New Publication: The Women’s Movement and Government

australian women's movementMarian Sawer and Gwendolyn Gray Jamieson (both ANU) have been examining propositions that women’s movement entanglement in the state is responsible for ‘feminist fading’. To read the full article, published in Australian Feminist StudiesCLICK HERE.

Posted in Publications | Leave a comment

Call for Papers: Women, Gender and Political Leadership Workshop, Friday 15 May



One Day Workshop

Friday 15 May 2015

Birkbeck, University of London

Call for Papers

The study of leadership is a growing area of political studies. However, the issue of
gender and leadership remains relatively understudied. The increasing prominence of female leadership and recruitment, from the major parties in Scotland to the US Presidential race, has given the discussion a new urgency and importance. This event, coming so soon after the general election, will examine in detail the challenges for women in office and the means by which they can attain it.

This one day symposium will examine how gender can influence leadership and how political leadership influences and sets barriers for aspiring women leaders. The workshop will examine case study and comparative evidence as to how gender can influence public office holders, asking questions such as:

  • What are the particular obstacles than female leaders face when in power?
  • Do female leaders ‘perform’ leadership in different ways?
  • Does women’s political leadership result in ‘women-friendly’ policy outcomes?
  • How do female leaders compare in terms of experience, achievement and longevity with male counterparts?

The workshop will also examine the key related issue of recruitment.

  • How does gender affect patterns of recruitment to political office? How do these patterns vary or shift over time?
  • Does gendered access to cabinet or executive leadership positions differ from that of legislative positions?
  • How have innovations such as gender quotas worked to aid or inhibit recruitment?

The organisers encourage papers on any of the above themes and others relating to women, gender and political leadership.

Please send an abstract of up to 300 words to Amarjit Lahel by 31 March 2015. The workshop is jointly organised by the PSA Political Leadership Specialist Group and the PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group. It will be supported by Birkbeck University and Canterbury Christ Church University. Any queries contact Dr Mark Bennister or Dr Meryl Kenny


Posted in Call for Papers, Events, News Items | Leave a comment

Gender inequality in academia: not just about numbers

frances-amery-28575-0236By Fran Amery, University of Bath (Co-Convenor of the PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group)

Discussions of gender inequality tend to focus on numbers: that is, the numbers of women represented in a certain positions. Whether the focus is gender ratios in Parliament or the Cabinet, recipients of STEM degrees, or in the boardroom, equal participation of women is often treated as the benchmark of gender equality.

This pattern is sometimes reflected in conversations about gender inequality in academia. In particular, proposed solutions to gender inequality in STEM disciplines often focus on encouraging girls to choose science, in order to create a ‘pipeline’ of young women who will go on to become researchers and academics.

There is, however, a problem with this focus on numbers: increasing the number of women in an organisation or in leadership positions does not always lead to drastic change within that organisation. Political science research has found, for instance, that increasing numbers of women in legislatures can make little difference to policy decisions when socially conservative attitudes are entrenched in the political culture. Similarly, research on gender in academia finds that increasing numbers of women in disciplines such as engineering do not necessarily translate into a decrease in levels of discrimination against women; when sexist attitudes are entrenched, women may assimilate to the dominant culture rather than challenge it.

None of this is to argue that equal participation is not important. There is, at least, evidence that better representation of women is a necessary if not sufficient condition of gendered organisational change – not to mention that it is inherently fairer.

However, focusing on numbers can conceal structures and practices that disadvantage women. A few of the hurdles facing women academics are outlined below.

Tensions between work and family life are often found by women academics to be a major problem. Academic life is structured on the model of an (implicitly male) ‘ideal worker’ who either does not have children, or has a wife who deals with the majority of the housework and childcare – and is therefore able to devote evenings and weekends to work. Those who do not conform to the model are thus at a disadvantage when it comes to productivity. It is not, of course, only ever women who face this difficulty. But women are more likely to find themselves in the position of having to juggle work and family life, and more likely to leave academia due to the perception that the two are incompatible.

Further to this, academic roles are often gendered. First of all, women are more likely to be employed on part-time and temporary contracts, with the accompanying lack of stability and difficulty of career progression. But academic roles are also gendered in that women are more likely to be assigned stereotypically ‘feminine’ roles. Women are more likely to work in teaching-only positions, or to have a higher teaching load. Additionally, women may be more likely to find themselves engaged in ‘institutional housekeeping’ such as committee work and preparation of reports, alongside the emotional work of pastoral and care roles. These roles are generally institutionally devalued, and unlike research, unlikely to be rewarded with promotion.

Another problem relates to professional networking. Research shows that women have difficulty gaining access to ‘male’ academic networks. This can be due to time constraints – those with childcare responsibilities may not be able to participate in out-of-hours socialising – but in addition women may simply not be invited into these networks. This process can start as early as during doctoral research: women PhD students are less likely to form the same bonds with their male supervisors as men. The effect of this is that women are less likely to be invited to collaborate, less likely to be encouraged to apply for jobs or promotions, and excluded from informal decision-making.

Finally, there is the matter of discrimination. Sexism remains a problem even in ‘enlightened’ academia, and discrimination against BME and working-class women is even more intense. Heather Savigny’s interviews with women academics highlight the cultural sexism women face, from sexualisation to the assumption that ‘women aren’t good at research’. What is most concerning about her findings is the number of women who feared repercussions if they were identified.

While efforts to encourage women and girls into STEM are helpful, they do not tackle many of the underlying problems. These are problems which go beyond raw numbers, and indeed may be concealed when it is assumed that increasing rates of participation lead to lower levels of inequality overall.

This blog was originally posted on the Wiley International Women’s Day Research Blog

Posted in Blogs & Commentary | Leave a comment

What Germany’s Gender Quotas for Candidates Can Teach Us about Its Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards

Originally posted on IASGP:

What Germany’s Gender Quotas for Candidates Can Teach Us about Its Gender Quotas for Corporate Boards


By Louise Davidson- Schmich, University of Miami

In December the New York Times International Edition published an op-ed piece, written by Carrie Lukas from the Independent Women’s Forum, entitled “Boardroom Quotas Won’t Help Women.” In her editorial, Lukas argues against the Merkel cabinet’s draft law regarding gender equality for leading economic positions in the Federal Republic. The law proposes three new regulations: 30% of large corporations’ board of director seats must be occupied by women starting in 2016, 30% of federally-appointed public sector board positions must be awarded to women by 2016 (increasing to 50% in 2018), and mid-sized firms must develop targets for women in top posts and routinely report their progress reaching their self-imposed goals.

While Lukas agrees with the Grand Coalition that women are indeed significantly underrepresented in German…

View original 1,230 more words

Posted in Gender and Politics in the media | Leave a comment

We Need to Talk About Sexism in Academia

Guest blog by Heather Savigny, Bournemouth University

‘Perhaps men are just naturally better at research than women’ said a senior male colleague during a discussion about why so few women were returned to a University’s REF submission. On one level, you almost have to laugh that people might actually say these things out loud. Sadly, however on another level, this comment is also illustrative of an attitude, a mentality, a cultural discourse which often positions women as inferior in academic environments. Unpacking and making visible women’s experiences is the purpose of my article recently published in Gender and Education and featured in the Independent on Sunday. It is also something that I (and other colleagues that I know of) have been warned not to discuss as it ‘will damage our academic careers’.   Maybe however, having been in this career for 10 years and in the fortunate position of being on a permanent contract, as well as being incredibly well supported by some wonderful colleagues, the time for me, has come to say – so what?

I thought academia would be different. I thought it would be a more enlightened environment, without the predatory and sexist thinking that characterises much of our mainstream advertising and popular culture and politics, and indeed many women’s daily lives (as highlighted by Laura Bates’ work on everyday sexism). And I was wrong.

In some ways this research has probably been years in gestation. As an undergraduate it was regularly suggested that the good marks I got were because I was sleeping with the lecturers. As a postgraduate at a conference I was invited back to someone’s room, because ‘come on love, that’s what you’re here for isn’t it. Everyone knows that is what conferences are for’. My experience was that to be an academic was to have my gender foregrounded in a way that did not happen to my male colleagues. As discussed in the paper, speaking to other women, at conferences, at different institutions, I started to realise that this wasn’t just me that this was happening to. There was a whole layer of undisclosed experiences that affected primarily women, and their opportunities to progress and develop academic careers, in a way that simply didn’t affect men.

I started keeping notes and doing interviews more than 6 years ago now, and I was encouraged by a friend to write this up. Yet the thing that was most striking, most shocking in this was the number of people who said they were afraid that they would be identifiable. Not only that, but that they feared repercussions. (And I had had a colleague who was advised that speaking up about the sexism she was witnessing would cost her the permanent contract she was after, so on one level I could understand that fear.) The number of women afraid to speak up was shocking. And so I looked for a way to tell those stories, without any hint of those women being identifiable (even though all my sources were anonymised). The fictionalised account in the paper is powerful to read out, and to have verbalised and to listen to. It encourages all of us to share the experience of being a female academic, and challenges those taken for granted ‘norms’ about what it means to be an academic.

‘You see the thing you don’t understand is that women don’t do [your discipline]’. I was told this by a senior male colleague while discussing the absence of women in the department that I was working at the time. Not only is this blatantly untrue but denies contributions of scholars such as Elinor Ostrom, Judith Butler, Joni Lovenduski, Rainbow Murray, Sarah Childs, Ros Gill, Rosie Campbell, Karin Wahl Jorgensen, Liesbet Van Zoonen, Sara Ahmed….to name but a few). This comment though also rendered me invisible. Invisible to my colleagues and in terms of my research, my teaching, my contribution to the department and the discipline, never mind my male colleagues’ ‘taken-for-granted’ assumptions about promotion.

Promotion is an issue that affects female academics – how can we account for so few women at senior levels. With only 14% VCs being female, only 20.5% of professors are female and in 2013 only 15 Profs were BAME women. These figures are shocking. And not simply because ‘women naturally aren’t good enough’. I argue that there is something else going on, and that ‘something else’ is cultural. It generates a mindset, a set of ‘norms’ which we reinforce and react subconsciously often, in our working lives. Challenging them is essential to rethinking how women are positioned. (For example, to the senior colleague who wondered if men are ‘naturally better’ at research – would we say non-Jewish scholars are naturally better than Jews at research? And if we wouldn’t make those kind of racist statements, why is it ok to make those statements about women?)

It is too simplistic to say that all women suffer in the same way from sexism within academia, and it is also too essentialist to suggest that all men benefit from and perpetuate this system. However, it is fairly reasonable to say that many women do experience sexism in academia in one form or another. I have been asked ‘what about the men?’ and indeed it is true that I have spoken with men about their experiences – there is also some excellent academic work by colleagues such as Richard Collier, Jonathan Dean, for example. I know of many men who are concerned to tackle this issue managerially, from junior to very senior. I also know that male colleagues on temporary contracts have described their fear of speaking up about sexism they see their female colleagues subject to – precarity of contract is a powerful tool in the patriarchal arsenal!

The aim of my article is to get this issue ‘out there’ and talked about for two reasons. First, because in so doing we might add to the changes that are taking place to improve positions for women. My main argument is that the key source of change needs to be cultural – in the way that women are perceived, discussed and regarded. And second, I nearly left academia because of some of my experiences of sexism. I found comfort in sharing stories with other women, knowing that I wasn’t alone, that it wasn’t me, or my ‘fault’. And the article that I have written has support and solidarity with other academic women, as its primary aim.

Posted in Blogs & Commentary | Leave a comment

Guarded and sensible? The problem with UKIP and women

Originally posted on The Constitution Unit Blog:

rosie campbellchrysa_lamprinakoujennifer_van_heerde

In the wake of a second UKIP win in Rochester and Strood, Rosie Campbell, Chrysa Lamprinakou and Jennifer vanHeerde-Hudson consider how the background of UKIP candidates selected so far compare with the other parties.

Mark Reckless’s win over Conservative candidate Kelly Tolhurst in the Rochester and Strood by-election doubled the number of UKIP MPs in Westminster and reignited speculation as to who will be next to defect.

The Tory defeat in Rochester was indeed a bad day for Cameron and the party, with many commentators highlighting what was seen to be an ineffective campaign, despite reports that MPs were required to campaign in the constituency three times in the run up to 20 November. Others, however, argued it was worse day for Labour with Emily Thornberry’s controversial tweet, subsequent resignation and the fact that UKIP continues to pull Labour party supporters into its ranks. It’s a day the Lib…

View original 712 more words

Posted in Blogs & Commentary | Leave a comment

Shattering the Highest Glass Ceiling in Scotland?

Originally posted on Gender Politics at Edinburgh:

Meryl Kenny and Fiona Mackay

scot gov

It has been a week of firsts: the election of Nicola Sturgeon as the first female First Minister of Scotland followed by the announcement that her first Cabinet – a ‘team of all talents’ – will be 50:50 women and men. These are historic breakthrough moments for women in politics, not only in Scotland but also globally.

Who’s in and who’s out? There are two major departures after the reshuffle: Kenny MacAskill at Justice and Mike Russell at Education. John Swinney was named Deputy First Minister and has retained his Finance brief. Shona Robison and Angela Constance – who were promoted to Cabinet in April 2014 – have now been given more powerful portfolios, with Robison sent to Health while Constance has been given charge of Education. There are three secretaries who are new to Cabinet: Roseanna Cunningham at Fair Work, Skills and Training…

View original 712 more words

Posted in Blogs & Commentary | Leave a comment