Where are the women in foreign policy? Here’s your answer, from one of them

I have a new article for Al Jazeera English on the dearth of women in U.S. foreign policy. I was originally asked to write about this for Foreign Policy, who instead last week published a piece asking where the women in foreign policy are. They asked nine people: eight of them were men.

Before that, I was asked to write about the lack of women in IR for a prominent international affairs journal. I could not accept their request to do so, for the reasons you are about to read. Below is the original introduction to the Al Jazeera piece (and the FP piece), which my AJE editor had to cut for reasons of length:

A few weeks ago, I was asked to contribute to a prominent foreign policy journal. Previous contributors include Kofi Annan, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Hans Blix. The journal was putting together a special issue on women, or the lack thereof, in international relations. The editors knew my work on the former Soviet Union as well as a popular piece I had written on motherhood’s financial toll. They thought I would make a good contributor since I understood the struggles women face in the field.

Great topic, I said. What do you pay?

Nothing, they said. We offer all our contributors nothing.

I explained that without compensation, I could not afford the childcare needed to write an article on the plight of working mothers. They said that I would get great exposure. Unfortunately, the babysitter watching my kids would not accept “exposure” as a viable currency. I suggested that childcare might be a good topic to address in the special issue. They agreed. We parted ways.

I wish this journal well on their special issue, which is indeed on a topic of great importance. The dearth of women in U.S. foreign policy is a subject of continual interest, mostly because it never changes. According to a 2011 survey by policy analyst Micah Zenko, women make up less than 30% of senior positions in the government, military, academy, and think tanks. As of 2008, 77% of international relations faculty and 74% of political scientists were men. In international relations literature, women are systematically cited less than men…

Read the rest of the piece at Al Jazeera English, U.S. foreign policy’s gender gap. Please share if you like it. People need to know.

Thank you to the readers who have supported me, which include many men. The problem in foreign policy is not men – it is misogyny. And it is rampant in journalism as well.

Update: Thanks to Atlantic Wire for naming this one of the five best columns of the day, and also thank you to the many people who interviewed me on this topic, especially Chuck Mertz at This Is Hell.

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15 Responses to Where are the women in foreign policy? Here’s your answer, from one of them

  1. Pingback: Thursday Linkage » Duck of Minerva

  2. Dan says:

    while I fully support your decision to part ways with the IR journal on account of it not offering proper compensation, I figure I should mention that such is precisely the stance of your primary employer. I’ve written two op-eds to date for al-Jazeera, and wasn’t offered a dime for either of them. I imagine that isn’t the case for full-time columnists like yourself, but even the organization that serves as the primary mouthpiece for your brilliant analyses isn’t immune to these exploitative practices. How do you feel about that?

  3. Was this Al Jazeera America or Al Jazeera English? Either way, you should have been paid. My stance is make sure you negotiate your pay in advance. If they say they will pay you and don’t, keep pushing until you get your check.

  4. CWitt says:

    Thanks for this. I saw it on Al Jazeera, then found my way to your website.
    I’d also be interested for someone to explore, more specifically, where the women who do make it in foreign policy tend to gravitate. For instance, I when I worked with the Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration at State, women accounted for the vast majority of staff (even at higher levels). I found the same to be true in certain areas within USAID. It seemed to me that, to really succeed as a woman in foreign policy, you had to place yourself in a “softer” sub-section of the community where women were the norm.

    Anyway, thanks again for the post. As graduate student, also studying anthropology, who has run into these issues again and again, I’m glad to read the article and see that you’ve found a way to negotiate some space in the discussion for your own work.

  5. Dan says:

    it was Al Jazeera English. You’re right in that I didn’t firmly negotiate (or even discuss) compensation in advance, because I was frankly too intimidated, and was operating under the assumption all too many writers abide by, that ‘exposure’ is a form of payment in itself. I imagine it might be too late now to request compensation, but the next time I submit something to the op-ed editor Naz, I should be upfront and ask about compensation. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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  9. fred fake neme says:

    Sara stated that “The problem in foreign policy is not men – it is misogyny. And it is rampant in journalism as well.” Not to nitpick, but I see misogyny as an individual’s pathology, and the problem is the system, which, includes both journalism and foreign policy (along with everything else), the system of white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

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