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