Gender, Race, Age, and National Origin Predict Whether Faculty Assign Female-Authored Readings in Graduate Syllabi

Gender, Race, Age, and National Origin Predict Whether Faculty Assign Female-Authored Readings in Graduate Syllabi

By Amy Erica Smith, Iowa State University, Heidi Hardt, University of California, Irvine, Philippe Meister, Iowa State University, Hannah June Kim, Stanford University

Numerous studies document female scholars’ underrepresentation in political science publications and citations, yet few examine graduate syllabi. In this study, we assess the impact of instructors’ individual characteristics (i.e., race, gender, and age) on which readings they assign. We use what is—to our knowledge—the largest dataset of graduate readings to date: the GRaduate Assignments DataSet (GRADS), with 75,601 readings from 840 syllabi in 94 US PhD programs. We report several findings. First, overall, instructors infrequently assign female-authored scholarship relative to the rates at which women publish. Second, instructors who are women, people of color, and those from more gender-equal countries assign significantly more female-authored readings than white male instructors and those from less gender-equal countries. Third, among women—but not men—older instructors assign more female-authored work. We suggest that women’s underrepresentation on syllabi may contribute to “the leaky pipeline,” which describes women’s attrition from academic careers.

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