In the last thirty years, the discipline of political science has experienced notable increases in the proportion of women – and women of color – among the professoriate. Still, women comprise less than 30 percent of the faculty, and women of color less than 15 percent of all female faculty. While the data indicate an increase in recent years in the proportion of female job candidates, they also suggest differential advancement among women – and among women of color. The American Political Science Association (APSA) actively engages the issues of women of color in the profession through various programs, committees, task forces, and conferences. And, the work of addressing the challenges faced by women of color in political science continues.
According to data collected by APSA and presented in a 2011 report by the APSA Task Force on Political Science in the 21st Century, political science has seen a steady increase in the number of female faculty in the profession over the last several decades. From 1980 to 2010, the proportion of female political scientists more than doubled from 10.3 percent to 28.6 percent (APSA Task Force 2011, 41). Also during this time, the proportion of female faculty of color doubled, from 6.6 percent to 13.5 percent (APSA Task Force 2011, 43). Despite the increase, however, the profession remains largely male and white. The underrepresentation of women of color is particularly notable when the group is disaggregated by race and ethnicity. In 2010, among these women of color, African Americans comprised the greatest proportion at 6.1 percent; Asian/Pacific Islanders accounted for 4.4 percent and Latinas for 3.0 percent of the total women of color among political science faculty.
Data on the political science job market and placement reveals additional divergences and underrepresentation among women – and particularly among women of color – in the profession. For example, women accounted for nearly 40 percent of the (U.S. citizen) candidates on the market in 2009-10 (Diascro 2011, 598), a 2 percent increase from the previous year, but over three-quarters of these women were white. African Americans comprised 7 percent, Asian/Pacific Islanders 7 percent and Latinas 3 percent of the women on the market.
Similarly, differences emerged in the job placement of women of color in 2009-10 (Diascro 2011, 601-2). While these women got jobs in permanent academic positions with greater frequency than white women, there was notable variation among race and ethnicity in these placements. Two-thirds of the Latinas, 53 percent of African Americans, and 48 percent of Asian/Pacific Islanders secured these positions (compared to 41 percent of white female candidates), yet more African American women remained unemployed (26 percent) than their Asian/Pacific Islander (10 percent) and Latina (0 percent) colleagues on the market. Additionally, more African American women went on the market without their degrees in hand (as ABDs) (11 percent) than Asian/Pacific Islanders (6 percent) or Latinas (0 percent). Finally, African American women were placed in BA-granting institutions more often (58.3 percent) and in Ph.D.-granting institutions less often (25 percent) than other women of color.
More than half of female Asian/Pacific Islander candidates took jobs at Ph.D.-granting institutions (55 percent), while 38 percent of Latinas were placed at these institutions. White women were employed equally by Ph.D.- and BA-granting institutions (42 percent and 43 percent, respectively).
In political science, we have seen some advancement of women in color with gradually increasing diversity among job candidates and the professoriate. Still, these political scientists are significantly underrepresented in the discipline, highlighting research findings that, “there are some persistent challenges that…faculty of color face in trying to succeed within the academy,” particularly in so far as recruitment, retention and climate are concerned (APSA Task Force 2011, 47). Many of these challenges are especially apparent for women of color (APSA Task Force 2011, 48), who also experience the obstacles faced by women more generally in the academy.
APSA addresses the challenges confronting women of color in a variety of ways. Among them are the following programs, committees, and task forces.
APSA Programs (selected):
• Minority Fellows Program (MFP): Established in 1969 as the Black Graduate Fellowship, this program is designed to increase the number of minority scholars in the discipline by providing graduate student support to facilitate the completion of doctoral studies. Since its inception, over 500 students have gone through the program, and more than 100 have completed doctoral programs in political science. Ralph Bunche Summer Institute (RBSI): Established in 1986, the goal of this program is to encourage undergraduates to pursue graduate studies in political science. A competitive application process yields 20 students each summer who participate in this rigorous program. The program is hosted and supported by Duke University and Dr. Paula McClain, a National Science Foundation award, and APSA funds.
• Minority Student Recruitment Program (MSRP) (formerly Minority Identification Program): Established in 1989, this program assists undergraduate and graduate political science departments identify college students from under-represented backgrounds who are interested in or show potential for graduate study. Through graduate program recruitment efforts, the goal is to provide these students with information about political science graduate programs.
• Mentoring Initiative: This program derived from the Task Force on Mentoring (2002-2005) and seeks to connect members of the discipline through an application process that identifies areas of similar substantive and professional interests and concerns.
• Surveys and Research: This program is the primary source of data – including demographic data – on the political science profession. For decades, it has been responsible for administering regular membership and professional surveys that collect data necessary for the association. This program provides much of the data that informs the reports cited in this testimony, and provides the basis of numerous reports produced by the association.
APSA Standing Committees:
• Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession, established 1969;
• Committee on the Status of Women in the Profession, established 1969;
• Committee on the Status of Latinos y Latinas in the Profession (originally, the Committee on the Status of Mexican Americans in the Profession), established 1970;
• Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgendered in the Profession, established 1992; and,
• Committee on the Status of Asian-Pacific Americans in the Profession, established 2003.
APSA Ad Hoc and Other Committees (selected):
• Minority Program Review Committee, 2005
• Ad Hoc Committee on Workable Solutions to Advancing Women in the Profession, 2010
APSA Task Force on Political Science in the 21st Century. 2011. Political Science in the 21st Century. Washington, DC: American Political Science Association.
Diascro, Jennifer Segal. 2011. “The Job Market and Placement in Political Science in 2009-10.” PS: Political Science and Politics 44(3): 597-603.