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Supporting Junior Women: Strategies for Men Colleagues

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2021

Emily M. Farris
Texas Christian University
Julia Marin Hellwege
University of South Dakota
Andrea Malji
Hawaii Pacific University
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Strategies for How Men Can Advance Gender Equity in Political Science
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the American Political Science Associations

Women are less likely to be tenured and promoted due in part to an inhospitable gendered institutional climate (Hesli, Lee, and Mitchell Reference Hesli, Lee and Mitchell2012). Interventions often direct women to undertake tasks to improve their odds at success; we instead suggest ways that men can be better allies to improve junior women’s advancement. Based on our experiences, observations, and academic literature, we specifically examine the ways that junior women may be undermined in the profession in research, teaching, and service and make suggestions for men to intervene formally and informally to produce more equitable institutions.


Scholarly productivity is generally the primary measure of promotion, and women can face challenges related to research. Empirical comparisons of academic submissions find that women submit to journals at lower rates and subsequently are published less frequently due to systemic issues, such as journal gatekeeping on gendered research interests (Key and Sumner Reference Key and Sumner2019; Teele and Thelen Reference Teele and Thelen2017). Women face additional challenges to their time for research, with increased demands from teaching, service, and unequal distribution of household and childcare duties, which likely have been further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic (Goulden, Mason, and Wolfinger Reference Goulden, Mason and Wolfinger2013).

Male colleagues can help to overcome these disparities beginning within their own university by taking an active interest in the research of junior female colleagues. Men can organize scholarly opportunities (e.g., brainstorming sessions and manuscript workshops) and assist in the development of junior women’s work by providing constructive feedback and encouraging submission. Men should highlight women’s research both within and outside of the department. University events should include junior women colleagues, not simply because representation is needed but rather because of their expertise.

Journal editors and conference organizers should make explicit expectations for intersectional diversity during calls for submissions. Male allies should avoid organizing and serving on male-exclusive panels, also known as “manels.” They should avoid publishing only with other men and also include junior women in networking opportunities. Men should reflect on the underlying cause of the exclusion and actively work to remedy it by recruiting through resources such as Women Also Know Stuff (Goodman and Pepinsky Reference Goodman and Pepinsky2019).


In the classroom, sexist barriers challenge junior women in developing their teaching portfolio and practices. For instance, students hold women to different standards and make additional demands on female faculty (El-Alayli, Hansen-Brown, and Ceynar Reference El-Alayli, Hansen-Brown and Ceynar2018). Students evaluate women, especially women of color, with bias (Flaherty Reference Flaherty2019).

To overcome these challenges, we recommend that junior women’s needs are addressed first in course development and scheduling. To assist in course development, faculty should share teaching resources—including previous syllabi and course materials—to reduce the burden of new course preparation, particularly for women who spend a greater percentage of their time devoted to teaching (Winslow Reference Winslow2010). Men can lead the department in conducting an audit of course offerings and schedules to ensure gender equity. We suggest scheduling practices that accommodate those with caregiving responsibilities, along with advocating for family-friendly leave policies and childcare facilities at the university. Departments can be mindful of who offers more labor-intensive classes and responsibilities (e.g., overseeing internships and theses) and find ways to balance and compensate accordingly.

We also suggest that men develop teaching practices that are more inclusive for their women students and colleagues, thereby creating an institutional culture that recognizes and values women’s contributions to scholarship and their place in the classroom. In their own courses, men can integrate gender into their curriculum (Cassese, Bos, and Duncan Reference Cassese, Bos and Duncan2012), develop their curriculum’s representation using tools such as the Gender Balance Assessment Tool (Sumner Reference Sumner2018), use diverse teaching examples, and refer to women by their professional titles.

Finally, we encourage men to champion their junior women colleagues in more holistic evaluation measures of teaching and to lead discussions regarding bias in student evaluations of teaching (Anderson and Miller Reference Anderson and Miller1997). As one effective strategy to remedy unconscious bias, men can encourage departments and universities to adopt language in evaluations to make students aware of it (Peterson et al. Reference Peterson, Biederman, Andersen, Ditonto and Roe2019).


Service is least valued for tenure decisions, yet women tend to engage in more service (Park Reference Park1996). Much of service work takes place in committees, wherein women can be overburdened in an effort to create gender balance. Furthermore, committee work largely relies on members to volunteer for activities, which women are more likely to do. We encourage men to volunteer and also take on committee tasks. Much of the work of women—particularly women of color—is invisible labor; therefore, we propose that men consider creating subcommittees or other titled opportunities to give women appropriate credit for significant tasks and leadership. We also encourage men to work with female colleagues to nominate them for leadership positions, which often depend on self-nomination and are gendered (Ely, Ibarra, and Kolb Reference Ely, Ibarra and Kolb2011).

Professional behavior during meetings also impacts women, especially junior women. Men should avoid behavior such as “mansplaining,” interruptions, and ignoring or co-opting women’s suggestions. Furthermore, it is imperative for men to call out and counter such behavior and to do so immediately. Men also can proactively amplify women’s dismissed voices by either reverting credit to where it is due or reiterating the idea and awarding credit if the idea is dismissed. The order is important because men can use their privilege to successfully promote the idea and then give credit to the woman who initially suggested it.

Overall, one of the most important actions for men is to protect junior women colleagues from service, either by taking on more service themselves, nominating other men, or supporting women in saying “no.” However, the paternalistic behavior of saying no for women is inappropriate. Being an ally for women faculty—especially junior women faculty—likely means giving more of oneself to ensure a gendered balance of service.


Junior women faculty cannot reach parity in achieving tenure simply by leaning in. To improve the structural inequalities that persist in academia, men must rise to the challenge to create a supportive campus environment. Annual evaluations as well as external tenure letters should be free of gender bias. Departments should consider appropriate salary points that are less reliant on negotiation, given that women are less likely to do so (Babcock and Laschever Reference Babcock and Laschever2003). Men also may affirmatively work to notice and nominate worthy junior women for awards because women are less likely to self-promote (Exley and Kessler Reference Exley and Kessler2019). As departments recruit women to their positions, they also must prioritize the support necessary to achieve tenure.

Junior women faculty cannot reach parity in achieving tenure simply by leaning in.



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