Progress? Not Fast Enough, ISA 2018 edition

By Steve Saideman

I have been in this business for more than 25 years, and have gone to about 25 or so annual meetings of the International Studies Association (and about the same number of APSA’s).  Over the years, I have been struck by how much has changed since I started.

Besides the disappearance of polyester and leisure suits (yes, they still existed in the early 1990s), one of the big changes has been the gender balance.  It used to be the case that it seemed as if the only young women at these meetings were those representing the book publishers.  There are far more women (although not that many seniors) than there once was.

This time, I was struck by the increased ethnic diversity.  Sure, I know from the TRIPstudies (including my own) that 21st century IR is mighty white.  But it is less so than it was.  So, I could be pleased by the improvements. Yet….

Oh, my.   The only person I heard of getting badged–checked to see if they belong in the sea of ISA goers–was an African-American woman.  The same woman was also asked by multiple participants to get their drinks or clean up the lobby.  I will not go into the details, as it is her story to tell, but FFS!!!

So, I am reminded of many conversations with Teen and now College Senior Spew:
Me: sure, things aren’t perfect, but we have made progress (on gender, race, LGBTQ, etc).

And, yeah, she persuaded me that she was right.  This ISA was mostly a super-positive experience for me, but it is easier since I am a white, straight, male with an endowed chair and heaps of tenure.  It is easy for me to look around and notice that there is more diversity.  What is less easy for me is to see how the women and the African-Americans and the Latinx and the Asian-Americans and all the rest of the folks are treated and how they experience the event.

Which reminds me of something that happened at the airport.  On my way out, I sat next to a white woman who left her bag behind and walked off.  See something, say something, right?  After waiting a few minutes, I did so.  And then moved far away from that bag.  Twenty minutes later, she returned–that bag had acted as a seat-saver, I guess.  Oh, and security didn’t show up in that 20-minute interval.  Hmmm.

So, see something, say something and then some, right?


Reading “Lean In” from Mozambique

Reading “Lean In” from Mozambique[1]

I am writing this from Mozambique, where I am on sabbatical while my spouse has taken a post with the Canadian embassy.  Like many women, I read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” with interest – compelled by both the subject and the hype that surrounded her book. I was prompted to complete this piece by the news that Sandberg will release a new version of “Lean In,” tailored to the needs of graduate students. 

While reading “Lean In” from Mozambique, I was reminded of the stark contrasts of our world, and of the very different realities that face the world’s women.  Mozambique has enjoyed high economic growth rates (averaging 7-8% over the last decade), but it still ranks 184 out of 187 countries on the Human Development Index – third from the bottom.  Mozambique remains desperately poor: its 2012 GNP was 14.59 billion USD.[2]  In the first 9 months of 2013, Facebook’s revenue (where Sheryl Sandberg is Chief Operating Officer) was 5.2 billion USD,[3] which places its 2013 revenue on course to be roughly half of Mozambique’s GNP.   

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