This special issue considers potential gender bias in internal editorial processes at five political science journals: The American Political Science Review (APSR), Comparative Political Studies (CPS), World Politics (WP), Political Behavior (PB) and International Studies Quarterly (ISQ).
These works were inspired by Teele and Thelen’s (2017) exploration of “Gender in the Journals,” the relative presence of women as authors of articles in top political science journals. Teele and Thelen documented a significant “gender gap” in publication rates of peer-reviewed articles between men and women: Women were under-represented relative to their numbers in the discipline, and did not appear as coauthors as frequently as men. The authors also speculated that top journals might be biased against the sorts of work that female scholars are more likely to engage in, whether in terms of substantive questions asked or methods employed.
Teele and Thelen simply counted authors by gender. Their findings raised important questions, but cannot explain why women are under-represented, and why women are under-represented more or less at certain journals. Journals’ tables of contents reflect several factors, especially the pool of submissions and the editorial process. Most obviously, if a journal receives relatively few submissions from women, its table of contents will not reflect women’s relative presence in the discipline. Likewise, Teele and Thelen’s findings also cannot tell us whether actual bias—conscious or not—exists in the editorial process. Do editors discriminate by gender (or in some other way)? Perhaps the fact that most journal editors are male leads to biased outcomes, due to selection bias in the internal or peer review stages of the process. In any case, journal editorial processes are non-standardized and remain something of a “black box” to outsiders. Teele and Thelen’s data cannot pinpoint where bias might occur, if it does occur.
We urge a continued conversation and examination of why women remain underrepresented as authors in political science journals, particularly top-ranked journals. Although the reports that follow provide no clear evidence of gender bias, other factors may impact why women are under-represented in political science journals.
We hope to shed some light on these and related questions. As journal coeditors (of Politics, Groups and Identities and Comparative Political Studies, respectively), we were intrigued by Teele and Thelen’s findings. We had also both expressed a desire to further explore what journal editors could do to assess the sources and extent of gender bias in the editorial process. Kathleen Thelen (MIT), in her capacity as president-elect of APSA, had formed a task force on the Status of Women in the Profession, co-chaired by Mala Htun (University of New Mexico) and Frances Rosenbluth (Yale). The task force is currently exploring several aspects related to gender and professional career paths in political science. Htun and Rosenbluth appointed us to the task force, as co-chairs of the working group on publications. We then coordinated a roundtable at the 2017 APSA meeting, inviting editors of four journals (plus CPS) to conduct similar internal audits to consider the question of gender bias. These particular journals/editors were invited because they had all informally expressed interest in the question or had already done preliminary analysis on gender in their editorial decision processes in the wake of Teele and Thelen’s paper.
This special issue presents polished versions of the reports presented at the APSA meeting. As will become clear, the results across journals were remarkably similar. Even though the journals differ in terms of substantive focus, management/ownership, as well editorial structure and process, none found evidence of systematic gender bias in editorial decisions.
These findings raise additional questions about where gender bias may occur and why. We urge a continued conversation and examination of why women remain underrepresented as authors in political science journals, particularly top-ranked journals. Although the reports that follow provide no clear evidence of gender bias, other factors may impact why women are under-represented in political science journals. For example, to address questions about the pool of submissions, the APSA task force sponsored an all-members survey in the fall of 2017 that asked where and why scholars prefer to submit manuscripts. The results from that survey will eventually complement the reports presented here to offer a more holistic view the status of gender in the publication process.