorial board do more to promote the journal. We frequently post in social media forums and ungate articles. And our first issue was a special issue on the Future of Global Security Studies, curated by the editorial team and parts of the editorial board.[9] We are now in the process of curating another special issue (on Exclusion and Inclusion in Global Security Studies). Though we do not explicitly target women in these activities, both special-issue “calls for proposals” have generated strong responses from women (for example, half of the proposals we selected for paper development for the Exclusion/Inclusion special issue had female authors).

Second, the editorial team has been acutely sensitive to the gender issue and we have taken steps to address it since the journal’s inception. For instance, our editorial team and editorial board are purposely gender balanced. This may communicate an openness that encourages submissions from women. And we remain concerned about representation more broadly. Partly because our 2015 annual report only had one issue in preparation (the special issue on the Future of Global Security Studies), the percentage of women that authored original submissions (34%) and accepted manuscripts (67%) was very high.[10] That dropped in 2016 as we moved into more “normal” operations; 22% submissions were authored by women, and 34% of accepted manuscripts had a woman as a lead author. How to encourage more women (as well as more authors, men and women, from the global south) to submit was among the first items we discussed at our 2017 editorial board meeting.

Third, the journal’s mission may also encourage greater gender parity. The JoGSS mandate to boost conversation among diverse parts of the security field is a recognition that different definitions of security, different theoretical perspectives, and different methodologies all have a valid place in the field. We communicate our mission on our website and in the letters that go to reviewers. I have anecdotal evidence that the varied conceptions of security have been key to encouraging women to submit their work to JoGSS. In encouraging submissions, I often find people’s view of the security field to be very narrow, and I have had women ask me if I really think what I am suggesting they submit—on civil war, cyber security, human security, or ethics—fits in a security studies journal. JoGSS’s openness to different methodologies may also be important. Teen and Thelen claim that the bias toward quantitative methods in many top journals may dissuade women from publishing in them. JoGSS’s explicit openness to publishing articles based on a range of different methods should ease this bias.

One thing worth noting is that these features of our mission—an openness to substance, theory, and method— require that editors take a more significant role in copyediting than is the case at other journals. This is because different traditions reveal implicit assumptions, impenetrable jargon, or route styles. And our field as a whole pays little attention to writing as a communication vehicle. Getting people to read across traditions entails clear writing, and we encourage that with our copyediting. The benefit is clearer and stronger arguments for all, but we more often get thanks for this effort from women authors.

Our efforts to create an open atmosphere, welcoming to many voices even as we hold (sometimes different) standards high, thus far appear to have been successful. Interestingly, we have been more successful in encouraging gender than other types of diversity. This may reflect the structure of the political science field that Teen and Thelen point out, where women are now present in large numbers but other less represented groups still lag behind.


Essay by Michael C. Desch, University of Notre Dame, and William C. Wohlforth, Dartmouth College,[11] Co-chairs of the Security Studies Editorial Board

Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen raise challenging and important questions about the gender gap in publications in top political science journals. [12] At Security Studies we are grateful for the opportunity to reflect on our own history in representing women in the pages of our journal. Teele and Thelen are right—women have been underrepresented—but there is some cause for optimism. From its entirely male dominated founding nearly 30 years ago, the journal has made great strides, though there remains more to do, and we encourage ISSF readers with ideas on this issue to communicate with us or members of the editorial board and team.

Figure 1 presents the basic story: the percentage of articles which women author or co-author is rising but remains low—despite a number of changes at the journal that were designed in part to try to break down possible barriers (see below). From a very low starting point, articles authored by women increased to an average of 20% in the post-2000 period that Teele and Thelen examine.

How should we assess that number? It looks very bad if we compare it to the percentage of women in the International Studies Association’s Security Studies section. There are currently 1,631 members of it, of which 585 identify as female. This would suggest that there is a 16% gap (36%-20%) between the subfield and our journal. [13] If we use the percentage of women in the American Political Science Association’s International Security and Arms Control section, the gap closes somewhat. Of the 431 members, 131 are women leaving a 10 percentage gap (30% minus 20%). But if we use the 2014 Teaching, Research, and International Policy (TRIP) survey results of nearly 5,000 global IR scholars as our comparison, the gap closes substantially. In it, women constituted 24% of IR scholars reporting International/global security as their primary research focus. This closes the gap with articles in Security Studies to 4 percent (24% minus 20%). Based on this last standard, one could be cautiously optimistic that the journal’s trajectory is headed in the right direction, and, if it continues, the journal is on track for representation of scholarship produced by women in the journal to match a reasonable estimate of the proportion of practicing scholars who are women and who study what the journal specifies as its core remit: “the causes and consequences of war or the sources and conditions of peace.”[14]

Still the bottom line remains that the journal’s content is male dominated, which is not an ideal state of affairs. We lack the finely grained data we would need to tease out precisely what explains the proportion of articles authored by women and thus precisely what feasible measures could be taken to allow us to know for sure that we have done everything to ensure a level and unbiased playing field. What we have done over the years is taken measures aimed at broadening and diversifying the journal’s content and signaling its openness to work of all kinds while attempting to maintain its distinct place in the field of international security. These measures may well help account for the increased proportion of research conducted by women in the journal’s pages, though, as noted, we cannot be sure.

To get a sense of how we have changed, it is best to start at the beginning and put Security Studies’ current publication gender demographics in the historical context of the journal and the subfield of security studies. The journal was founded in 1991 by Benjamin Frankel, an ABD from the University of Chicago, and Amos Perlmutter, an American University political scientist. Despite the end of the Cold War and the dominating position of the sub-field’s leading journal – Harvard’s International Security (IS) – Perlmutter and Frankel were convinced that there remained room for another upstart security journal between IS and The Journal of Strategic Studies, the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Survival, and the Foreign Policy Research Institute’s Orbis. One basis for optimism was their conviction that the 1980s “renaissance of security studies” had increased demand for yet another academic journal on the topic.[15]

The particular niche that Perlmutter and Frankel envisioned Security Studies filling was as a venue for security scholars to offer an interdisciplinary and methodologically plural approach to the study of core issues in the subfield.[16] They aimed to provide space for longer articles that employed history and case studies. Given that such qualitative approaches tended to predominate in the subfield yet were increasingly marginalized in the discipline of political science, Security Studies hoped to maintain a plural subfield of security studies by serving as a dedicated outlet for qualitative articles. And while this was not a formal part of the journal’s original mandate, Security Studies also increasingly assembled a stable of younger scholars and became a vehicle to advance the academic careers of this post-Cold War security cohort. With the publication of influential special issues on realism that contained seminal articles developing and refining that approach, many scholars looked to the journal for some of the freshest and most rigorous new thinking in the realist tradition.[17]

Security Studies is thus a journal devoted to the classical conception of security as concerning the threat or use of military force with an apparent interest in developing and debating realist theory. Even without precise data, it is hardly a stretch to suggest that there was not a large pool of women working in that area in the 1990s. But those who were paying attention might have noticed something else about the journal during its first dozen years: the number of women on the journal’s editorial team and board, which was zero (Figures 2 and 3). That is not eyebrow-raising. It is jaw-dropping.

Needless to say, the editors noticed and responded to this, and changes at the journal in the early-mid 2000s—often undertaken to address other pressing issues—occurred in an atmosphere of concern about underrepresentation of women. With the journal increasingly behind schedule, editorial board co-chairs John Mearsheimer and Robert Art appointed Susan Peterson of the College of William and Mary first as Executive Editor in 2003 and then as Editor-in-Chief in the winter of 2005. As she put the journal’s operations on a sounder footing, she also worked with them to revivify the board and editorial team, and the percentage of women on both bodies rose dramatically from that point on. Art recalls that “we were very conscious …that we needed to do something about the gender issue on the journal. We were consciously looking for female associate editors and editorial board members and submissions from women.”[18]

It was also on Peterson’s watch that a special issue on “Feminism and Security Studies” was commissioned.[19] The contribution of that issue to the increasing representation of women in the journal was significant.

Finally, under current editor Randall Schweller the journal has formalized the previously ad hoc process of ensuring turnover on the board, fully implementing term-limits on board members, many of whom had served since 1991, in order to make room for new scholars to “broaden the base of scholars with a stake in [the journal’s] continued success.”[20] This move will surely further increase the representation of women on the masthead. If the impression conveyed by Figures 2 and 3 that the presence of women as authors did not increase until after the board and team became much more diverse is correct, then this move promises to help further reduce the gender gap in the journal’s pages.

The growth in the presence of women authors in our pages and on the masthead of the journal thus occurred in the process of addressing other problems, but with the gender gap as a pressing background concern. The editorial statements in the post-2005 years also point to a subtler but potentially significant change: to seek to broaden and diversify the journal’s content without losing its distinctive place in the field. [21] Editors wanted to signal potential authors that, indeed, they did not want to broaden the definition of “security” to the point that it lost its connection to the threat or use of military force, but they meant it when they said that they were firmly committed to defining international security “broadly.” They pointed to articles already published or forthcoming to make the point that while the journal remained “mostly in the causal arguments business,” as John Owen put it, “we are interested in interpretive and critical work that speaks to our substantive concerns.” States, statecraft, foreign policy and power would remain, but so would “civil conflict, democratization, peacekeeping, terrorism, and other less traditional security questions. The journal will continue to focus on all of these issues and more,” Owen affirmed.[22]

This was not aimed solely at the gender-gap issue but was part of a broader effort to reach new authors, younger researchers, and a more global pool of readers and contributors. Yet it may have played a positive role in narrowing the gender gap, given survey findings that “indicate that women research and teach different topics and in noticeably different ways than do their male counterparts. Women are more likely to study transnational actors, international organizations, and nongovernmental organizations, while men are more likely to study U.S. foreign policy and international security.” That 2008 study by researchers in the TRIP project goes on to stress that “women’s research and teaching tend to focus more heavily on topics and regions outside the mainstream of the field and use nontraditional theoretical tools.” [23]

A more gender-balanced editorial board and team and explicit efforts to reach for research outside the traditional mainstream occurred against the backdrop of longstanding policies that were arguably conducive to gender diversity in the journal. One such outcome is that as its commitment to promoting methodological diversity in political science and international relations became increasingly manifest as Security Studies specialized in qualitative and historical case study approaches, it had the unintended consequence of attracting work from women, whom Teele and Thelen show are more inclined toward those approaches.[24] The other is that Security Studies increasingly found its niche serving younger scholars, and the presence of women is much greater within the graduate student and assistant professor ranks, which may also help explain Security Studies’ progress.

If in the years to come, our upward trend continues and the percentage of female authors comes closer to the percentage of women in the subfield of security studies, we will be satisfied that we have been successful in making Security Studies more reflective of the subfield as a whole. Of course, our editorial team and board will continue to debate how quickly we can reasonably expect to achieve that goal, how to benchmark progress, and what additional steps we need to take to do so. While some of the action has to happen upstream in the training and mentoring of students, no journal should rest on whatever laurels it can find in its own practices and outcomes.

For its part, Security Studies is unlikely to do so. For example, at our most recent meeting we had a probing discussion of whether we ought to adopt a triple-blind review process in which submissions are anonymized not only for the reviewers but also the editorial team so as to further minimize opportunities for gender bias, conscious or otherwise. The proposal was, and remains, the subject of sharp debate as to whether adopting it would further improve the gender balance (the view of proponents) or hinder it (the fear of skeptics). However we resolve this debate, our journal is committed to becoming even more representative of the subfield. We have come some way, particularly given where we started out, but we are committed to continuing to make progress on this and many other priorities for the journal in the years to come.


Essay by Sean M. Lynn-Jones, Harvard University

Closing the Journals Gender Gap: One Editor’s Perspective on Women Authors and Political Science Articles[25]

The discipline of political science owes a great debt to Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen for their painstaking collection and analysis of data on how often women authors are published in prominent political science journals.[26] The data that they present in “Gender in the Journals” makes it possible to go beyond anecdotes and impressions and to have an informed discussion about what is generally recognized as an important issue: whether women are able to publish their articles in a way that enables them to advance in the academic profession. Teele and Thelen show that women are published less frequently than one might expect in some of the leading political science journals. Their article should stimulate further research on the extent to which women appear in political science journals and on why articles by female authors are not published more frequently. Such research is essential, because it could help journal editors—and others—to take steps to increase the representation of women in scholarly journals.

I am grateful to the organizers of this ISSF discussion for inviting me to comment on the Teele and Thelen article. I also appreciate this opportunity to share some data on article manuscripts by women that are submitted to and published in International Security, and to discuss how International Security hopes to encourage more women to submit their manuscripts to the journal.

Teele & Thelen, “Gender in the Journals”: Findings. Implications, and Further Research

Teele and Thelen’s central finding is that women are underrepresented in ten leading journals of political science.[27] The percentage of women authors published in such journals from 2000 to 2015 ranges from 18.02% to 33.74%. Only in four journals did the share of women authors exceed 30%; it was below 25% in the other six.[28] These percentages generally fall short of benchmarks that measure the current proportion of women in the discipline: percentage of new PhDs (40%); percentage of members of the American Political Science Association (APSA) (31%); and the percentage of tenure-ladder faculty in the twenty largest Ph.D.-granting departments (27%). In addition, at almost every academic rank—from undergraduate student to full professor—the overall percentage of women authors in the ten journals is lower than the percentage of women among all APSA members at that professional rank.[29]

Teele and Thelen also find that women are less likely to co-author articles than their male colleagues. Although co-authored articles are generally becoming more common in the journals considered by Teele and Thelen, women are less likely to publish co-authored articles, and are particularly unlikely to co-author articles with other women. Of the articles analyzed by Teele and Thelen, 41.1% were by one male author, 24% were by two or more men, 17.1% were by a sole female author, 15.4% were by a combination of male and female authors, and only 2.4% were co-authored by two or more women.[30] This empirical finding is interesting in its own right. Teele and Thelen also suggest that the relatively low rate of female co-authorship may help to explain why women are underrepresented in leading political science journals.

Empirical Extensions and Further Investigations

The data presented by Teele and Thelen provide the basis for a strong case that women authors are underrepresented in the leading journals of political science. The article’s great strength is empirical: the authors’ dataset is extensive and was assembled with considerable care. Teele and Thelen’s findings are relevant for the discipline as a whole, but the authors point out that journal editors play a particularly important role as “gatekeepers.”[31]

As a journal editor who is concerned about the gender gap in academic publishing, I want to know more about how and why women are underrepresented in political science journals. How severe is the overall problem? Where is it most severe? Is it getting better or getting worse? What solutions seem to be effective? Which of those solutions can be undertaken by journals and which require broader actions by the political science discipline, academic publishing, or American higher education more generally? Teele and Thelen begin to answer many of these questions. Their data and further research could provide useful additional information.

In particular, I would like to see how the percentage of women authors in each journal has changed over time. The data collected by Teele and Thelen could be used to show the percentage of women authors published annually in each journal, as opposed to the overall percentage for all issues of each journal from 2000 to 2015. It also would be interesting to see how the percentage of women authors in each journal in each year compares to the benchmarks for that year.[32] The annual percentage for each journal and annual comparisons with the benchmarks would show if there have been general trends and whether some journals have been more successful in increasing their percentage of women authors. When journals appoint new editors or adopt new editorial policies do we see changes in the overall percentage of women authors or the percentage relative to the benchmarks?

It would be helpful to see how the overall percentage of women authors in all ten journals from 2000 to 2015 compares to the benchmarks identified by Teele and Thelen. “Gender in the Journals” provides percentages for each journal, but not for all the articles and authors in the dataset. The data in the article thus reveal that some journals publish women at a rate that approaches or exceeds the benchmarks, while other journals fall far short. The overall percentage, which might be approximately 25%, would tell us more about the combined record of the leading journals. Annual percentages, in particular, would be a useful measure of the discipline’s progress toward greater representation of women authors.

I also would like to know if women are underrepresented only in the most prominent political science journals or if they are published relatively infrequently even in less prestigious journals. Is the “journal gender gap” concentrated in the most important journals or is it ubiquitous? To find out, additional studies should look at the percentage of women authors in a larger sample of political science journals. Teele and Thelen, with some justification, focus on ten of the leading journals in the discipline, but there are many other journals in which political scientists publish. Assembling the requisite data would be a daunting task. Any researcher tackling this question also would have to decide which journals to include. The research might, however, reveal whether the gender gap could be reduced by changing the policies and practices of a relatively small number of journals or if a discipline-wide solution is necessary.

Further research might include other benchmarks, including less U.S-centric benchmarks. Teele and Thelen rely on three benchmarks that are based on the affiliation of women with U.S. institutions—U.S. universities and the APSA. Many leading journals, however, draw on a global pool of authors who may not, for example, be APSA members.

Explaining the “Journal Gender Gap”

The information assembled and presented by Teele and Thelen stimulates the key question: Why are women underrepresented in prominent political science journals? As a journal editor, I am interested in the answer to this question, because it might help editors to take steps to increase the representation of women in their journals’ pages.

Teele and Thelen offer two plausible explanations of the journals gender gap. First, as mentioned, women do not co-author articles as often as men, which means that they are not fully taking advantage of the growing trend toward publishing collaborative research.[33] Second, women are less likely to engage in the sort of quantitative, formal, or experimental research that is favored by many leading journals in political science. They tend to conduct qualitative research, which is rarely published in leading journals.

There are other potential explanations for why women are underrepresented in leading political science journals. These explanations should be investigated to provide a more complete understanding of why women are not published more often—and what should be done about it.

The most basic potential explanation for why women are underrepresented in leading journals is that women write and submit fewer article manuscripts.[34] Studies of women in political science and other disciplines tend to support this conclusion.[35] Do women in political science produce fewer article manuscripts? If so, why? There are many possible explanations. Women may not have access to the resources, including funding, that facilitate research and writing. Women may have less time for research and writing as a result of child-rearing and other family responsibilities, teaching, or service on committees. If women conduct predominately qualitative research, they may be more likely to write books and a relatively small number of articles, instead of the numerous articles that tend to be associated with formal or quantitative methods.[36] Sometimes extensive qualitative research can only be presented at a length that exceeds the page or word limits at many journals.[37] It is also possible that women write and publish fewer articles than men because they opt for quality over quantity. Teele and Thelen indicate that they plan to explore the issue of differential rates of submission by women.[38]

Some or all of the potential explanations for why women are underrepresented in leading journals may not stand up to empirical scrutiny. These explanations should be assessed, however, so that we can identify ways to increase the percentage of women authors. Some of the necessary solutions may involve steps that journal editors and editorial boards could take. If women believe that they are excluded from leading journals because those journals rarely, if ever, publish articles that use qualitative methods, solutions might include a discipline-wide effort to encourage awareness of the rigor and importance of qualitative research—or a change in editorial philosophy at those journals. In other cases, journal editors might not be able to make much of a difference. If women are published less frequently because they women do not co-author enough manuscripts, there are many potential solutions that may not involve a change in journals’ editorial philosophies. Senior professors could make a greater effort to engage women, including faculty colleagues and students, in collaborative research. Dissertation advisers and other mentors could make a greater effort to co-author articles with their female students. Women scholars at all levels could develop robust professional networks and collaborate more often with one another, possibly by organizing research groups and publication workshops for female scholars. If, as some recent research suggests, women do not receive adequate credit when they co-author articles with men, there is all the more reason for them to collaborate much more frequently with other women.[39]

Women Authors in International Security

Since 2006, 23% of all authors published in International Security have been women.[40] This percentage is comparable to, although slightly lower than, the percentage of female authors that Teele and Thelen report for other journals of international relations: World Politics, the Journal of Conflict Resolution, and International Organization. Over time, the percentage of women authors in International Security has grown from the low single digits in the years immediately after the journal was founded in 1976 to the current level. It has essentially leveled off in the past decade, although there have been year-to-year fluctuations.

Teele and Thelen’s finding that women rarely co-author articles is consistent with the pattern found in International Security. Since 2006, 52.2% of the journal’s articles have been by a single male author, 15.8% by a single female author, 21.9% by male co-authors, 8.3% by mixed male and female co-authors, and 1.8% by female co-authors. (As noted above, the corresponding percentages reported by Teele and Thelen are 41.1%, 17.1%, 24%, 15.4%, and 2.4%.)

Women submit articles to International Security at a relatively low rate, but women tend to be accepted at a slightly higher rate than men. Since 2006, about 18% of all submitting authors have been women, whereas 23% of published authors are women.

The most obvious explanation for why more women do not submit more manuscripts to International Security is that women traditionally have been underrepresented in the international security studies field. In addition, it is possible that the growing number of submissions from outside the United States has kept the percentage of male authors high, even as more women enter the field of international security studies in the United States. Women may be underrepresented in international security studies in countries such as China, India, and Pakistan. Authors from those countries have been sending more submissions to International Security in recent years.

International Security and Female Authors: Procedures, Policies, and Incentives

At International Security, we track the number of women who are published in the journal and review that information at editorial meetings. Although manuscripts from women authors are accepted at a higher rate than male-authored submissions, we do not have any targets or explicit preferences for women authors. We are always interested, however, in publishing younger, emerging scholars, who are increasingly likely to be women as the field of international security studies becomes less male-dominated.

My colleagues and I strongly encourage women to submit manuscripts to International Security. I have met with and spoken to multiple groups of younger scholars and women in international security studies to de-mystify the editorial process and encourage submissions. The journal has a particular interest in qualitative research, which Teele and Thelen associate with female scholars, although we are willing to consider manuscripts that use other research methods. Unlike many journals, International Security will consider and publish longer manuscripts of approximately 20,000 words. We recognize that some qualitative research can be presented effectively only in a longer article. The journal offers authors exceptional editorial assistance, including guidance on major revisions and careful copyediting by a professional in-house editor with decades of experience at the journal.

The journal’s staff always works very hard to make sure that International Security articles by women are circulated and publicized widely. Recent research has found that in the field of international relations, articles by women are cited less often than articles by men.[41] International Security authors do not need to make extraordinary efforts to promote their articles. In addition to circulating articles widely and to targeted audiences, International Security will ungate articles, promote articles on social media, and work with authors to produce shorter forms of the journal’s articles that can be published in newspapers or as Policy Briefs by Harvard’s Belfer Center, the journal’s editorial home. We also publicize awards received by International Security articles. We are particularly proud that in recent years two women have received awards for their articles in International Security: Keren Yarhi-Milo’s summer 2013 article won the Outstanding Article Award given by the APSA’s International History and Politics Section; and Aisha Ahmad’s winter 2014/15 article was the inaugural winner of the Best Security Article Award from the International Security Studies Section of the International Studies Association.[42]

My colleagues and I will continue to explore ways to encourage more women to submit their article manuscripts to International Security. In the coming year, we will post more data on submissions and acceptance rates on the journal’s website. We are interested in further suggestions for “best practices” that would ensure that women give International Security the opportunity to consider their research.



[1] Mary Stegmaier, Barbara Palmer, Laura van Assendelft, “Getting on the Board: The Presence of Women in Political Science Journal Editorial Positions,” PS: Political Science and Politics 44:4 (October 2011): 799-804.

[2] Lisa Martin, “Student evaluations of teaching are probably biased. Does it matter?,” Washington Post, 2 October 2013; Barbara Walter, “How to reduce the gender gap in one (relatively) easy step,” Washington Post, 1 October 2013; Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers, and Barbara Walter, “The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations,” International Organization 67:4 (2013): 889-992; Brett Ashley Leeds, “Why is work by women systematically devalued?” Washington Post, 4 October 2013. Sara Mitchell, “Why it matters that more women present at conferences,” Washington Post, 2 October 2013.

[3] Jeff Colgan, “New Evidence on Gender Bias in IR Syllabi,” Duck of Minerva, 27 August 2015.

[4] Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen, “Gender in the Journals: Publication Patterns in Political Science,” PS: Political Science and Politics 50:2 (April 2017): 433-447.

[5] Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen, “Gender in the Journals: Publication Patterns in Political Science,” Political Science 50:2 (2017): 433-447.

[6] Shauna L. Shames and Camden Tess Wise, “Gender, Diversity, and Methods in Political Science: A Theory of Selection and Survival Biases. Political Science 50:3 (2017): 811-823; Marijke Breuning, Joseph Bredehoft, and Eugene Walton, “Promise and Performance: An Evaluation of Journals in International Relations.” International Studies Perspectives 6:4 (2005): 447-461; Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers, and Barbara F. Walter, “The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations.” International Organization 67:4 (2013): 889-922.

[7] This is how Oxford University Press (OUP) keeps track of gender statistics.

[8] Including all co-authorships with a female member.

[9] Special Issue: The Future of Global Security Studies. Journal of Global Security Studies 1:1 (2016).

[10] This is according to OUP data, which tracks as women authors only those manuscripts where a woman is the corresponding author.

[11] We thank Sophie Desch for compiling the demographic data on the journal and Susan Peterson, John Owen, and Randall Schweller for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

[12] Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen, “Gender in the Journals: Publication Patterns in Political Science,” PS: Political Science and Politics 50:2 (April 2017): 433-47.

[13] Data available at http://www.isanet.org/ISA/About-ISA/Data/Gender.

[14] Security Studies, “Aims and scope,” http://www.tandfonline.com/action/journalInformation?show=aimsScope&journalCode=fsst20.

[15] Stephen M. Walt, “The Renaissance of Security Studies,” International Studies Quarterly 35:2 (June 1991): 211-239.

[16] Amos Perlmutter and Benjamin Frankel, “Security Studies and Security Studies,” Security Studies 1:1 (Autumn 1991): iii.

[17] Benjamin Frankel, ed., “Roots of Realism,” and “Realism: Restatements and Renewal,” Security Studies 5:2-3 (Winter 1994/95 and Spring 1995).

[18] E-mail to authors, 8 July 2017.

[19] Laura Sjoberg, ed., “Security Studies: Feminist Contributions,” Security Studies 18:2 (March-April 2009): 183-369.

[20] Randall L. Schweller, “Statement from the New Editor-in-Chief,” Security Studies 24:1 (January-March 2015): 3.

[21] Michael C. Desch, “Statement from the New Editor-in-Chief,” Security Studies 15:4 (October-December 2006): 529-32; William C. Wohlforth, “Statement from the New Editor-in-Chief,” Security Studies 18:1 (January-March 2009): 1-3; John M. Owen, IV, “Statement from the New Editor-in-Chief,” Security Studies 21:1 (January-March 2012): 1-2; and Schweller, 1-4.

[22] John M. Owen, IV, “Statement from the New Editor-in-Chief,” Security Studies 21:1 (March 2012): 1-2.

[23] Daniel Maliniak, Amy Oakes, Susan Peterson, and Michael J. Tierney, “Women in International Relations,” Politics & Gender 4:1 (March 2008), 123.

[24] On this as an increasingly explicit part of Security Studies’ mission, see especially Owen, 2 and Schweller, 2. On the evidence that women incline toward qualitative methods and that this may in part explain their underrepresentation in leading political science journals, see Teele and Thelen, 439-442.

[25] The author thanks Wendy Leutert for comments on an earlier draft of this essay.

[26] Dawn Langan Teele and Kathleen Thelen, “Gender in the Journals: Publication Patterns in Political Science,” PS: Political Science & Politics 50:2 (April 2017): 433-447.

[27] The selected journals (and the percentages of women authors) were the American Journal of Political Science (18.02%), the American Political Science Review (23.43%), Comparative Political Studies (32.17%), Comparative Politics (31.46%), International Organization (23.64%), Journal of Conflict Resolution (23.60%), the Journal of Politics (22.91%), Perspectives on Politics (33.55%), Political Theory (33.74%), and World Politics (24.41%).

[28] Teele and Thelen point out that the percentage of women is particularly low in three of the “generalist” journals that are sponsored by professional associations: American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, and Journal of Politics. “Gender in the Journals,” 442.

[29] Interestingly, the one exception is for postdocs. About 35% of postdocs are women, and about 35% of the articles published by postdocs are by women. See Teele and Thelen, “Gender in the Journals,” 437, figure 4. Teele and Thelen do not comment on this finding or potential explanations. Are women who receive postdoctoral fellowships exceptionally talented and productive scholars? Do postdoctoral fellows publish more often because they have more time for research and writing? Are postdocs exceptionally motivated to publish because they are on the job market and hope to obtain tenure-track positions? Does the publication rate of postdocs bode well for the future of women in political science?

[30] Teele and Thelen, “Gender in the Journals,” 438.

[31] Teele and Thelen, “Gender in the Journals,” 443.

[32] Teele and Thelen do not provide benchmarks for each year from 2000 to 2015. Their article uses benchmarks that are based on the percentage of women in political science in 2014 or 2015. The percentage of APSA members comes from 2014. The percentage of women in ladder positions in the largest departments is as of 2015. The percentage of new Ph.D.s is drawn from National Science Foundation data “over the past decade,” but that percentage “has been steady” during that period. Teele and Thelen, “Gender in the Journals,” 435-436. The benchmarks for individual years from 2000 to 2015 might differ from the benchmarks for the most recent years.

[33] If women publish co-authored work at a lower rate than men, there may be a simple mathematical reason for why women make up a relatively small percentage of authors. If men are frequently co-authoring articles, there will be more men in the overall dataset of authors. To consider an extreme example, if 50% of the articles in a journal are co-authored by two or more men and the other 50% are by sole female authors, the percentage of women among all authors will be 33%, even though 50% of the articles are by women.

[34] There is another obvious potential explanation: women authors’ article submissions are rejected more frequently. Teele and Thelen cite several studies that cast doubt on this explanation. Submissions from women appear to be accepted at a higher rate than submissions from men.

[35] There is a huge literature on the relative productivity of female and male scholars. See, for example, Yu Xie and Kimberlee A. Shauman, “Sex Differences in Research Productivity: New Evidence about An Old Puzzle,” American Sociological Review 63:6 (December 1998): 847-870. For a study that focuses on political science, see Vicki L. Hesli and Jae Mook Lee, “Faculty Research Productivity: Why Do Some of Our Colleagues Publish More Than Others?” PS: Political Science & Politics 44:2 (April 2011): 393-408. For a more recent overview of the literature, see Robin Wilson, “Scholarly Publishing’s Gender Gap,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 22 October 2012.

[36] It would be interesting to explore whether women scholars publish more books than men, both as a proportion of their publications and in absolute terms.

[37] See John Gerring and Lee Cojocaru, “Arbitrary Limits to Scholarly Speech: Why (Short) Word Limits Should Be Abolished,” Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 14:1/2 (Spring/Fall 2016), 2-12.

[38] Teele and Thelen, “Gender in the Journals,” 443.

[39] See Heather Sarsons, “Recognition for Group Work: Gender Differences in Academia,” American Economic Review: Papers and Proceedings, forthcoming. Sarsons finds that in economics women receive little credit for their research when they co-author with men, but are far more likely to receive credit when they co-author with other women. For an overview of her argument, see Justin Wolfers, “When Teamwork Doesn’t Work for Women,” New York Times, 8 January 2016. It is not clear when the same pattern holds for political science.

[40] In 2006, International Security began using the Editorial Manager software to process and track manuscripts, thereby making it easier to submit manuscripts and to collect and analyze data on submissions.

[41] See Daniel Maliniak, Ryan Powers, and Barbara F. Walter, “The Gender Citation Gap in International Relations,” International Organization 67:4 (Fall 2013): 889-922. Maliniak, Powers, and Walter point out that women in international relations are less likely to cite themselves, are less likely to be cited by men, and “are less likely to promote themselves,” 918.

[42] Karen Yarhi-Milo, “In the Eye of the Beholder: How Leaders and Intelligence Communities Assess the Intentions of Adversaries,” International Security 38:1 (Summer 2013): 7-51; Aisha Ahmad, “The Security Bazaar: Business Interests and Islamist Power in Civil War Somalia,” International Security 39:3 (Winter 2014/2015): 89-117.