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Author Spotlight: Gender Disparity in Grad School Materials

By Noah Gerber | May 15, 2019

With the latest edition of the Journal of International Policy Solutions coming out in just a couple of weeks, we wanted to catch up with one of our authors to get an inside scoop on her article. We reached out to Taylor Trummel, a second year focusing in International Politics in Latin America, to tell us more about her paper, Gender Representation Disparity in Graduate Education Materials.

What motivated you to write this article?

In my first year we spent a lot of time in Policy Making Process going in depth talking about the readings in class. They were used as critical, guiding theoretical frameworks for analyzing world events. A few of the readings referred to presidents or leaders with only the "he/him" pronouns or used other instances of gendered rhetoric such as only using the term "congressmen." This is what first caught my attention. I started looking closer at the actual authors of these pieces and time and time again the authors were men. This bothered me and so I looked at two or three other courses I was enrolled in and I found a similar tally of serious under-representation of women's publications across this scratch sample. As a policy school, the arguments and assertions of many of the readings we consult are shaping how we perceive the world and as a result impact how we will influence it. Because of this, I thought it would be particularly important to highlight the disparity in representation in the voices we use to shape our thinking. Personally, I want to learn about international affairs and public policy from a dynamic, diverse set of voices shaped by different experiences and opinions, rather than hearing the same explanations of how the world works from the same power holding group I've always known. Taking this project to its completion has been my way of highlighting this discrepancy. 

How difficult was it for you to put together your database of readings?

Once I was given access to the full set of GPS syllabi from 2017-18, it was relatively simple to put together. It was however very time consuming. It took me about six months to make the dataset as I juggled full time work over the summer and then the GPS course load in the fall of 2018. Later I was supported with making this project into an independent research course and it accelerated in progression and I finished with a dataset of 2,000 observations. 

-What was the most difficult part of writing this paper? The most rewarding? 

It was hardest at the start. I was hesitant to share the idea for this project because I didn't want it to be perceived as a criticism to GPS. Once I finally voiced my concern I found a lot of support and encouragement from faculty and friends. The most rewarding aspect has been seeing how frustrated scribbles and tally marks on the back of a few syllabi has became a complete analysis and dialogue generator for better representation of women's work. 

What are your plans for after graduation?

After graduation I am first doing a fellowship in Uganda to design and conduct a Gender Impact Assessment in a rural community. It will provide an NGO with a status report for their work teaching women of a displaced ethnic group sustainable gardening as well as a bottom-up research approach to women's empowerment to complement my own research. Later in the fall I will start a PhD in Political Science at UC Santa Barbara and focus on the social, political, and economic effects of women's political leadership. What is one major effect you are hoping your paper will have?

It was my hope that this paper would highlight the disparity. I hope it causes other students and faculty to be mindful of whose voices are being excluded in syllabi and as a result, in the teaching tools used to influence the class. Really, I would be excited to hear if it causes anyone look at and think about their course syllabi differently.

If you are interested in finding out more about this topic or other policy questions, keep your eyes peeled for the release of the Journal of International Policy Solutions on May 24th!


Noah Gerber is a first year MIA student studying International Politics with a regional focus in China and Southeast Asia. He is the current Director of Content for JIPS and enjoys sharing topical articles and posts.


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