Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 16:03 | SYDNEY
Tuesday 17 Jul 2018 | 16:03 | SYDNEY

Now wait just a minute...


Rodger Shanahan


This post is part of the Women and the foreign policy commentariat debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

1 September 2011 16:53

This post is part of the Women and the foreign policy commentariat debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

I was going to go on with my 'Women in the Arab Spring' posts but thought that, given I am being used as an online Kewpie doll, it may be apposite to say a word or two. 

Before people start looking at my name and imputing gender bias and condescension, I would like to point out that the comment I referred to in my initial post about a lack of female international relations talent in the media sphere came from a woman. And the comment about a possible female predilection for 'direct communication' came from an entirely different (and well-credentialed) woman. 

My question was a serious one. It is acknowledged that we have plenty of well-credentialed female IR academics and practitioners (albeit unevenly distributed in certain fields), but relatively few high profile female IR commentators. That was the basis of my question. Why is this the case? Statistical anomaly? Lack of women in newsworthy areas of IR? Media bias? An unwillingness of women to adopt a high public profile? I am open to suggestions and a healthy debate on the issue.

On the ripostes received to date, I commend those from Caitlin, Jocelyn, Linda and Susannah, who actually attempted to address the substantive issue. I admit to not knowing about the Foreign Policy piece to which Caitlin refers, but it touches on some of the issues I hoped to raise. No doubting the number of capable women in the IR field, but why is the field (along with possibly economics) dominated by men to a much greater extent than others such as health, education, science, and medicine?

Writing from the US, it is to be expected that there would be more women commentators, as the talent pool is bigger. But I would be interested as to whether men still dominate the broadsheets, television and IR faculties in the US to the extent they do in Australia. Susannah's point is also worthy of further exploration. Are men more prominent because they are more comfortable in expressing their opinion in public, regardless of how worthwhile it may be?

As to Jennifer's riposte, she failed to answer the question I posed in the original post and again above. I know there are well-regarded women in the university IR field. I have heard of Sarah Phillips and greatly admire her work. If Jennifer had used Google she might have noticed that Sarah and I co-wrote a Lowy paper on Yemen a little while back.

I say nothing about the capabilities of women in the IR field. I have been taught by them, worked with them, they are well represented in the Lowy Institute and I rate them on their abilities the same as everyone else. It's just that they seem to have a much lower public profile than men — an issue raised with me by other women and not dreamt up by me during some morning tea break. Either disagree with this supposition or explain it, but at least try to address it. 

As for me, I'm going to talk about women and the Arab Spring.

Photo by Flickr user Robert.Nilsson.