Political Science Now

Empowering Women in the Profession

SAN FRANCISCO — Friday afternoon’s panel entitled Empowering Women presented ideas on how to promote women in the profession through the experiences of several prominent female leaders. As Professor S.L. Weldon, Director of the Center for Research on Diversity and Inclusion, put it, diversity is a question of justice as fairness and social equality depends on this institution. While 42% of today’s women hold degrees at the doctorate level compared to 24% in 1981, she says implicit biases continue to undermine women and minorities.

“We have to invite some discussion and try to support discussion, both among women as a group and underrepresented minorities as a group, to get everybody to be thinking about helping us figure out what the things are that we need to change,” Professor Weldon says as she addresses a small crowd at the APSA’s 2015 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, California.

While the crowd consisted mostly of about two dozen women, that didn’t stop Cynthia R. Daniels, political science professor at Rutgers University, from putting forth her pledge which she encourages other departments to adopt:

“The Department of Political Science at … has a deep and sustained commitment to the principle of diversity. A diverse scholarly community is crucial to the development of cutting edge social science research, the recruitment and training of diverse graduate students, the quality of pedagogical experiences in our undergraduate classrooms and to the vibrancy and life of the University.”

Professor Daniels argues that diversification in the hiring process is important, but retention is as equally important.

“Retention and promotion are really where we have to focus…the zero percent, zero percent, zero percent across the board for women and minorities, particularly women of color, throughout the whole profession is really – should be an embarrassment to our discipline,” she says.

In addition to presentations from these two prominent leaders, several other women on the panel also shared their experiences and suggestions with the group.

Professor Wendy Smooth was one of those women who pushed the crowd to explore new ways of increasing diversity.

“The one-size-fits-all model will not advance all women in the discipline,” says the professor of the Ohio State University. “The problems do not map the same way for all groups of women.”