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The Gender Effect on Editorial Boards and in Academia

Barbara L. Stark, Katherine A. Spielmann, Brenda Shears, and Michael Ohnersorgen

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Because publication is so crucial to promotion and tenure decisions in academic jobs, we were interested in determining whether women are well represented in the editorial positions that contribute to decisions about publication. We studied the gender composition of archaeological editorial boards. For the purpose of comparison, we also examined the representation of women archaeologists on college and university faculties. A further step led us to look at the gender proportions among recent PhD recipients in archaeology. The research was conducted by a subcommittee of the SAA's Committee on the Status of Women in Archaeology (COSWA). The research reflects one of COSWA's central missions, which is to collect data relevant to the status of women in the archaeological profession.

This synchronic survey assesses the gender composition of editorial positions in 1993 for anglophone journals that primarily serve the archaeological profession. The journals and book series analyzed are not a complete inventory; they reflect sources accessible in our library. We do not address diachronic patterns of editorial gender composition.

Many factors condition appointments to editorial positions. Editorial boards involve "recognition" appointments that normally do not entail home institution commitments. In contrast, some editorships require institutional support. Chief editor and editorial board appointments generally reflect a degree of seniority in the profession and recognition of the individual as a respected authority in an aspect of the discipline. Geographic and topical diversity are often built into editorial boards to improve the breadth of expertise. If editorial positions are viewed as very public they are likely to give a good appearance of representativeness. But if they are seen apart from the mainstream of affirmative action, they may be susceptible to gender bias. Our interest is in aggregate patterns that might reveal gender imbalances.

Underrepresentation of women in editorial positions could indicate gender bias or, alternatively, an overrepresentation could reflect compensatory efforts to diversify editorial boards and promote more representation of women. Assessment of editorial gender composition is dependent on a "yardstick" or reference population that establishes an expected composition. As with many seemingly simple questions, ours concerning editorial gender representation raised many complex issues when we attempted to examine reference pools.

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Editorial Gender Composition

Both domestic and foreign anglophone journals exist. Because appropriate reference populations cannot be assessed equally, we have compiled the information about foreign and domestic journals separately. An additional reason is that legal and other conditions affecting the profession differ among countries. In our statistics, we included the editor and any members of an advisory board, but not production or managing editors or other related assistants. Specialty editors were counted, such as for book reviews or current research. The last issue available for 1993 was used as the index of editorial participation. Gender (male or female) was assigned on the basis of names or acquaintance, or as "unknown" when uncertain.

Domestic series are grouped as having (1) a national or international scope or (2) a more regionally oriented focus. We would expect the broader-scope series to be widely regarded as more prestigious because of the greater (not exclusive) role of these journals in showcasing research of broad relevance. We separately identified the gender composition of the chief editors because of the greater role that they play for the journal. Our comparisons focus on domestic series and U.S. institutions.

Table 1 shows a difference in the percentage of women (and conversely men) in domestic broad-scope vs. regionally focused journals. Women occupy 14% of the broad-scope positions and 22% of the regional scope positions. The percentage of women in editorial positions for foreign anglophone series lies between these two values--18%. Broad-scope national series have a lower percentage of women as chief editor, 10%, while regional scope series have relatively more women in this position, 38%. Foreign series have the lowest representation of women as chief editor, 9%. Are these values representative of a reference pool of women in the profession?

Table 1
Table 1

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Comparison to Reference Populations

To evaluate gender representation in editorial positions, we need to know how many men and women are in the potential pool that could be appointed. Many different ways of assessing the potential pool exist, but not all are easy to calculate. Our approach to the potential pool relies on the AAA Guide 1992-1993 (1993, American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C.) (hereafter Guide) to determine the gender composition of archaeologists in three categories of academic institutions, grouped according to whether the highest degree granted in anthropology was a BA, MA, or PhD. Note that archaeologists in nonacademic settings are not included in this approach. Academic institutions within the U.S. share a common set of ranks, allowing us to further distinguish tenured (assumed to be associate or full professor) and untenured (assumed to be assistant professor) ranks. Nonacademic settings lack common ranks and would require use of different measures than we employed.

In order to better standardize comparisons, we considered only regular, full-time faculty. Excluded are adjunct, visiting, and emeritus faculty (and any other positions that are not regular teaching faculty). Joint appointments are included if the individual appears to be primarily an archaeologist. For purposes of reference, we include comparable information about the composition of the entire anthropology faculty as well. Some foreign institutions are included in the Guide. Data for foreign institutions (mainly Canadian) are presented separately because distinct factors may shape faculty composition; also, ranks are not identical in all cases and therefore were treated as missing data for some foreign institutions.

We compiled information on academic institutions with at least one archaeologist listed as faculty (Table 2). When it was unclear whether a faculty member should be counted as an archaeologist--as some individuals have cross-subdisciplinary or multi-subdisciplinary topics listed--we applied our own judgment.

Table 2
Table 2

It can be argued that the tenured pool is more relevant for comparison to editorial positions because series usually seek well-established individuals for such positions. Editorial positions are part of a review process concerning new research, and research-active faculty are especially relevant. Therefore, institutions granting higher degrees constitute a more relevant pool because of their tendency to emphasize research to a greater degree (i.e., MA- and especially PhD-granting institutions). We caution that these remarks about relevant pools focus on tendencies in populations and do not describe any particular individuals. There is considerable individual variability among editors and archaeologists.

Except for BA-granting institutions, the percentage of women archaeologists is lower at the higher ranks than for all ranks, suggesting that more women have been added to faculties at the assistant professor rank in recent years. A lower percentage of women in tenured positions compared to all ranks also characterizes anthropology departments as a whole.

The percentage of tenured women archaeologists at PhD-granting institutions in the U.S. is 15%, with a like percentage at MA-granting schools; the percentage at BA-granting institutions is noticeably higher--24%. Are these tenured values significantly different from those for women in editorial positions? Or are the proportions for all archaeology faculty different? To assess these comparisons we employ chi-square or Fisher's exact tests (the latter when 20% or more of the chi-square expected frequencies are less than five). We use alpha = .05 (two-tailed) throughout to judge statistical significance.

The only statistically significant differences between the gender composition of domestic editorial positions and faculty at U.S. academic institutions arises for broad-scope domestic journals compared to BA-granting schools. The BA-granting schools have a higher percentage of women than do MA- and PhD-granting schools. Specifically, a statistically significant difference occurs when broad-scope U.S. journals are compared applying chi-square to all BA archaeology faculty (p = .02), or to MA and BA faculty combined (p = .04), or to the combination of PhD, MA, and BA faculty (p = .05). There also is a significant difference for a comparison of domestic editorial positions with tenured BA faculty (p = .02) (but not to other tenured faculties). However, there is no significant difference for comparisons to MA-granting schools, nor to PhD-granting schools, whether all faculty or only tenured faculty are considered.

Comparisons of regional scope editorial positions to the reference pools involve no significant differences, because more women are in these editorial positions. The representation of women as chief editors of broad-scope series is not significantly different from the tenured reference pools, even though that percentage is considerably lower than for editorial positions in general. However, regional scope chief editors differ in comparison with tenured PhD and MA pools (p = .01 and .03, respectively) because more women than expected are regional chief editors.

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Comments on the Reference Pools

As we collected data on the academic reference pools, we were struck by the greater representation of women archaeologists in BA-granting institutions, when compared to MA or PhD schools. Our interest piqued, we attempted to evaluate these impressions and assess whether other, more subtle patterns affected the distribution of women archaeologists among anthropology departments.

Pairwise comparisons of the proportions of total male and female archaeology faculty among PhD-, MA-, and BA-granting institutions reveal no statistically significant differences. Similar pairwise comparisons using the number of tenured males and females indicate significant differences only for PhD vs. BA institutions (p = .02). Therefore, PhD and BA institutions constitute distinct reference pools for tenured archaeologists due to the higher percentage of tenured women at BA-granting institutions.

We also checked whether the number of archaeologists in a department plays a role in gender representation because some large departments had few or no women. As might be expected, there are size patterns among BA, MA, and PhD departments, which range from 1-4, 1-6, and 1-12 archaeologists, respectively. Among PhD-granting schools, we divided the size of departments into three groups: 40 departments with up to 3 archaeologists (3 is approximately the median); 27 departments with 4-6 archaeologists; and 11 departments with 7-12 archaeologists. These groups do not differ significantly in gender proportions. We did not perform a similar analysis of MA- and BA-granting institutions because of their smaller size ranges.

Individual departments can be assessed for significant differences from a reference pool. Significant differences were examined using the binomial distribution. The probability of having a woman archaeologist was designated as equivalent to the overall representation of women in regular academic positions in the U.S. (p = .207). An examination of the PhD departmental data revealed that in the U.S. only two departments individually deviated significantly from the overall proportions of employed women archaeologists in the U.S. Both departments deviated in having more women than predicted by chance. Because even the largest number of archaeologists in a department (12) is still a small number, the probability of having no women in the largest department in a random sampling of the currently employed population is not significant (p = .06), although it is close to the arbitrary significance value we applied.

If we adopt a broader perspective on the reference pool and assign a probability of having a woman archaeologist as equal to their representation among PhD recipients (p = .36), current departmental patterns show more deviation from expected values. (PhD recipient data are discussed in the next section.) Four relatively large departments differed significantly from this proportion due to their lack of women archaeologists.

In sum, we didn't find significant differentiation in gender proportions among data aggregated by size of the cadre of archaeologists. Individually two PhD-granting departments differed significantly from the proportions of women in PhD departments as a whole. However, more departments deviated from the proportions of PhD recipients that are women. BA, MA, and PhD departments don't differ significantly among themselves in the proportion of women except in the case of tenured women when BA and PhD institutions are compared.

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A Broader Perspective on Reference Pools

If women have obtained professional positions in greater numbers recently, it is reasonable to ask if the academic pools are representative of the proportions of women receiving PhDs in archaeology. The Guide (1993:505) reports that for anthropology as a whole, the proportion of women receiving PhD degrees is approximately 50%. To determine if the same percentage applies to the subdiscipline of archaeology, we examined the individual listing of dissertation titles to assign gender on the basis of name for all dissertations either designated as archaeology or that appeared to deal with archaeology on the basis of the title (not all dissertations had a subdiscipline indicated in the Guide). The proportion of women receiving archaeology PhD degrees in the U.S. in 1993 is 30 among 82 that could be coded for gender, or 37%. (The proportion when foreign institutions are included with domestic ones is 35%.)

Kramer and Stark (1994, The Status of Women in Archeology. In Equity Issues for Women in Archeology, edited by M. C. Nelson, S. M. Nelson, and A. Wylie, pp. 17-22. Archeological Papers No. 5. American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C.) reported women received 36% of PhDs during the decade 1976-1986. Kramer and Stark's data are pertinent because they pertain to an interval before 1993; women entering academe professionally from that earlier decade would have had time to reach associate or higher rank. Therefore, the percentage of women among recent PhDs as well as those more than a decade earlier is much higher than the percentage represented in full-time faculty positions and especially in higher ranked positions. This large discrepancy suggests an underrepresentation of women in the profession and, consequently, in editorial positions.

Of course, a weak academic job market has affected opportunities for both men and women to obtain entry-level positions. Some of the gender proportions can be ascribed to the inertia of departmental composition. However, it remains unclear if women are being added to faculties in the proportion that they complete PhDs. Kramer and Stark (1994:18) report that the 1986-1987 Guide listed 486 full-time archaeologists among all faculties, with 20% of them women. We tallied 631 archaeologists seven years later, a growth of approximately 30%, but the growth in the proportion of women archaeologists was 1% (Table 2). These figures suggest such a striking discrepancy in growth patterns that we suspect the figures are skewed by different ways of tallying the numbers of archaeologists, but, nevertheless, they do not suggest that women are being added to faculties in the proportion that they receive a PhD. The issue of why women are underrepresented in academic positions compared to their proportions among PhD recipients is complex, and we do not attempt to discuss the factors responsible. Other authors who have addressed a variety of factors that affect the representation of women in science include S. G. Brush (1991, Women in Science and Engineering. American Scientist 79:404-419); H. Etkowitz, C. Kemelgor, M. Neuschatz, B. Uzzi, and J. Alonzo (1994, The Paradox of Critical Mass for Women in Science. Science 266:51-54); E. F. Keller (1991, The Wo/man Scientist: Issues of Sex and Gender in the Pursuit of Science. In The Outer Circle: Women in the Scientific Community, edited by H. Zuckerman, J. R. Cole, and J. Y. Bruer, pp. 227-236. Norton, New York); J. S Long and M. F. Fox (1995, Scientific Careers: Universalism and Particularism. Annual Review of Sociology 21:45-71); G. Sonnert and G. Holton (1996, Career Patterns of Women and Men in the Sciences. American Scientist 84:63-71); and A. Wylie (1993, Chilly Climate Issues for Women in Archaeology. In Women in Archaeology: A Feminist Critique, edited by H. du Cros and L. Smith, pp. 245-258. Occasional Papers in Prehistory No. 23. Department of Prehistory, Research School of Pacific Studies, Australian National University, Canberra).

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Our results do not suggest that women are statistically underrepresented in editorial positions or as chief editors compared to academic reference pools except when the broad-scope journals are compared to pools that include BA departments, where women are better represented than in the other academic settings. However, a broad view of the potential reference pool shows that women are not being hired in academe in proportion to their representation among PhD recipients. In this sense both academe and editorial positions underrepresent women archaeologists. The beginning of the "pipeline" for the profession reaches back into graduate school, where conditions both in the discipline and the wider society affect the proportion of women PhD recipients in archaeology, yielding a much lower percentage of women than for the profession of anthropology as a whole.


This study was undertaken as a project inspired by the SAA Committee on the Status of Women in Archaeology. We gratefully acknowledge the suggestions and discussion of committee members during the course of the study. We thank George Cowgill for his comments on an earlier draft, but he bears no responsibility for the final outcome.

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Barbara L. Stark, Katherine A. Spielmann, Brenda Shears, and Michael Ohnersorgen are at Arizona State University.

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