PSA ECN Annual Conference 2017

ECN Annual Conference, 22nd June 2017, Liverpool Central Library

Critical Junctures at Home and Abroad: 12 Months Since Brexit

The PSA Early Career Network invite you to their annual one-day conference, on the theme of Critical Junctures at Home and Abroad: 12 Months Since Brexit, on Thursday 22 June 2017 in the stunning Liverpool Central Library.

The ECN conference is an opportunity for early career researchers to showcase and develop innovative ongoing research, to gain feedback from established academics as well as a supportive peer group, and to engage in networking with colleagues at varying stages of their career.

Submit an abstract by 10th May 2017 by emailing

Registration opens 21st May 2017 – just £5 for ECN members, and £15 for non-members.

More information is available here or on the ECN website –

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PSA Annual Conference 2017


For those coming to the PSA Annual Conference in Glasgow next week, there are a number of PSA Women and Politics panels and other sessions on women, gender and politics that you may be interested in attending.

We also hope that you can make it to our Specialist Group Business Meeting at the Conference, which will take place Tuesday 11 April, 12.30-13.30 in Executive Room A and to the PSA’s Equality & Diversity Meeting, which will take place Monday 10 April, 13.30 – 14.15 in Graham Hills 512.

List of Panels/Sessions (please get in touch with Meryl or Fran if you would like to add something to this lineup):

  • Monday 10 April, 11.15-12.15: Opening Conference Plenary – Gender and Politics: Recruitment and Parliament (Professor Sarah Childs, Dr. Meryl Kenny and Rt Hon Harriet Harman QC MP)
  • Monday 10 April, 13.30 – 14.15: PSA Equality & Diversity Meeting (Graham Hills 512)
  • Monday 10 April, 14.15 – 15.45: A Conversation with Harriet Harman (Main Auditorium A)
  • Monday 10 April, 14.15 – 15.45: Panel – Gender and Elites in Contemporary Turkey (Graham Hills 509)
  • Monday 10 April, 16.15 – 17.45: Panel – Gender, Leadership & Public Policy (Executive Room A) (PSA WomenPol Sponsored)
  • Tuesday 11 April, 9.30 – 11.00: Panel – Gender and Civil Society (Executive Room A) (PSA WomenPol Sponsored)
  • Tuesday 11 April, 12.30 – 13.30: Women and Politics Specialist Group Meeting (Executive Room A)
  • Tuesday 11 April, 13.30 – 15.30: Panel – Women in Politics (Executive Room A)
  • Tuesday 11 April, 15.30 – 17.00: Panel – Feminist Theory (Executive Room A)

See you in Glasgow!

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Women: Mostly Missing from Introductory Political Science Texts

In a guest post for the PSA Women and Politics Blog, Amy Atchison (Valparaiso University) asks the crucial question of ‘where are the women’ in political science textbooks. Her research finds that gendered content in introductory political science texts is scarce and the quality of that content varies considerably, thus continuing to signal to students that women and gender are not part of the ‘mainstream’ of political science.

Despite compelling arguments for gender mainstreaming in political science education, evidence indicates that very little mainstreaming is taking place. This is likely related to a knowledge gap regarding politics and gender. As Ernest Boyer noted: “[A]s a scholarly enterprise, teaching begins with what the teacher knows.” Nevertheless, professors would be hard-pressed to know everything there is to know about their discipline. Plus, we do not typically have the time and resources to create class materials from scratch. Instead, we often rely on textbooks to help shape course content, and the textbooks we choose often provide students’ first exposure to a discipline. I argue that the central challenge to effective gender mainstreaming in the political science classroom lies with the lack of substantive gendered content in existing textbooks.

Why do Textbooks Matter?

Textbooks are an integral part of the academic enterprise. Indeed, textbooks teach particular paradigms that shape students’ disciplinary worldview. Textbooks reproduce scientific knowledge for the student audience and shape not just what students think about a subject but how they think about it. The information in the book demonstrates to students what practitioners consider “legitimate” knowledge in the field, which means it is important to note that what is left out of textbooks is just as important as what is put in them. What is left out sends a very clear message to students about who (white male elites) and what (institutions) are important in political science.

The research on gender content in political science indicates that gender-related content is limited in government texts. The research has primarily focused on American government texts, so it is no surprise that gendered content is most often found in chapters that address civil rights. If textbooks tend to drive our curriculum and curriculum is “constituted as a normalizing text,” then the evidence indicates that gender is not being normalized in introductory American government classes. The question is whether or not there is a similar lacuna in other introductory areas of political science education. I am particularly concerned about introductory political science texts because an introductory class typically exposes students to political theory/ideologies, regime types, institutions, and political participation. This matters because in an increasingly globalized society, how gender-related information is presented to students sets the tone for how they view women’s issues both domestically and globally.

Do introductory political science texts contain basic information about gender and politics?

The 10 textbooks (Table 1, below) included in my study* contain relatively little content related to women and politics. I determined this by examining each textbook’s use of 9 search terms:

  • Women/Women;
  • Female/Females;
  • Feminism/Feminist;
  • Girl/Girls;
  • Gender

I classified mentions as either substantive or non-substantive. Non-substantive references include terms such as men and/or women, men or women, women and minorities, male and/or female, etc., without any analytic import. The results demonstrate that almost 82% of the total mentions of the search terms are substantive. “Women” is the most commonly used term, and it is largely used substantively; this is consistent with American government texts. In contrast, although researchers have found that “feminism” is not a widely used term in American government texts, I find that feminism is the second-most used of the search terms in introductory political science texts, with 91% of the mentions being substantive.


Where in the textbook is that information located?

Unlike American government texts, introductory political science texts don’t typically have civil rights chapters—but they do usually have chapters on political theory and/or ideologies. As one might expect, there are large concentrations of gender-related content in these theory/ideology chapters —33% of all mentions and 36% of substantive mentions of the search terms. Moreover, the prevalence of the search terms in chapters on theory or ideology is common to all 10 texts in the study. This provides very strong evidence that segments on feminism drive a considerable amount of the gendered content in Introduction to Political Science texts.

Unexpectedly, there are also relatively large concentrations of gendered terminology in chapters dealing with political participation—this includes chapters related to parties, groups, movements, and/or elections; these content areas account for nearly 22% of the total mentions of the search terms and nearly 23% of the substantive mentions. In total, just the two categories discussed here (theory/ideology and political participation) account for about 54% of all mentions of the search terms and almost 59% of all substantive mentions. Importantly, the same 54% of all mentions of the search terms are found on just 182 pages out of the 4896 pages examined in this study. The fact that 54% of mentions are found on just 3.7% of pages indicates an extraordinary level of concentration of the terms. If gender were truly mainstreamed in these texts, the substantive references would be more plentiful and spread across more locations in each text.

How is gendered content presented in the texts?

Treatments of the search terms vary wildly amongst the texts. This is quite evident in the very different treatments of feminism in the textbooks included in this study. Grigsby, for example, has included a thorough and nuanced portrait of the feminist spectrum. In contrast, Magstadt has just one substantive mention of feminism in the entirety of the textbook, and Van Belle’s treatment of feminism is so lacking that the word “feminism” does not actually appear in the text (“feminist” does).

The variation in the treatment of women’s political participation is similar. With reference to parties and elections, most of these texts address the gender gap in policy preferences, voting, and representation. They typically include the reversal in ideological preference (from right-leaning to left-leaning) among Western women, as well as the fact that women now tend to vote in larger numbers than their male counterparts. In terms of representation, most authors mention that women are underrepresented in elected office but offer very little in the way of explanation for this, and only two (Parsons and Etheridge & Handelman) offer a substantive discussion of gender quotas. While this lacuna is unfortunate, I prefer the authors’ benign neglect of gender and representation over Heywood’s overt hostility to the topic.

The entirety of the descriptive representation section of the Heywood text was so patently incorrect and hostile that I felt compelled to protest. Heywood characterizes descriptive representation as dangerous to democracy and restrictive of individual freedom. He presents his claims as objective fact, yet presents no evidentiary basis for his assertions. With the backing of the PSA’s Women and Politics Specialist Group, as well as the APSA Committee on the Status of Women, the ECPR Gender and Politics Standing Group, and the ISA Gender Politics and Policy Group, I wrote Palgrave to ask that they ensure that the next edition of the textbook contain an accurate depiction of both the concept of descriptive representation and the related research. To their credit, the publisher and author agreed to change the text and asked me to review the next edition (due this year).

No matter how well (or poorly) the authors incorporate gender as an analytic construct, the fact remains that—in these texts—the substantive information about women is largely relegated to chapters related to theory and ideologies, as well as parties, groups, movements, and elections. This serves to marginalize information about women and politics and demonstrates to students that gender and politics are a separate or unique issue that has no place in the mainstream. That said, it is important to think about what a good gender-mainstreamed textbook would look like. This raises dozens of questions, ranging from the complete reimagining of introductory textbooks to how best to demonstrate the compounding effects of race, class, and gender. All of these issues boil down to one main question: How do we create textbooks that accurately and fairly depict the diversity of social forces at play in modern political systems?

*If you do not have access to the Journal of Political Science Education, the post-acceptance/pre-publication version of my article is posted here.

Photo by Jon L. Hendricks


Amy Atchison is Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at Valparaiso University.

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Diversity in academia: It takes raindrops to make a river

PSA ECNJessica Smith (Birkbeck), Communications Officer for the PSA Early Career Network, reflects on the ECN’s recent workshop on ‘Demystifying and Navigating Early Career Academia’, held at the University of Manchester on 3 February 2017. 

In February, the Political Studies Association’s Early Career Network hosted a day of workshops and panels at the University of Manchester aimed at demystifying early academia and discussing how we can increase diversity in our ranks, co-sponsored by the PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group. The most recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that just 24 per cent of UK professors are women, we know that it is lower in political science (around 20%) and that numbers for BME representation are even worse. The day offered training sessions for early career academics within which there was recognition of the varying experiences different identities and backgrounds can create. The day finished with a panel on increasing diversity in early academia; our guest speaker Dr Rachel Thwaites spoke about her new book ‘Being an Early Career Feminist Academic’; and the new Chair-Elect for the PSA Professor Angelia Wilson gave the keynote. All the sessions were insightful and our contributors displayed an expert range and depth of knowledge on topics from REF and TEF to writing a cover letter. The day lent itself to a range of discussion, on the academic pipeline, unique issues facing early career academics, and how we can all aspire to be the ‘good’ academic citizen, but I thought I would share with you three of the best pieces of advice that came out of the day.

It takes raindrops to make a river.

Dr Louise Owusu-Kwarteng shared this family saying with us during the panel on increasing diversity in academia. It reflects well the common feeling that progress can be slow but every little bit counts. Dr Owusu-Kwarteng and Dr Akile Ahmet presented their research on the experiences of BME students in higher education. One of the oft cited issues for BME students was a lack of culturally relevant support and role models. Perhaps not surprising given the under-representation of BME groups in academia; Dr Ahmet showed how the numbers of BME academics as you move up the pipeline made dire reading. At the LSE, a central London university, only 16 out of 214 professors are BME men or women. Research from Shardia Briscoe-Palmer and Dr Kate Mattocks has found that PhD students from minority groups were less likely to consider staying on in academia, more likely to cite caring responsibilities as an issue and more likely to say they’ve faced exclusion and isolation. Institutions need to review their support measures and ensure that we push for change from the bottom-up ensuring diversity in the retention of under-grads and post-grads to create those raindrops. Not only this, but we mustn’t let the rain stop, we cannot forget that progress can go backwards as well as forward which reiterates the importance of gathering and monitoring data on diversity.

Apply to an institution because you think they deserve you – even if they don’t know it yet!

Our discussion on the academic job search focused on the fact that academics face a global market. Early career academics need to be able to sell themselves – be a second-hand car salesman as Professor Sarah Childs said. And we do mean salesman, we know ‘selling yourself’ can be more challenging for women; studies have shown that women find it hard to promote their own achievements and talents. Dr Ahmet gave our participants some sage advice – tell the institution why they deserve you, not why you deserve the job. We know that the academic job market is getting harder and harder for those coming out of their PhDs and the ECN wants to work with our members to see how we can help; for instance, we are holding a ‘speed mentoring’ event at the PSA Conference in Glasgow this year. Joining a PSA specialist group (such as the Women in Politics Group) can also be a vital source of support in hearing about jobs and having those all-important contacts (outside of your own institution) when you are first starting out.

Build ladders, not potholes.

On the same day as being announced as the PSA’s new Chair-Elect, Professor Angelia Wilson gave our attendees an inspiring talk on her experience in academia and the importance of perseverance (even if, like her, you get told to go back to the farm). She reiterated the need for good role models – “choose someone at the top and think ‘I want to be like them’, and then tell them!”. The talk sparked off a discussion of how we can all endeavour to be the ‘good’ academic citizen, helping those around us. As Professor Wilson said – if it has come easy to you, look around and ask yourself why, own your privilege, and then turn around and help someone who may not be having it so easy. For instance, we know women take on disproportionate amounts of care and admin tasks which are less valued in academia. If you have a secure position why not take on some of these roles and share the burden. Or support women running for the ‘high value’ jobs. Another suggestion was male colleagues could refuse to be on ‘manels’ – all male panels. We know that we need action and support from everyone to build the ladders for all.

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By Sarah Childs

the-good-parliamentI am the unnamed woman he couldn’t ‘make up’; I am the author of The Good Parliament Report; and my name is Sarah Childs. I am Professor of Politics and Gender at the University of Bristol, not ‘gender politics’ as was inaccurately reported, although to be honest I’m happy with that label. You can read the report here.

The Good Parliament makes 43 recommendations that would make the House of Commons a more representative and effective institution. The report addresses equality of participation, parliamentary infrastructure, and parliamentary culture. Predictably he focuses on transgender toilets and breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is apparently something women do to ‘show off’ whereas I thought it was about feeding a baby. His criticism goes so far as to suggest a recommendation I’d never thought of – nappy changing in the Commons.

There’s no need for transgender toilets, he says, as there are currently no transgender MPs. Presumably when there are, his opposition will fall away. In the meantime, what about the needs of House employees and visitors? He needn’t be scared. I was only suggesting that there should be some men’s, some women’s, and some unisex toilets – I imagine he prefers that term. And where is his campaign to abolish transgender disabled toilets? I’ve never seen a disabled women’s or a disabled men’s toilet. Maybe he has. Mind you, if you ban assistance dogs on the grounds that other MPs will want their pets in the Chamber too, there won’t be any disabled MPs in the House in any case… so he’ll have solved that one.

No doubt inadvertently, he ends up supporting two of The Good Parliament recommendations: a crèche and maternity leave.

Chloe Smith MP could not, as he suggests, have dropped off her baby at the House of Commons crèche – there is no crèche. There is a Parliamentary nursery. But a nursery does not provide ad hoc care for the late night, or even 7pm, vote. It provides full-time and permanent childcare. A crèche, by the way, would enable not just MPs but visitors and employees to ‘drop’ their kids off for an hour or so. He is, then, a welcome addition to supporters of this recommendation.

Neither does he realise that Chloe Smith could not have been on maternity leave – there is no formal maternity leave for MPs. He also forgets that in these days it is maternity, paternity, parental, and adoption leave. As elected officials MPs are not covered by legislation. They must individually negotiate with their parties. MPs will likely be granted leave, but they can and will be asked back for votes – just like the ill and dying. Has he not seen ‘This House’? And sometimes, as he acknowledges, MPs will want to come to the House to vote.

Maybe he will support one of the solutions suggested in The Good Parliament: MPs on maternity leave could vote remotely, or have a proxy vote. Does he not realise just how radical he might become if he follows the logic of his argument? Or is it that he wants to make the motherhood gap in the UK Parliament worse than it already is? Why, he asks, couldn’t the grandmother (he seemingly forgets about grandfathers) or the nanny have looked after the baby. That’s right: MPs all have their mothers just around the corner or are rich enough to have a nanny. Maybe it is mothers as well as the disabled that he’d like to see gone from our Parliament. Is that what he means by preferring an ‘antiquated’ Parliament?

Finally, I wonder why he didn’t name me. Last time I was in the Mail I received a very nice pink present – a ‘Guerrilla Girls’ tea towel from the Baltic Mill art gallery. The card was signed ‘Mathew’ – do you think it might have been him?

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Diversity, Inclusion, and Doctoral Study: Challenges Facing Minority PhD students in the United Kingdom

By Kate Mattocks (Liverpool Hope University) & Shardia Briscoe-Palmer (University of Birmingham)

“I would like to stay in academia; however the future is very bleak for black female academics within political science. I would have to break that glass ceiling which will be another hard struggle on top of all the other struggles I face. However I would like to be able to path a way for those undergraduates behind me who also have the same aspirations as myself but see no-one like them standing in the distance”
(survey respondent, disabled BME woman).

mattocks-shardiaIssues of underrepresentation and discrimination in the discipline of political studies are ‘both urgent and longstanding’ (Mershon and Walsh, 2015: 441). Inspired by our own experiences as PhD researchers and motivated as well by the relative absence of literature on the academic labour of those at the start of their career, last year we undertook a small project – now published in European Political Science – on how individuals from three minority groups – women, black and ethnic minorities (BME), and individuals living with a disability – experienced the process of studying for a PhD. Our aim was to put these groups where they rarely sit: at the forefront.

We used a mixed methods approach, distributing an online survey to 23 politics departments across the UK, as well as a small number of semi-structured interviews. Our results are not to be taken as a generalisation of all minority PhD researchers studying politics in the UK, but rather a representation of challenges experienced by those that took part in the study. Based on the responses, we grouped findings into seven themes: institutional support, finances and funding, confidence and self-esteem, external responsibilities (such as caring), health and well-being, future professional life; and isolation, exclusion, and disadvantage.

Both the minority and non-minority groups shared concerns about finances, health (although those who identified as having a disability reported this to be a bigger concern), worry over finding a job post-PhD, and self-esteem and confidence. What we were particularly interested in is where we found differences between the groups – there were certain challenges that were more pronounced within the three categories of minorities. This is where our results can be useful not only as the basis for future research but also practically when considering concrete changes that could be made within institutions.

The first striking result is that the non-minority group were much more likely to want to pursue an academic career once they had finished their PhD. This finding requires some deeper digging in the form of more research across a larger sample size. Does it mean that the non-minority group feel they are better able to cope with the pressures of academia? Research by Bhopal (2014), for example, discusses institutional racism in higher education and that BME academics are less likely than their white counterparts to have access to powerful ‘insider’ networks, which creates very real challenges of belonging.

Secondly, BME respondents were more likely to report that caring responsibilities were a concern, though worry about this issue increased for all groups when asked to compare concerns before and after studies commenced. Again, further research needs to be conducted to determine whether this is statistically relevant among a larger sample size and to further illuminate the socio-cultural dynamics of this category of researchers. More generally, the time that most people are completing a PhD is also often the period of life when they are thinking of starting a family. Because we know that there is a drop-off for BMEs into postgraduate study (Equality Challenge Unit, 2015) and in progression once in an academic role (Bhopal et al., 2016), the academy as a whole needs to examine much more carefully how early career researchers are supported alongside parallel life circumstances such as caring responsibilities and family life.

Thirdly, those in our minority groups were more likely to say that they had experienced isolation and exclusion. Perceptions of disadvantage varied considerably — no one in the non-minority group indicated that they had experienced disadvantage, a result that speaks for itself. Similarly, no non-minority respondents felt a lack of institutional support during their studies, in comparison with both the women and BME minority groups. Interestingly, disabled respondents did not report such a perception, which could be an indication, we feel, of the disabled student allowance.

What does this mean for the PhD experience? The challenges that were highlighted in our research are heightened by the structural inequalities and marginalisation experienced by minorities (Crenshaw, 1991; Beckwith, 2015; Gill and Donaghue, 2016). As Oman et al. (2015: n.p.) argue, ‘getting “in” and getting “on” in Higher Education (HE) are two issues that are often conflated in ways that ignore what it might mean to “get by” in an institution.’ Our findings indicate that the discrimination and challenges that these groups face are not always overt or in the open, although they can be. Much of it is hidden and indirect.

 We do not want to give the impression that these challenges only exist in the discipline of politics, nor only in the UK. Our research shows that much more work needs to be done to investigate these groups in more detail as well as understand the nuances and differences between them. It also demonstrates the need for better data as well as future work targeting a greater sample size looking at broader conceptualisations of diversity, including factors such as age, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, religion, mode of study, topic of study, as well as an international researcher perspective.

Politics departments to take a look at how people from minority backgrounds – and here we do include women, making up only roughly 30% of the discipline in the UK (Bates, Jenkins, and Pflaeger, 2012) – could be experiencing the types of challenges we have highlighted. Ultimately, we are of the belief that institutionalised support measures should be put in place to help minorities inclusively progress in the discipline. In order to diversify the makeup of the discipline to include difference, attention needs to be paid to the recruitment and progression of postgraduates and thinking in general needs to be more bottom-up approach than top-down. The future viability and relevance of the discipline depends on it.

Please see the full paper associated with this post here [] in vol. 15, issue 4 of European Political Science.


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Call for Papers: Women in Society Conference

Women in Society from Historical Perspective: The Origins and Developments of Women’s Political, Social and Economic Engagement 

Mini Conference prior to Annual Meeting of Council of European Studies

University of Glasgow

July 11, 2017

A one-day conference for scholars with projects focused on women in society from a historical perspective. The conference welcomes submissions from scholars from a range of disciplines conducting research at the cross-section of gender, politics, history, sociology, and economics in Europe. Submissions are encouraged for works that employ quantitative or qualitative methodology.

The event will be held at the University of Glasgow on the 11th of July, the day before the annual meeting of the Council of European Studies in Glasgow 12-14 July 2017.

An all-day workshop featuring scholars from varied discipline with shared substantive interests will facilitate in-depth feedback for article and book-length projects.

Conference participants will further engage with one-another through casual conversation over lunch and dinner! The conference is graciously supported with a CES Small Events Grant.

To submit a proposal, send a paper title and abstract to Carissa Tudor at by March 15, 2017. Decisions will be distributed in April.

Please contact Mona Morgan-Collins ( or Carissa Tudor ( with any questions.


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