Last year, six leading Washington think tanks presented more than 150 events on the Middle East that included not a single woman speaker. Fewer than one-quarter of all the speakers at the 232 events at those think tanks recorded in our newly compiled data-set were women. How is it possible that in 2014, not a single woman could be found to speak at 65 percent of these influential and high-profile D.C. events?
They all figure it’s more of a guy thing?
Such questions are increasingly common in other fields, including the natural sciences. In our experience, organizers of all-male events reply to challenges with one of two answers: “I didn’t even notice there weren’t any women!” or “I couldn’t think of any women to invite.”
And I not only couldn’t think of any, I couldn’t think of any way to find any. I tried and tried and tried but somehow the idea of using a search engine just never crossed my mind.
Really? Well-known women experts in Middle East politics are on the faculties at Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Northwestern, American, Georgetown and many more universities. Nine of the 15 members of the steering committee of the Project on Middle East Political Science (directed by Marc Lynch) are women. A dozen women have served as president of the Middle East Studies Association. Women are likewise a palpable presence in Middle East policy: Well over a dozen women have served as U.S. ambassadors in the Middle East, and Anne Patterson currently serves as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat dedicated to the region.
Well yes but how are people supposed to find that out? Besides a search engine, that is, which we’ve already established is something it’s too hard to think of.
As for the think tanks, women run the Middle East Institute, the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution (Tamara Cofman Wittes), the Middle East Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Middle East Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, the Center for the Middle East and Africa at the U.S. Institute of Peace, the Center for Middle East Public Policy at RAND, and play key roles at the Middle East programs of the Center for a New American Security and the Atlantic Council. Women journalists covering the region are powerhouses in print, on air and on Twitter; there are, frankly, too many of them doing cutting-edge work in the region to even start to list them.
And yet, all those organizers of those more than 150 events couldn’t manage to think of a single woman to invite – apparently couldn’t even manage to form the thought that they ought to invite women.
This is why Christina Hoff Sommers and all her acolytes are so fucking wrong. The status quo in the sciences and at policy events does not reflect women’s choices, end of story – it also reflects stupid intractable clueless forgetting and not bothering and who caresing like the above.
The vast gap between the large number of senior women in our field and their notable absence from our public discourse means it’s time for active steps to fix the latter problem. Eliminating woman-free public events has become increasingly a priority in other fields, such as the hard sciences.
And philosophy. And atheism, skepticism, secularism, humanism.
The post is by Tamara Cofman Wittes and Marc Lynch.