'Women Also Know Stuff' Recognized Nationwide in Fight Against Political Science Gender Bias

Photo: eight female scholars smiling at camera, with desert behind them
UC Davis political scientist Amber Boydstun, fifth from left, and other leaders of Women Also Know Stuff gather at a January 2020 meeting. Women Also Know Stuff seeks to improve political science by amplifying the voices of women in the discipline. (Photo courtesy of Amber Boydstun)

When UC Davis political scientist Amber Boydstun co-founded the Women Also Know Stuff initiative in 2016, the idea went beyond amplifying the voices of her female colleagues around the world. A primary goal was to improve political science.

In a major nod to the project’s success so far, the American Political Science Association (APSA) recently awarded Boydstun and 11 colleagues a $25,000 grant to broaden the impact of its searchable online database of female political scientists.

Women Also Know Stuff is one of six collaborative projects nationwide to receive 2020 Special Projects Fund grants from the association to advance the discipline of political science.

“It was rewarding and validating to get that signal of confidence from this major association,” said Boydstun, who is the 2020-21 chair of the Women Also Know Stuff 12-member executive committee.

Fed up with being left out

Three women holding stickers
Three political scientists show their Women Also Know Stuff stickers at a recent conference. (Photo courtesy of Amber Boydstun)

Founding board member Samara Klar, a faculty member at the University of Arizona, was motivated to launch Women Also Know Stuff in February 2016 after seeing a conference program with a nearly all-male speaker lineup and a news article asking six political scientists — all white men —for their views on the election.

Boydstun and other colleagues across the country joined her in creating a crowdsourced directory to help journalists find female experts in political science to interview for news stories, and make it easier for scholarly meeting organizers to achieve gender parity among their speakers.

Since upgraded with the help of a National Science Foundation grant, the database now contains more than 2,000 female experts, identifying their affiliations, titles, areas of expertise, publications and previous media appearances.

Addressing implicit bias

The number of women in political science is on the rise. Women hold 29% of full-time faculty positions in the United States and earned 41% of doctorates awarded in the field in 2018.

However, studies have found that men have disproportionately outpaced women in rising to prominence, receiving more research citations and more invitations to speak at conferences, co-author publications and contribute to edited volumes.

“If you’re not representing all the different types of people, you won’t be getting the full depth and breadth of questions being asked in the first place,” Boydstun said.

The Women Also Know Stuff website analytics suggest the initiative is making a difference. To date, the updated site had been viewed more than 50,000 times by more than 38,000 unique visitors. The Twitter account @womenalsoknow has nearly 30,000 followers.

Boydstun said she and other Women Also Know Stuff leaders are thrilled that their efforts have inspired the founding of People of Color Also Know Stuff, which promotes scholars of color in political science, and other sister organizations.

Volunteer service to the discipline

Boystun said the APSA grant will help the volunteer-run initiative cover ongoing costs, including paying student interns.

She and other leaders of the initiative also hope to host a one-day gathering in Washington, D.C., with news media, foundation representatives and female political scientists — focusing on women from historically Black colleges and universities and other marginalized communities. With the pandemic, Boydstun said it’s unclear when that meeting will occur.

“It’s been a lot of work, and mostly unpaid work,” Boydstun said of Women Also Know Stuff. “But it’s been the greatest kind of service work, because there is a real sense that we’re making a genuine difference in the discipline — not just for women in the discipline, but the good of the discipline as whole.”

— Kathleen Holder, content strategist in the UC Davis College of Letters and Science

 

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