Gender, Diversity, and Methods in Political Science
Gender, Diversity, and Methods in Political Science: A Theory of Selection and Survival Biases, a paper I co-authored with Professor Shauna Shames of Rutgers University, Camden, was published in the July 2017 issue of PS.
I’m thrilled that this article has made the journey from the whiteboard to publication. This is the first thing I’ve published and I’m grateful to Shauna for bringing me along on this project. Shauna is a mentor in the truest sense of the word. She not only shows the way, but is willing to take those behind her by the hand. I am so lucky to have started graduate school as she was finishing her PhD.
When I was in my first year of graduate school, Shauna and another amazing mentor, Emily Clough, reached out to the women of the Government department to start what came to be known as the Diversity Working Group (DWG). DWG is a watchdog group with the goal of keeping the Harvard Government Department aware of and committed to working on the various leaky pipelines in our discipline. As I now am coming to the end of my time in graduate school, I have been lucky enough to see the mantle of this group be taken up by another cohort of women and allies—thanks to their continuing work we hope to be able to expand on this project and publish updated data on these questions in the future.
We sincerely hope that our article will not be seen as only a critique, but also as praise for what we see as positive efforts being taken within the discipline, including within the field of political methodology itself. We hope that our work will allow women and allies in these areas to point to some evidence—incomplete though it may be—to advocate for continued progress and continue the ongoing conversation around these issues in the field more broadly.
Despite my excitement, it’s with some trepidation that I write this post. Writing an article that attempts to shed light on problems in one’s own discipline is probably something best left to senior scholars who can observe the moment in fuller context with the benefit of years of observation and first-hand experience (and have the ability to weather the potential reputational costs incurred by speaking up). However, to better understand the “leaky pipeline” that leads to the under-representation of women in the discipline, we should turn our attention to the places where the pipeline appears to be leaking. Political methodology claims to be the area of the field that writes the “rules of the game,” but is also the least gender-balanced subfield in the discipline. When historically disempowered groups are under-represented in locations of power we have a responsibility to figure out why and work to correct these imbalances.
Ours, therefore is a view from the trenches, inevitably colored by first-hand experience. For example, in the article we probably should have been clearer about whether our argument applies to quantitative or qualitative political methodology—most of our argument concerns quantitative methodology in particular. Ironically, the fact that we simply referred to “political methodology”  is doubtless the result of the hegemony of quantitative methods in the Harvard Government department—creating scholars who subconsciously equate political methodologists with those who attend the “PolMeth” conference.
Finally, I’d like to express my gratitude to all the people who have supported and encouraged us in this work—our advisors, members of the DWG at Harvard, scholars across the discipline who reached out and read early drafts, friends, allies, partners and families. Special thanks in particular goes to Ben Winterhalter who gave Shauna a platform for an earlier version of this work at HippoReads.
Monday, June 19, 2017