Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Power in Editorial Positions: A Feminist Critique of Public Administration

By Mary Feeney & Helen Dickinson, Arizona State University:

Academic journals play a crucial role in both the creation of knowledge and the career advancement of scholars (‘publish or perish’ as the mantra goes). As a result, journal editors serve a pivotal and critical role in the world of academia. In effect, they serve as gatekeepers, with the power to decide what gets published and what doesn’t.

In the realm of Public Administration, although the representation of women has increased over the years (which is to be commended), this doesn’t appear to be reflected on editorial boards. Concerned about this and wanting to document the current state of play, colleagues Associate Professor Mary Feeney at ASU, Associate Professor Helen Dickinson and I from UNSW collected information about the top 24 Public Administration journals. When we analysed the data, we found that only six had women in lead editor roles, that a quarter didn’t have any women in leadership roles, and that six journals only had one woman in an editorial leadership position. When it comes to review boards (those that do the bulk of reviewing) women made up less than 30%. In contrast, we found an over-representation of women in lower status positions such as book review roles.

Reflecting on this, we argue that this type of inequity is structural and thus changeable. We suggest a range of personal, interpersonal and structural strategies to improve the representation of women on editorial boards. These include (but not limited to) things such as encouraging under-represented candidates, ensuring departmental support and developing transparent journal processes.

As a field that advocates for transparency in government practice, we argue that it’s time we collectively raise our expectations for transparency in our scholarship.

Whilst Public administration has come a long way towards achieving gender diversity in our classrooms and increasingly in our faculty ranks, it’s yet to reach our journal leadership, and we argue it needs to. Now with a baseline documented, only time will tell how the field reacts and if greater diversity will be achieved into the future.

For more details, you can read the full paper here in Public Administration Review. By Lisa Carson, on behalf of Mary Feeney & Helen Dickinson

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