jeremy’s annual asa genderwatch

So, you know I’m having trouble sleeping when it’s past 3am and I think, “I haven’t read Footnotes in awhile.” (Footnotes is the American Sociological Association newsletter.) I see the election slate for 2008 has been announced. We are now two years removed from the curious turn of events where ASA followed up the sweep of top six ASA positions by women in 2005 with the mysterious nomination of only men for top positions in 2006 [see coverage on my old blog here and here]. Last year, the gender preference of the electorate was not undemocratically precluded, and the outcome was 13 women vs. 5 men for the top 18 posts. This year, the nominations seem like they’ve gone farther to just enact the electorate’s preference at the outset, as the nominee count is 26 women versus 10 men. My prediction is that it will end up 14-4, with the male victories including one seat on Council and one on Publications. I think the 18-0 full gynosweep that ASA election observers have been waiting for is still 7-10 years away.

Author: jeremy

I am the Ethel and John Lindgren Professor of Sociology and a Faculty Fellow in the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University.

5 thoughts on “jeremy’s annual asa genderwatch”

  1. I’m a SWS member and I’ll admit to voting on the basis of the information they give me. Why? Well, while women now make up about 60% of PhDs, they are still under-represented in top departments (and though there are more now than in, say, 1984, they haven’t really made up that much ground). They are less likely to be tenured than men, and more likely to be in community colleges* and work as adjuncts.

    And though 84% of male sociologists are over 40 and 53% of them have tenure, for the 74% of women over 40, only 28% have tenure. Since the 1960s upwards of 60% of soc. undergrads have been women, and yet for a long time comparatively few entered graduate programs. Now, of course, lots of these things can be partially explained by life outside of sociology, and of course, it is certainly not a given that electing a woman will result in more favorable gender policies. But I tend to think that sociology still has a bit of a gender problem; this problem matters to me, and I’m going to vote in ways that I think are more likely to address this problem. That, and in the long run, I’d bet that the boys have far outnumbered the girls (even in proportion to their membership).

    My “data” come from a paper I wrote with Myra Ferree and Shauna Morimoto. If interested, you can check it out (the tables and graphs in particular) at my old website, under “papers”. It’s a sloppy draft version, but the basics are there.

    *This is NOT meant as a knock at these colleges. Only an observation that these are lower-status jobs.


  2. Many people seem fond of the “in the long run, I’d bet that the boys have far outnumbered the girls” argument for why preferentially voting for women qua woman is a good thing for sociologists to do, and I honestly can’t tell if people intend it seriously as a moral argument or if they kind of understand that it’s a rationalization as they articulate it. My own ideas about addressing historical inequities is having things work out so that they work out in the present, not that it balances out over historical time.

    Regarding the idea that preferentially voting for women because of the gender policies they might enact, that seems to me a stronger argument, although it’s hard for me to see exactly what policies they might be. In terms of the gender difference in faculty of 40 with tenure, is there any discipline for which that isn’t the case? It’s harder for me to see how ASA is going to make a difference for a problem larger than the discipline, but I can see someone saying that every bit helps.


  3. Just to follow up, the SWS questionnaire susses out the feminist proclivities of all the candidates who choose to respond, not just the women. It asks questions about activism on behalf of women in the past, as well as gender-based plans for the ASA, if I recall.

    Also, just to be crystal clear, SWS does not endorse candidates for the ASA. It simply sends out a questionnire to all the candidates, and then shares the answers that the candidates provide to all SWS members.


  4. The thing is that voting to address the problem using the gender of the nominee as a proxy is often flawed. some of the most stuanch feminists I know are straight white men. I like the quesiton about future plans re: gender.

    This is an interesting dynamic in the democratic primary as well. Who do you think is the most serious, effective, or committed feminist in that bunch?

    Oh, I am a huge feminist and will now be cheering (and praying) for the Dallas Cowboys as hard as I can. I was a dallas cowboy cheerleader for multiple Halloweens growing up. I had the white cowboy boots and everything.


  5. I don’t myself identify the existence of many voters in sociology with a strong-preference-for-female-qua-female-candidates with SWS, although obviously I’d expect the preference to be more prevalent among its members than the discipline at large. I also don’t think the observed preference has much to do with the information that SWS collects and distributes before the election, and its effect may be stronger on which particular women and men are the ones elected.


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