girl power, hot tips, PPGR, public policy, seriously, clark?, tidal wave feminism

the edge of glory

I can’t hear you! Where are the female voices in Canadian public policy?

Earlier in December, the Public Policy and Governance Review published Volume 5 Issue 1. Yay! I’m proud of the publication, as it was co-founded by two of my classmates in 2009 and I’ve contributed a book review (2010), and a few blog posts since graduating (see: food policy as a fake policy space, the utility of one’s political backyard, getting men invested in women’s professional success, or young carers). *I needed to tell you that I have done that, because I am about to wag a digital finger at women who do not. You ready?

I chirped @PPGReview on Twitter, incredulous that out of 9 articles, only 2 were written by women (!!). This post is a follow up, similarly fuelled by said incredulity. If you agree, read this post. And if you don’t bat an eye at stuff like that, read this post but try to avoid me in social situations (good luck). BTW, this original draft got rejected by the Journal.

BIG MISTAKE.

So I get that review of the articles are *blind,* and that the case could be made that the final hurdle for women to achieve professional parity is simply merit; as in, many girls submitted articles but they just weren’t “as good” as the manly ones. But I don’t buy the “merit,” angle AT ALL, because it’s the most dangerous and damaging incarnation of sexism making the rounds. Remember this Globe & Mail article about how Most Executives are Not Concerned About The Number of Women in Boardroom? I do. It’s from Monday [December 16th]. Do you think they [executives] are concerned about the number of women publishing journal articles, or opinion editorials, or blog posts for the PPGR? Probs not. That’s where I come in.

When I don’t see lady names in the journal, I start biting my nails that this is a microcosm of a larger problem in Canadian public policy, namely, a vacuum of female voices and thought leadership. Yeah, we’re smart, savvy and work in policy, but it would seem that boys are by and large still the sector’s spokesmen. Are male students the spokespeople for the policy school? Check out my awesome chart below. I used the ratio of male:female students to show “Boy Power,” (column 2) then looked at the number of articles in each Issue (column 4), and the ratio of male:female authors (column 3). I then colour-coded the journals in stereotypical boy:girl colours (blue:pink) to demonstrate whether that issue was dominated by men or women. *Two Issues (3.1 and 4.1) win a prize for having perfect parity and are thus black.

The most important column is 5, the “Proportionality Index.” It measures the degree to which a population (boys) are over- or under-represented in the PPGR compared to what % of the SPPG class they make up. “1” means they are equal. A value over “1” means they are over-represented and a value of less than one means they are under-represented. (Jane Hilderman taught me how to do this.)

MPP Gender Enrollment & Published Articles in the PPGR 2009-2013

YEAR (ISSUE.VOLUME)

M: F STUDENTS

“BOY POWER”

IN CLASS

M: F ARTICLES

#ARTICLES

PROPORTIONALITY INDEX

2009 (1.1)

0.43

1:3

9

0.76

2010 (1.2)

0.43

5:3

8

3.86

2010 (2.1)

0.64

4:1

5

6.25

2011 (2.2)

0.64

3:1

8

6.25

2012 (3.1)

0.53

1:1

8

1.89

2012 (3.2)

0.53

3:4

7

1.42

2013 (4.1)

0.42

1:1

6

1.89

2013 (4.2)

0.42

2.5:7.5

10

0.79

2013 (5.1)

0.43

7:2

9

8.14

#Articles = #of submissions from students in the publication
**In one case, there were two female co-authors, and I counted that as “1”
***In another case, there were co-authors of each sex, so I counted them each as 0.5. Know about it.
***How I did number of students – I used the class profiles, and changed the number every semester to account for graduating/incoming classes.

So, there’s some variation over time. I mean, women dominate every class, female graduate students should, or could, be out-writing their male counterparts every Issue. But they only manage that (volume-wise) in 1.1., 3.4 and 4.2 (a third of the time). In the four “boy” Issues (1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 5.1), the girls get totally schooled (margins of 5:3, 4:1, 4:1, and 7:2 respectively). So are four journal issues of nine – let’s say the girls in the class are out-published about half the time, but tend to make up two-thirds of the class – a norm, or outliers? That’s where the last column comes in. The proportionality index shows that seven out of nine times, male students are over-represented in the Journal (and by how much). They are only under-represented twice. Why?

I’m not sure. But we can wait and find out if this holds over time, or work to make sure those ratios never happen again. Statistically, I venture that it shouldn’t; because (presumably) every student has about equal writing capacity by virtue of being in the class and there are more women than men in the class. Either the women aren’t great writers (I reject that) or they aren’t submitting as often (I suspect that). I have no way of knowing. What I DO know is that girl power is weak.

Why does this matter?  Political pundits are overwhelmingly male. You can read them, and watch them Tweet about Canadian politics and sports. Though politics affects us all, it’s filtered through a macho male lens. Why else does it matter? Sometimes, a political issue or policy is of slightly more personal interest to the fairer sex. I’m not supposed to say that, though. And you’re not supposed to acknowledge that it’s a teensy-tiny bit true. See, there’s a very pretty pink elephant in the meeting room. It’s the beautiful one bloated by gender wage premiums, the scarceness of women on boards, Parliamentary imbalance, subtle “every day” sexism, and misrepresentation in the media. Guess who rarely writes about these issues? You got it.

The Problem is by no means limited to the Journal. There are plenty of examples of acknowledgement through the media and a few emerging responses. Who Writes for Who shows you the gender breakdown of writers featured on the front page of nytimes.com (here’s how it works). This Atlantic article explains that 90% of Wikipedia’s Editors Are Male – Here’s What They’re Doing About It. The BBC has launched an “Expert Women Database.” Even the comics community is speaking out! And one of my favourites is the MissRepresentation project, which exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence.

You and I know that there are <still> glass ceilings to shatter and policy opportunities to “lean in” to. Instead of pumping up our womanly volume, we’re clicking mute. Guess what? It’s really hard to be “heard” when you’re not saying anything. And when we don’t make progress on “our” policy and professional priorities as women, sometimes I wonder if we have only ourselves to blame. Because if you want to level the playing field, you’re going to have to run out onto it.

Ultimately, this is a leadership opportunity. We live in an unfair world of many inequities and frustrating imbalances. The gender deficit and misrepresentation in our media is something we can amend within a generation, and I look forward to finding out what graduate students at the University of Toronto are going to do about it. Here are some options:

  • Invite more women to submit;

  • Update your External Advisory board so it’s not all dudes;

  • Grow the Journal so that more articles are published (the School is growing but the Journal has not);

  • Intervene as Editors to make sure the Journal is balanced.

And if you’re enrolled at or have graduated from the best policy school in Canada, it means you are capable, competent, and [should be] confident in your capacity to affect change. It means you’re on the edge of glory! (“And I’m on the edge, with you”). Jump!

Ladies of SPPG, you have brains, a voice, and a platform. You are building expertise in the art & science of making society better. I’m operating on the assumption that you have interesting things to say and thoughtful thoughts to share. Please stop proving me wrong, and publish an article or a blog in 2014. And guess what? I have been ‘rejected’ from the Journal in my day, too. Keep writing! I can’t wait to hear you roar.

Chart for Calculations (Reference)

YEAR

YR 1

M:F

YR 2

M:F

TOTAL

M:F

CHART RATIO

~ M:F

BOY POWER

Fall 2009 (1.1)

14: 24 [38]

Class of 2011

9: 29 [38]

Class of 2010

23:53 [76]

1:2

0.43

Spring 2010 (1.2)

14: 24 [38]

Class of 2011

9: 29 [38]

Class of 2010

23:53 [76]

1:2

0.43

Winter 2010 (2.1)

16:23 [39]

Class of 2012

14: 24 [38]

Class of 2011

30:47 [77]

3:4.7

0.64

Spring 2011 (2.2)

16:23 [39]

Class of 2012

14: 24 [38] Class of 2011

30:47 [77]

3:4.7

0.64

Winter 2012 (3.1)

17:42 [59]

Class of 2013

16:23 [39]

Class of 2012

33:65 [98]

1:2

0.53

Spring 2012 (3.2)

17:42 [59]

Class of 2013

16:23 [39]

Class of 2012

33:65 [98]

1:2

0.53

Winter 2013 (4.1)

18:41 [59]

Class of 2014

17:42 [59]

Class of 2013

35:83 [118]

1:2.5

0.42

Spring 2013 (4.2)

18:41 [59]

Class of 2014

17:42 [59]

Class of 2013

35:83 [118]

1:2.5

0.42

Winter 2013 (5.1)

24: 57 [81]

Class of 2015

18:41 [59]

Class of 2014

42:98 [140]

1:2.1

0.43

Standard

7 thoughts on “the edge of glory

  1. franc black says:

    Solution: Start your own publication and only publish female writers. Stop waiting for others to realize your ‘vision’. BTW, people who are physically ‘male’ tend to dominate because their male gendered brains usually offer more methodical and objective material, which is preferable when it comes to ‘academic’ publications. People in that realm want information and observation, not personal opinions. Female writers tend to be too self-centred (subjective).

  2. In Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes asks the important question: I paraphrase it here: In a meritocracy, who gets to merit? The idea of a meritocracy has only been around since 1958 and it was supposed to be the route to equality for every group suffering inequality (including women). The problem with the meritocracy is that the rules are rigged in favour of those who can socially or economically afford entrance. That’s why the schools that were chartered for everyone with ability are now almost all-white.How so? The well-heeled hire the teachers away to tutor their kids.
    And who gets to go to Davos? Check the gender mix on that one!
    Policy schools are based on the principles of the meritocracy and therefore inherit its strengths (anyone can compete) and its weaknesses (anyone can use all their social and money capital to make sure they compete at a high level while raising the bar for those without the superior resources to do so) .
    Taking your numbers at face value, it sounds like men have more social and money capital to inform the inclination or spur to compete for journal space. But the capital or inclination to compete could come from anywhere: fathers, mothers, profs, friends etc. I take you to be to be trying to urge more women with capital to enter the fray.
    Not a bad goal. I think a more worthy cause would be to make a deposit in the bank of social and money capital of those women with less capital who already have the inclination but don’t have the resources to begin with. Not a strong criticism… just a thought.

  3. A. Why I am complaining – it’s still a trend that men are over-represented in the Journal relative to the composition of the class. The opening of the Journal to outside contributions is very recent (2012). The review process may be blind to you as a reviewer, but the fact is that the Editors DO know who the pieces are written by.

    B. Yes, there is variation in the blogs and lots of women write those. But how many of those are “Seen & Heard,” which involves a re-telling of an event at the School, and how many of those are argumentative? That said, I have also noticed that the blog captures many female voices. But I am interested in the product of the Journal, which is why I didn’t write about the blog.

    C. 2.2 has an article co-authored by women, so I give that a score of “1”. There are 8 articles, one by Bridget Nardi and the other co-authored = 2 for women out of 8 articles (not the interviews or Mel Cappe). M:F is 6:2, and you’re right you caught an error. Doesn’t change the dominance of man.

    D. You have tried to minimize or dismiss The Problem. It’s there, as a microcosm in the student-led SPPG Journal.

  4. If it’s of any interest, I did some creeping on the directory of the SPPG website, which revealed that, of the nine articles in this issue, three were authored by SPPG students. All three of those students were male. Two are second-years; one is a first-year. The six articles by non-SPPG students were by four men and two women.

    If you include the PPGR blog, however, of the 16 posts written since the beginning of September by current SPPG students, five were by males, *10* by females, and one co-authored by two females. Conclude from that information what you will. Perhaps the female students are preferring to write short-form to long-form pieces?

    Now, having reread this blog post, I still can’t figure out quite what your argument is. If your aim is simply to encourage women to shape public policy, then I applaud that aim. If your point is that structural barriers are preventing women from contributing to the PPGR at the same rate as men, then I could agree with that. But if your point is that the PPGR itself is being sexist or is contributing to gender inequality rather than merely revealing already-existing gender inequalities, then that argument is bogus; you know already, and say in this post, that the screeners don’t know the sex of the author when they recommend or reject a submission for publication. *So why are you complaining at the journal?* For full disclosure, I was one of the screeners for this issue, so it’s possible that a feeling of offence is clouding my understanding of your piece.

    Also, on a pedantic point, for issue 2.2, I’m not sure how you got a 4:1 ratio with 8 articles. If you’re excluding the interviews and the thingy by Cappe, the ratio of male contributors to female is 3:1, not 4:1. http://ppgreview.ca/past-issues/volume-2-issue-2-2011/

  5. The PPGR may accept anyone from any education institution right now, but a) that is relatively new and b) willing to bet their popularity is concentrated at the School itself. The problem manifests within the pages of the Journal as well as elsewhere. This is a problem. But we can change it. The question is whether we will.

  6. Is the problem one of the School of Public Policy and Governance? I know almost all the first-years in the program, and a few of the second-years, and I recognize only one of the author names (a male). Since the PPGR accepts submissions from pretty much anyone at an educational institution (not just SPPG students at the U of T), perhaps what you should be looking at is the gender balance in enrolment in a broader range of policy-related programs?

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