Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Progress on Gender Equity in the Academy, but More Work Remains.

building in city against sky
by Heath Brown:

The recent summary by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) of research by the Council of Graduate Schools shows great hope for gender equity in the academy. For eight straight years, women earned more graduate degrees than men in the United States. Women earned 52% of the doctorates and 57% of masters degrees. When I was the Research Director at the Council of Graduate Schools we saw the early signs of this trend and excitedly awaited this point.

These trends are hopeful for better gender equity in the professoriate and research. However, three cautions are worth noting. First, gaps in some fields of study persist. Fields like engineering and math remain overwhelmingly male. Men earned nearly three-quarters of doctoral degrees in engineering and mathematics, continuing historic patterns of under-representation of women.

Second, in 2018, our society has come to better recognize that gender identity is more than dichotomous. National data collection should better reflect this reality by providing more disaggregated enrollment and degree data. This won’t be an easy change for institutions with strong traditions and well-established survey design practices. Nevertheless, the time has come for higher education research to make appropriate changes in order to better understand the challenges faced by the trans community in the academy.

Third, and most importantly, the changes in the gender composition of graduate programs has not happened on its own. Concerted efforts by universities and the federal government — such as the ADVANCE program administered by the National Science Foundation — have provided the resources necessary to compel greater equity throughout the academy. The recent book by Duke University professor, Deondra Rose, Citizens By Degree: Higher Education Policy and the Changing Gender Dynamics of American Citizenship (Oxford University Press, 2018) documents the way federal lawmakers have passed major laws since the 1950s, such as federal aid programs and Title IX, to advance women at universities and reduce discrimination. Interesting, Dr. Rose finds that the benefits of these programs are not just found in educational achievement, women’s political participation has also improved notably over the last several decades.

Celebrations are warranted when indicators of progress and equity are found. Yet policy makers and university administrators must remain vigilant to make sure the direction of this trend persists into the future and that fields with continued imbalances are better addressed.

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About the author:

Heath Brown, Associate Professor of Public Policy, John Jay College, CUNY
E-mail Address:
Twitter: @heathbrown

Heath Brown is an associate professor of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and the CUNY Graduate Center. He has worked at the US Congressional Budget Office as a Research Fellow, at the American Bus Association as a Policy Assistant, and at the Council of Graduate Schools as Research and Policy Director.

In addition to his research, Brown is Reviews Editor for Interest Groups & Advocacy and hosts a podcast called New Books in Political Science,, where he interviews new authors about their political science publications. He is also an expert contributor to The Hill as well as to The Atlantic magazine and American Prospect magazine.

Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Continuing the Gender Equity in Academia Conversation: Recommendations and Next Steps

question mark on crumpled paper
by Dr. Nicole M. Elias and Dr. Maria J. D’Agostino:

On July 3, 2018, we posted our summer blog thread, “Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity in Academia and the Field of Public Administration”. The response we received from journal editors, board members, and leaders in the field was impressive and eye-opening. Throughout the summer our blog contributors reflected on women’s roles in academia, specifically public administration, with the goal of considering next steps and new ways of thinking and taking action to advance women in public administration. Some recommendations include promoting oneself and others, speaking up on behalf of untenured faculty, identifying collaborators, being transparent in selecting journal editors, and citing and including more work published by women in course materials and research.

Patricia Shields, editor of Armed Forces & Society, notes how her perspective as a woman contributed to editorial decisions. She proposes several means to increase the visibility and impact of women’s ideas and scholarship in public administration, including not to be shy and promote our work via conferences and social media. Similarly, Staci Zavattaro, editor of Administrative Theory & Praxis, recommends that we know our worth, be confident and kind as we stay true to ourselves. She also reminds us that we cannot do this alone and suggests to “find your tribe” and make that group of scholars your home and support. In addition to being supportive of female colleagues, and promoting oneself, Carole Jurkiewicz, editor of Public Integrity, offers actions we can take to mitigate organizational and cultural barriers for women. Specifically, she emphasizes the need to advocate for and speaking up on behalf of non tenured female faculty.

Recognizing the “Power in Editorial Positions: A Feminist Critique of Public Administration,” Mary Feeney, incoming editor of Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory,  Lisa Carson, and Helen Dickson argue that it is time to address the inequity of women in editorial leadership positions and suggest a range of personal, interpersonal, and structural strategies to combat these inequities, including the establishment of transparent search and selection criteria for editorships. Such changes, as highlighted by Hillary Knepper and Gina Scutelnicu in  A Tale of Two Journals: Women’s Representation in Public Administration Scholarship, are essential for women’s success in the academy. Knepper, et. al find that women publish less than men, with men producing twice as many peer-reviewed articles as their female counterparts. They recommend that women cite other women’s work to increase visibility and citation counts.  Megan Hatch reminds us that inclusion and creating a sense of belonging starts with the MPA curriculum. She suggests that one way to make women feel included in public administration is to include more women authored research in our syllabi. She introduces us to the Gender Balance Assessment Tool (GBAT) developed by Jane Lawrence Sumner to test the gender balance of our syllabi. More resources like the GBAT could remedy some of the challenges our contributors identified throughout the summer blog thread.

So, what comes next? To date, more than sixteen blog participants have contributed to the WPS blog, a forum that was created a year ago to consider the role sex/gender plays in public service and how that shapes the way we think, govern, and are served by sex/gender identities and markers. As we start off the new academic year, we hope to continue the conversation and encourage readers to undertake practices outlined by our guest bloggers. As a first step, WPS, in collaboration with Megan Hatch and Academic Women in Public Administration (AWPA), we will develop a shared database of articles authored by women in in public administration to help facilitate the creation of more inclusive syllabi and research, provide a forum to promote ourselves, and create a supportive community of scholars and practitioners. Our hope is that this blog thread provides a starting point for thinking creatively and taking action toward greater gender equity in academia.
Please share any thoughts or feedback with us at

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Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

The Costs to Women in Academia

people sitting at the table
by Carole L. Jurkiewicz, Ph.D.:

A large body of research concludes that women pay a high price for choosing academic careers, and that this disparity has changed little over time.  Motivated by a desire to add to knowledge and the passion to explore our intellectual interests, we share the same monetary costs as men, but research has emphasized that not only will we be vastly outnumbered in our profession, but more often than not we’ll be ostracized, dismissed, have our ideas discounted, be expected to take over group maintenance activities, receive less travel and research funding, and if we have a partner 98% of the time we’ll end that relationship by year two if that person doesn’t already hold a Ph.D.  If we have children before applying, we are likely to be rejected upon the assumption that we’re not seriously committed to the rigors of a doctoral program or academic life.

Nearing graduation, we’re less likely to receive job offers and may be invited to interview only because a faculty group finds us physically attractive, where they’ll stand in the back and comment on our features or their strategy to know us intimately before we head back home. If we are offered a job, 99% of us will receive a much lower salary/benefit package than if we were male.

As a new faculty member,there is a high likelihood that we will face demeaning insults related to gender, such as rape and groping and propositioned by other faculty and students, pressured overtly and covertly to trade sexual favors for promotion and tenure and/or threatened if we don’t oblige.  We’ll be subject to harsher assessments of our activity reports, our course evaluations will be much lower than our male counterparts as students believe we should be much more generous with our grading and more understanding of the excuses they have for not meeting class goals, as well as on how closely our appearance matches the desirable features in social media.  About 98% of our male counterparts will have fewer service responsibilities, and be invited to lunches, outings, and social activities much more than we, while we’re subject to more requests for “favors” from faculty, administration, and students. We’re less likely to have a spouse or stay-at-home partner to see to daily duties while we pursue our careers, and the men who generally will hold the senior and administrative positions in our department/college/university will view as they do their wives: reportedly subservient, obedient, and viewing our careers as pastime amusements.  

Men are more often encouraged to vie for early tenure, more likely to be given visible assignments within the university, given choice GRAs, more travel and research funds, desirable office locations and teaching times, and greater acceptance of our office hours and outside time demands.  We’re less likely to hold Chairs, Endowed Professorships, or Dean positions. We’ll be promoted at a slower rate throughout our careers and are likely to never reach pay parity with our male counterparts. Our articles as sole or female first author are less likely to be published. Few of us will be appointed journal editors or members of an editorial board, conference chairs, or book editors.;there has been only one female editor of PAR over its history and she resigned shortly into her tenure as Editor-in-Chief due to bullying and discrimination.  Fellow female editors know this all toowell. We are also more likely to leave academia and seek employment elsewhere due to the differential treatment and harassment, and are more likely to be featured on the lower tier and in the center of department photos as token evidence of diversity.

Research on these points and others have been consistent over time and geographic boundaries.  As a doctoral student and junior faculty member, I’ve witnessed firsthand the machinations behind inviting in attractive female candidates who had no chance of being hired; have suffered all the sexual assaults mentioned above many times over and told by chairs that I shouldn’t do research with male faculty or wear skirts or dresses as it invites such behavior.  Lower evaluations and student/faculty comments that I should grade easier and overlook plagiarism and aggressive acts because I’m a woman, delayed promotions, lower salaries and less discretionary funding, bias because I’m a single parent by choice, being left out of social events because of gender, subject to demeaning remarks based upon gender…I have been subject to it all.  Not having anyone as a role model or in whom I could confide, I tolerated a lot, fought back selectively and paid the costs, and have strengthened my determination to use my experiences to enable other talented and ethical women and to try to make their paths less strident and facilitate their successes when I can.  

Culture is very difficult to change in any organization, and especially so in an academy setting.  It’s exhilarating to see changes over time firsthand, which one hopes is a trend despite recent research that disagrees.  What can we do to contribute to equalization in academia, or at least not perpetuate the barriers?

For all genders and gender-identifications:

If the other bodes no ill will, be kind, share best practices you’ve experienced on dealing with the harassment, limitations, and discrimination.  Mentor other women, ensure equal social opportunities including sports.

Don’t use the phrase, “excuse my language ladies.” Don’t do or say anything to single out females or any gender-identifiers differently from males.

Don’t comment on clothing or hairstyle unless you routinely do so of everyone.

Appoint, advocate for, or facilitate females as journal editors and on editorial boards.

Stand up for untenured female faculty when you see them harassed.  Not privately after the fact but in public at the moment it occurs.  Don’t be complicit in setting a precedent for behavior that is inexcusable in any setting.

Familiarize yourself on the gender bias inherent in student evaluations and either advocate for forms that don’t disadvantage females, or follow the research and adjust female evaluations to increase by the margin of bias substantiated by the literature.

Speak up on behalf of women if some are being ignored in committees/groups, as we know usually happens; advocate for them in speaking their voice.

If a woman is ostracized for speaking out about bias or discrimination, don’t avoid them, refuse to participate in groupthink.  Talk to them, invite them to activities, don’t tolerate their disparagement, and ensure they remain part of the mainstream. Don’t say they asked for it.  It is best to assume that women are never implying an invitation to intimacies; their looking over your shoulder at the computer, inviting you to discuss research over a drink or lunch, or a pat on the back is nothing more than it would be if she were a man.

Provide equal formal and informal consideration for family leave, sick children, single parents, and health issues.

To other women:

Stop the mean girl routine, I’m sure we all know the statistics on how frequently this happens and why.  Instead, empower other female doctoral students and faculty. It’s not a zero-sum game and we can all win by teaming up, not by building barriers to protect our fiefdom as lone female among males.  Being a mean girl doesn’t identify us as remarkable, but rather shines the spotlight on our petty weaknesses and makes us a target for ridicule and derision.

Don’t refer to female faculty by their first names and men by their titles, ensure equal respect.  Don’t assume camaraderie based upon gender, but rather earn it through demonstrating the ideals by which you want to be judged. I think of classic Ms. Magazine articles like, “I Want a Wife,” and “If Men Could Menstruate.” Amplify these voices by refusing to perpetuate stereotypes.  Be a role model, speak out and pave the way for other females to address inequities.

These are just a few suggestions, and useful for all regardless of gender, but if we were to achieve even these minor inroads, we would be light-years ahead of where we’ve mired for decades.

Callie Beusman
Colleges Silence and Fire Faculty Who Speak Out About Rape
Access 21 August 2018

National Sexual Violence Resource Center 2015.; Accessed 18 August 2018

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Sexual Harassment of Women: Climate, Culture, and Consequences in Academic Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.; Accessed 19 August 2018

Sexual Harassment In the Academy: A Crowdsource Survey. By Dr. Karen Kelsky, of The Professor Is In. Accessed 21 August 2018,

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Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Striving for Success by Overcoming the Gender Gap

Today, women in the public administration discipline strive for representation in the academy alongside men, but equitable gender representation remains elusive. Women in the social sciences earn more Ph.D. degrees than men (51.4% in 2014), but fill only 41% of positions in academia (National Science Foundation, 2015). In public administration 50.7% of women were awarded Ph.D. degrees in 2014 (NSF, 2015) but only 38% of women hold academic positions (Feeney, 2015). In moving from Assistant to Full Professor, women lag behind despite their increasing presence at the rank of Assistant Professor (Hancock et al., 2013; Sabharwal, 2013). For the social sciences, NSF (2015) reports that Assistant Professors are 49.5 % women, while at the Full Professor level they represent only 26.6% of the faculty.

While women are more likely now than in the past to obtain their Ph.D. degrees in public administration and related fields, as well as securing academic positions, they somehow do not advance as quickly as their male counterparts. In spite of the fact that some extant studies address the topic of women’s representation in public administration (Hancock, Baum, & Breuning, 2013; Feeney, 2015; D’Agostino, 2016; Scutelnicu & Knepper, 2018), as indicated by D’Agostino and Elias in their blog introduction:“Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity in Academia and the Field of Public Administration”, little has been written about explaining why women are not advancing in their academic careers as quickly as men. 

 Some progress has been made to explore the context of women’s advancement. Existing evidence suggests that underrepresentation of women authors may be explained by a working institutional climate that is not welcoming to women (Hancock et al., 2013), an inadequate work-life balance (Mason & Goulden, 2004), and the fact that women place a higher priority than do men on student advising and nurturing (Park, 1996). Why is the presence of women in academia decreasing as they move up the academic career path from Assistant to Full Professor? We will share, through this blog, our views about three explanatory key indicators that are critical for women’s success in the academy: research productivity,institutional climateand work-life balance. Our foundation for these key indicators lies in our recent research in Public Integrity, “A Tale of Two Journals: Women’s Representation in Public Administration Scholarship.” These key indicators are emerging from our research currently underway as well as from personal communications with peers in the field of public administration and our own experiences. Here, we offer some helpful tips on how women can be more successful in their academic advancement.

  • Research productivity is one of the most important factors that can contribute to the success of women’s academic advancement in public administration.  As evidenced in the literature (Scutelnicu & Knepper, 2018) women publish less than men, so finding ways to encourage and support more publishing is critical.Research productivityrefers mainly to the number of peer-reviewed publications (such as peer-reviewed articles, book chapters and books) one faculty produces and the impact of such published work. Other types of publications such as non-peer reviewed articles, book reviews, research reports and the like rarely count toward research productivity. In a recent 2018 PA Times article we presented some preliminary findings of a self-reported survey sent out to faculty affiliated with NASPAA accredited programs. We found that, overall, women publish on average at 57% of men’s publishing rates. When we examined differences between women and men by types of publications, we found that men publish almost twice as many peer-reviewed articles and books than women and slightly more book chapters. Women seem to publish slightly more non-peer reviewed articles and book reviews than men. Moreover, research reports are favored more by men than by women. Notably, women seem to be most productive at the Associate Professor level and least productive at the Assistant Professorlevel especially in terms of peer-review articles.

Why does this matter? If, typically, faculty performance and success is perceived as synonymous with productivity and evaluated through the assessment of the three academic pillars of teaching, research and service, existing research indicates that, among the three, research productivity is the one that matters the most mainly because it has the potential to lead to an increase in institutional prestige (Coggburn & Neely, 2015; Youn & Price, 2009). In the past five to ten years we have witnessed a higher education trend that places an increasing importance on research productivity for the process of tenure and promotion (Youn & Price, 2009) not only for research-intensive higher education institutions but also for those focused primarily on teaching. The public administration discipline is not exempt from this trend. Therefore, the types of publications that matter the most in the process of faculty tenure and promotion are the peer-reviewed work, precisely where women are less productive than men, at least in the early stages of their careers. 

  • Institutional climate is a comprehensive term that we equate with institutional support, work environment and expectations. Common sense incentives such as reduced teaching load, research stipends, financial support for conference travel and support for grants are all part of creating a research supportive climate. Further, having the necessary staff support to identify and apply for federal, state, local grants and foundation money is equally important. We have witnessed instances where women are expected to identify a grant, write the proposal, and compete on par with peers at institutions with knowledgeable staff support throughout the process. Further, having sponsored research staff with expertise in the social sciences, will increase the capacity of institutions to support public administration researchers. 
  • Work-life balance is another key indicator of women’s success and advancement in the academy. Our preliminary research suggests that women who have supportive partners tend to become successful academics and those who have young children tend to be less successful, especially during tenure-track years. We consider tenure clock stoppage as an indicator of academic success that all academic women should take advantage of.  In a 2016 New York Times article Wolfers mentions that male faculty actually take advantage of this policy and it works in their favor more often than it works for female faculty. While it seems common sense for every university to offer such a benefit to its employees, in reality not all institutions provide such support. Our workplace is an example that instituted such support in the last 5 to 10 years. Working in a male dominated environment may prove to be hostile for women, especially to those who have recently welcomed children or who are caring for aging or disabled relatives.  

So, how can women narrow the research productivity gap? We’ve identified some useful tips:

  • Attend more conference presentations and seek out feedback to best prepare our manuscripts for the peer-review process. 
  • Co-present and co-author with graduate students by serving on dissertation committees and masters’ theses. This is an especially important research mentoring part for the next generation.
  • Stay focused on “what matters”in terms of being successful in academia (e.g. research productivity) by dedicating more time to conducting and publishing peer-reviewed research. 
  • Embrace constructive criticism and build a thick skin for non-constructive criticism. We believe women tend to struggle more than men with accepting constructive criticism, an important part of the peer-review process. Women often won’t send manuscripts for review unless they consider them fully polished.
  • Women must be sure to cite other women’s work. This builds our citation counts and visibility.  
  • Find alternative and creative ways to show the impact of one’s scholarship work. Before Google Scholar,, Research Gate and the like, measuring the impact of academic work was limited to certain journals that were listed in the Science Citation Index (SCI) database. However, today, women can identify other women’s work, cite it in their research and use it in the classes they teach by using Google Scholar, Mendeley and other academic social networks such as, Research Gate etc. All these digital tools have served to equalize access to faculty research even in the working stages. Through these networks we believe the impact of women’s academic work has become more recognized, and can continue to become even more so than it has ever been.
  • Learn to say “no”. Historically, being in a tenure-track position gives you little leverage to refuse new tasks and projects that you are asked to do and women seem to have a harder time at negotiating these workloads. It is perfectly acceptable to politely say no. Institutions must create safe ways to enable academics to decline non-research based additional work activities – perhaps accepting new tasks by letting go of others.·     
  • Find mentors, build formal mentoring programs, and become better mentors. Mentoring should be institutionalized with both formal and informal mentoring taking place from day one. Notably, those universities that provide formal mentoring programs that align with NSF’s Advance grant have seen women successfully mentored, resulting in funded research. We anticipate that women junior faculty who land in institutions with a history of strong mentoring through  research collaboration with senior faculty members are well positioned to not only succeed in their own research but are then better positioned to mentor junior faculty down the road. 

We love and embrace the new wave of research in the area of gender representation in public administration and we think it is timely. While public administration academe has seen greater equity in terms of gender representation lately, it remains critically lacking in terms of other types of diversity such as race, ethnicity etc. Much work remains to be done. 

Gina Scutelnicu, Assistant Professor
Hillary J. Knepper, Chair and Associate Professor
Rebecca Tekula, Assistant Professor
Pace University, Department of Public Administration

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Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Gender Equity in Editorial Positions

person holding white printer paper
By Staci M. Zavattaro, University of Central Florida:

I remember the session clearly. I don’t remember the exact year, but I was fresh out of my Ph.D. program attending the annual American Society of Public Administration meeting. I went to the “ask the editors” panel because I wanted to learn the secrets to academic publishing after a string of rejections. Not surprisingly, the panel was mostly men telling a packed room how to publish in “their” journals.

One man stood to ask a question (I later learned who he was, and now I am proud to call him a friend) and instead he pointed out that essentially men were the gatekeepers of knowledge and wanted to know when editorial teams would be more reflective of the field as a whole – especially when it came to women in positions of actual power rather than as a token member of an editorial team. If you were there, too, you remember the raucous round of applause that broke out in the room. I still remember it clearly. I thought, “Holy moly I can’t believe someone asked that!” That comment took a lot of guts, but I truly believe my friend made the field more conscious of its biases.

Yet we still have a long way to go. In their blog post, Nicole Elias and Maria D’Agostino highlight several recent research papers explaining just how deep the gender disparity in the field goes. Feeney’s article made a splash on social media because it said out loud with empirical data what many of us suspected. We are making strides but still have more hills to climb. In her blog response, Pat Shields walks us through her experience as an editor, a position she has held for many years. Mary Feeney will take over the helm of the elite Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory. This year, many women have won international awards for their longtime contributions to the field. Women are gaining more powerful roles and cannot be afraid to embrace those.

For me, I am about six months into my term as editor-in-chief of Administrative Theory & Praxis. I am the first female editor of the journal, and I do not take that lightly. For me, there feels like extra pressure becoming a first, respecting the vision of those editors before, yet also pushing the journal forward into today’s reality of academic publishing that relies increasingly on metrics to show worth. It is a tricky balance for a journal like ATP because it is known as a place where people can share ideas that challenge the mainstream – yet we have to play a mainstream game. As editor, I am aware of that balance so try to remain true to our roots while also introducing new ideas and topics.

Similar to Pat’s story, my journey with ATP began when I was still a doctoral student. The first conference I attended as a presenter was the Public Administration Theory Network, the home to ATP. There I found a supportive group of scholars who pushed each other to rethink current ideas in the field, to challenge what we take for granted. Nobody laughed at my talk, so that was a bonus! I then got the guts to ask then-editor Thomas Catlaw if he had considered a special issue on social media in public administration (this was 2009 when the tools were just bursting onto the scene). He was intrigued and the next year, after I graduated, I was co-editing the special issue, and the articles from that issue remain some of the most cited in the journal. My first academic publication appeared in ATP. It is coming full circle for me with both the journal and the Network, as in 2017 I brought my own doctoral student to the annual meeting and he now is an editorial assistant on our team.

There are lessons to be learned from my story, from Pat’s, from Mary’s. For me, I will tell you, using a common Instagram meme, “find your tribe and love them hard.” In other words, find a group of scholars who support your work and make that your home. I have attended the Network meetings for nearly a decade now and still come home learning something new each time. Second, know your worth. If you are named to a position of power (that is the key here), trust you earned it for your merits. Impostor syndrome is a real and affects women more often than men. I still sometimes wonder if I am making the right decision when it comes to manuscripts sent in, but I am confident the decisions are the best for the journal. It is getting easier as I settle into the position.

Third, be kind. Oftentimes academia feels like a game. It feels like you need to be in the “cool kids club” to get ahead or rely on a “famous” dissertation chair to propel your career. While maybe that does help, perhaps I am naïve enough to still believe that kindness and hard work pays off. When people ask me for feedback as an editor, I give it to them. I try in my all decision notes, whether positive or negative, to give authors additional feedback. It takes time, but I have received so many thank-you notes so far. So really be kind to people you meet. Learn from them. Send emails just to say hello if you are thinking about someone. Kindness comes around.

Fourth, stay true to what you know. In my research, I study place branding and marketing. People still in our field of public administration think that’s a strange topic. I have been encouraged over the years to study something more acceptable, more known – after all, you want to earn tenure don’t you? I never listened. Maybe I was stubborn, but I believed in what I was researching. Heck, I am good at what I research so why change? Stay your course. If you study something people still think is odd, but you know in your heart it is important, do it. See how it fits within larger conversations in the field. Bring the field to you.

Finally, to badly quote a song, get by with a little help from your friends. That man who stood up at ASPA all those years ago spent two hours on the phone with me when I was having a breakdown about this job. Two. Hours. Remember the tip about kindness? It’s true. Another senior scholar encouraged me to keep pressing about place branding and marketing, and his advice helped me see that my topic mattered. One of my best memories was sitting at dinner one night at ASPA with Jessica Sowa, Rosemary O’Leary, Norma Riccucci, and Fran Berry. I thought, “Oh good grief, how did I get to this table?!” I sat up a bit straighter because I was so nervous. Then I realized, these women are top scholars but they are also really cool people. I relaxed a bit, and I am proud to call them all mentors today. I tell Mary Guy whenever I meet here that I want to be like her when I grow up.

It might sound like bragging, but the stories I share are a culmination of taking my own advice. Kindness and hard work got me those friends. Staying true to myself lets me stay around. I am getting better at asking for help when I need it. The neat part about more women editors is that we are building a great support network for each other. It is a tough role, but my hope is that at ASPA 2019, that “ask the editors” panel will be all women.

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Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity Blog

Fostering a Sense of Belonging: Incorporating Women into Your Public Administration Curriculum

stack of thick books on table
By Megan E. Hatch, Cleveland State University:

Summer for me is a time of deep reflection. Thinking about finishing lingering projects, starting new research projects, my courses. This year, the last one is particularly salient. I am spending this summer focusing on revising the curriculum of two of the most important courses in our MPA program: the introductory course and the capstone. The necessity of getting this right cannot be overstated. For most students, the MPA is a terminal degree, so this is the opportunity to introduce them to the history, norms, and expectations of public administration. Certainly they will learn more as they continue their careers, but if they are not satisfied with their introduction to the field they may not continue in public service.

One thing I keep returning to is the importance of showing my students there is a place for them within public administration. Regardless of their gender identity, race, age, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or anything else, they can make a difference in their community. Many students already have public service motivation, so I see my role as cultivating a sense of belonging. To me, belonging comes from understanding the diversity of public administration. That is a topic I cannot possibly do justice to here, so instead, I will focus on the topic of my recent article in the Journal of Public Affairs Education(JPAE)―gender.Some of my favorite articles to get you started on other topics are by Vanessa Lopez-Littleton and Brandi Blessett, Domonic A. Bearfield, and a 2011 JPAE symposium.

In my JPAE article, I make the argument that the 3 Cs (content, context, and concepts) need to be aligned. By this, I mean the concepts we teach in the classroom, which are reflected in the content of readings, activities, and lectures, should match the context of the on-the-ground experiences of public administrators. Yet, this is not the case today. If you were to look at a typical MPA syllabus, you would think the field is dominated by men. I found on average, less than 20 percent of authors assigned in top-ranked MPA programs’ introductory courses were female and never was that over 42 percent. With an average of 59 percent of students enrolled in NASPAA-accredited programs identifying as female, it is clear women are an integral part of public administration.

One way to make women feel included in public administration is to include more women in our syllabi. When I say that, the common response is “But the founders of public administration were men.” It is true, Wilson, Gulick, Simon, Waldo, Wildavsky, and a host of others were (white) men. But that does not mean women were not part of public administration from the beginning. Camilla Stivers’ groundbreaking book should not be forgotten: as the field took a turn towards a scientific approach, women’s methods and contributions were devalued. This, coupled with the observation that women originally published less than men in public administration journals, lends credence to the idea that the field is dominated by men. However, since the late 1990s, this gender bias has been changing and even eliminated by controlling for mitigating factors . In fact, women are now more likely to publish in top-tier journals. While the contention that the founders of the field were all men remains prevalent, it is neither an accurate representation of the field today nor of public service historically. Those of us with Ph.D.’s in Public Administration probably had a comprehensive exam reading list dominated by men. Often instructors teach what they were taught, perpetuating this dominance of male authors. If like me, summer is a time of reflection for you, I implore you to stop this cycle and revise your curriculum to reflect the contributions of women.

How can you do this, given the earlier observations that men originally published more in public administration journals, and the “classics” are written by men? I have a variety of recommendations in my article, and othershavesuggestionsas well, but I want to focus here on incorporating research by women into your curriculum.

There is undoubtedly value in learning our field’s history. In fact, I believe it is essential for students to understand the various iterations and themes, from the politics/administration dichotomy to Scientific Management to New Public Administration and New Public Service. Yes, many of the original articles and books on these topics were written by men. But those were not the final words written on the topics. An easy way to incorporate more women in your syllabus is to pair a male-authored “classic” with something a woman wrote. Some of my favorites include complementing Woodrow Wilson with the Perspectives on Politics symposium on his legacy, Martha Derthick with the Federalist Papers,  Norma Riccucci with Michael Lipsky and street level bureaucrats, and Deborah Stone with Herbert Simon and bounded rationality. When teaching budgeting, leadership, nonprofits, bureaucracy, or performance management, there are plenty of established and early career female scholars whose work will only enhance student understanding of these topics. There is nothing in the Laws of Teaching Public Administration ™ that say readings must be at least 50 years old. If anything, newer articles and books help students understand what they can expect as they enter the field.

This devaluing of women scholars is not unique to public administration. Jeff Colgan has an excellent article on this process in internal relations. The group Women Also Know Stuff was founded after a media article cited several influential political scientists, all of whom were male. The Women Also Know Stuff movement includes a website with a database of women scholars by specialty, Twitter account, and an explanatory journal article. That database has a listing of 76 women public administration scholars, by the way. They inspired other organizations, including Academic Women in Public Administration (AWPA), a group in which I am a board member. Search our database and you will see a list of almost 400 women scholars in the field. Our Twitter account frequently highlights new articles and books by women. We host meet-ups and panels at conferences. All those resources are places to look to see the myriad of ways women are contributing to the field.

After you have made these changes, use the Gender Balance Assessment Tool (GBAT) developed by Jane Lawrence Sumner to test the gender balance of your syllabi. Feeling ambitious? I hope you are. Do not stop there. What I have offered you is a mostly technical solution to an adaptive problem. We also need systematic change to the structures and philosophy of the field. That is hard work, but is the only way to incorporate marginalized groups fully into public administration. I recommend starting by thinking about who is left out of your curriculum, why, and how you can incorporate those other voices. I am not claiming this is easy; in fact, I can personally attest to how difficult it is. I am going to be spending a lot of time this summer working on those two courses, and they will not be perfect. Incorporating diversity into our curriculum is a never-ending process. But it is an essential one if you want, as I do, to foster a true sense of belonging among our public administration students.

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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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Response to: Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity

By Patricia M. Shields, PhD
Texas State University:

When I entered the field of public administration, gender equity was framed by simpler concerns. It focused on the underrepresentation of women in MPA programs and among MPA faculty. There was perhaps a tacit assumption that as women’s presence grew, their impact on the theory, scholarship and practice of PA would grow accordingly. Maria D’Agostino and Nicole Elias’s blog post examine a world where this has yet to happen. They place some of the responsibility for this on women’s lack of representation on editorial boards and in the position of editor-in-chief.

I concur. Decisions about what and who to grace the pages of PA and Policy journals influence the content and leadership of our field. The Feeney et al. (2018) PARarticle “Power in Editorial Positions” made this clear. This article called for more transparency and voiced concern about bias. All of their arguments made sense. While we do not want editors or editorial boards to be bias, they are selected for their expertise and judgment. This judgment guides their decisions about the nature and future of the field. When women are missing from these positions, their guiding judgments are missing. I believe the field would be stronger if these guiding judgments reflected greater diversity. Voices, which now feel marginalized, can be better synthesized.

A commitment to increase the presence of women on editorial board and in the decision-making role of editor, is about the future of PA. I believe we should also turn our attention backward and re-imagine our past. A history of PA absent women is a contemporary problem. We need to find and re-integrate women into our historical narrative. Women’s contributions may not fit the neat categories that provide us with the stories of our founding fathers. We will need to look in unorthodox places and make the connections. The women are there, they were just marginalized and often pushed over into social work. Non-profit administration offers another avenue of investigation.

Even without the authority of the vote, women organized to recreate their communities. Theda Skocpol’s (1995) Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policyand Cam Stivers (2000) Bureau Men and Settlement Womenare examples of work that should be part of mainstream PA history. I feel certain that if we look into social work, particularly the branches that focus on policy and advocacy, we will find many amazing pioneers of public administration. We need a historical pluralism and revisiting and reintegrating the work of women at the time of the founding is one way to do this.

Nicole and Maria asked me to contribute to the discussion because I have edited a journal for almost 18 years. Armed Forces & Societyis on the SSCI for both political science and sociology. It is international and interdisciplinary and looks broadly at social science and policy issues, which emerge as military and society intersect. Subjects we entertain include veterans, military families, gender integration, base closures, privatization, democratic control and mental health. About 15 percent of our submissions come from faculty in public administration or policy schools.

I published my dissertation, which examined the equity of the draft during the Vietnam era in Armed Forces & Society. The organization that owns the journal, Inter-university Seminar on Armed Forces and Society, was begun by military sociologists. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s leaders in this organization offered me many opportunities to expand my scholarly horizons, particularly in the areas of military recruitment, women and family issues. During that time, I attended conferences, participated in invited policy forums, contributed three journal articles, wrote nine book reviews and reviewed about three manuscripts a year. All of these activities contributed to the invitation in 2000 to become the editor-in-chief of Armed Forces & Society.  

In that role, I have been able to exercise that editorial judgment and influence the scholarship of civil-military relations. One surprising way I did this was to assign more European reviewers to manuscripts about the US military. I believed these papers often needed a more international perspective. Only later did I learn that European scholars were pleasantly surprised that they would be asked to comment on papers about the US military. They also began recommending Armed Forces & Societyas a publication outlet to more of their colleagues. The US authors responded positively as their assumptions were challenged and horizons widened.  The tone and scope of these articles improved in unexpected ways. I use this as an example of how seemingly small editorial decisions (who receives reviews) can influence scholarship. I also believe that my perspective as a woman contributed to that editorial decision.

I have several suggestions for how to increase the visibility of and impact of women’s ideas and scholarship in PA. First, don’t be shy. Promote your ideas and scholarship. Present at conferences, use social media platforms like and Research Gate. Cite yourself. Second, find a network of likeminded scholars and publish with them. Cite each other. Third, review for journals. Believe it or not, strong reviews set you up as a possible editor. In these reviews, when appropriate, suggest additional works by women be integrated into the literature. If your work fits, include it too. Fourth, have an active research agenda with manuscripts in various stages of completion. Learn from reviews. Figure out how the comments can contribute and make the changes. I had one particularly nasty and mean-spirited review. After a period of shock, I thanked my stars that I was not married to that jerk and revised taking into account the useful stuff. The line on my vita is sweet revenge.

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Big Questions Surrounding Gender Equity in Academia and the Field of Public Administration

male and female signage on wall
by Dr. Maria J. D’Agostino and Dr. Nicole M. Elias:

During the 2017-2018 academic year, sex and gender dynamics became a primary focus across disciplines. For example, central topics included: under representation of women in academic leadership and scholarship, gendered content within top journals and editorial board membership, and the #MeToo movement prompting sexual harassment and assault within academia and campus settings to come to light.

This interest in gender taking form underscores the need for MPA curricula to promote gender competency for faculty, students, and future practitioners alike. Organizations such as Women in the Public Sector at John Jay College, ASPA’s Section for Women in Public Administration, and Academic Women in Public Administration have taken steps to further understanding, collaboration, and fruitful projects that promote greater gender equity in the field of public administration.

As we are start our summer projects, and catch up on all our reading and writing,  we should take time to pause, reflect, and engage in discussion on recent research and women’s roles that focus on women in academia and public administration. Here, we highlight recent scholarship that embodies these critical issues for women. We invite reflection, responses, and ongoing dialogue considering next steps for addressing these challenges and proposing new ways of thinking and taking action.   

Women in leadership are underrepresented across all fields, including academia. The need for more women in top management roles is discussed as part of the #MeToo movement to counter the existing power imbalances in organizations. In their 2018 Journal of Public Affairs Education article, Gender and the Role of Directors of Public Administration and Policy Programs Stabile, Terman and Kuerbitz, Stabile, Terman & Kuerbitz assess gender as it relates to director positions in Master of Public Administration (MPA) and Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs. They explore whether women are more likely than men to serve as MPA and MPP program directors and whether men and women report different experiences in the role, such as length of service, rewards and burdens, and possible constraints on research and teaching and thus promotion potential. They found that some gendered characterizations of women’s leadership persist; yet, men and women program directors typically experience similar struggles in balancing their administrative roles with the demands of teaching and research, both of which are likely to suffer during their service. The recent research by Beaty and Davis (2018) Gender Disparity in Professional City Management: Making the Case for Enhancing Leadership Curriculum,  highlights the paucity of women in senior management positions even though there in no lack of women with professional training. They call for the teaching of public administration to reflect it’s changing world by including specific areas of inquiry in the MPA curriculum including why more women do not attain senior executive positions. They conclude that professional training programs can better prepare women for the new world of public administration by making gender more visible within the leadership curriculum.  There is no doubt that the MPA curriculum should highlight sex/gender issues. However, this presents us with another fundamental challenge articulated by Meghan Hatch in (2018), Quiet Voices: misalignment of the three c’s in public administration curriculum, Here, Hatch asks how we achieve greater equity in academia when women write less than 20% of required readings. As Gina Scutelnicu and Hillary J. Knepper emphasize in A Tale of Two Journals: Women’s Representation in Public Administration Scholarship, women publish less than men as solo, lead, and top 10 authors in leading public administration journals.  Meghan Hatch maintains that although scholars preach congruence between “the three C’s” (concepts, context, and content) of public administration in order to keep the field relevant, the content and concepts taught in the MPA classroom do not match the context in the field and provides strategies to address the problem. Beyond addressing these gender imbalances in the classroom,  Feeney et. al. (2018) focus on a root cause of this problem in Power in Editorial Positions: A Feminist Critique of Public Administration. They maintain that women’s representation as journal editors and editorial boards is key to shaping the direction of research in the field because editors are the gatekeepers of what will be published.

Using this recent scholarship as a point of departure, we ask authors, journal editors and board members, those in service leadership roles, and members of academia interested in the topics of representation of women, gendered curriculum content and pedagogy, sexual harassment and assault, and other salient topics to contribute to this discussion.

The responses from authors, journal editors and board members, and leaders in this area of scholarship will be posted.  We, also, would like to invite anyone whom would like to contribute to, please email their contribution to the Women in the Public Sector email account: or  

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