A database of female experts in politics, policy, government, and methods in the social sciences, called Women Also Know Stuff, was launched on Friday and has rapidly gained momentum with the addition of numerous experts and research categories. We had the opportunity to interview the site’s founder Samara Klar, an Assistant Professor at the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona, about her motivation for creating the site and what might be next.
How did the launch of Women Also Know Stuff come about?
I think a lot of political scientists – both men and women – are disappointed when they see conference programs, speaker series, or articles that include few women, if any at all. The individuals in our field are, by and large, extremely inclusive and progressive – yet women nonetheless tend to be underrepresented in these types of public forums.
It just seemed to me that the problem is not that anyone is intentionally excluding women but rather that it can simply be tricky to think of women when organizing these types of things. I myself have been in that position – putting together a panel and struggling to think of women who might be able to participate. So an accessible database of female political scientists, searchable by area of expertise, just seemed to be an easy way to help deal with that.
How many women were in the database when you launched the project and how many are now?
The “project” in itself was a really quick and easy endeavor. I took maybe 20 minutes to start a site on wordpress.com and I added just a few areas of expertise, each with maybe 1 or 2 names. I immediately realized that there are far too many women that needed to be added to the site for just me or even for just a handful of people to maintain the database. It would have to be crowd-sourced. So I simply emailed all the login information to a dozen or so women I know in political science as well as to the listserv for Visions in Methodology. I told people the basic concept and asked them to forward it around.
It has now been 48 hours since the site was first created and there are now over 70 areas of expertise, each with at least a handful (if not several dozen) experts listed. I have not done an exhaustive count of the number of scholars in the database but it’s in the several hundreds. And, again, it has been only 48 hours since the site was created! All I did was put together a very simple website. There are dozens of political scientists – men and women – who contribute the content and maintain the site. My effort in this project has really been no greater than many others’.
The discipline seems to have quickly embraced the concept. Will you be gathering data on how much the site is actually used to procure female speakers or co-authors? To be honest, I put the site together very much on a whim and I figured that if one or two women gained a bit of visibility, it would be a success. But it has absolutely taken on a life of its own. I would love it if we were able to keep track of any impact it might have in a more systematic way. Hopefully someone will come up with a clever way to do so or will even volunteer to take that on!
How can someone make suggestions if they know of women they would like to see listed under certain categories?
As I mentioned, there is no “gate-keeper” for this site. The login information is available to anyone who is interested in contributing. Simply email me or, really, anyone listed on the site, and you’ll be able to get all the information you need to make edits.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
It’s always really nerve-wracking to put yourself out there when it comes to sensitive issues like this one but I am thrilled at how excited and supportive everyone has been. Both male and female political scientists have been sharing it on social media, contributing names, and emailing me with words of encouragement. It’s not a perfect solution — or even a perfect website! – but it’s exciting to see that everyone is so open to taking small steps to fixing the problems in our field.