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Gender diversity varies within IGL programs, IR department

Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Updated: Thursday, March 7, 2013 03:03


Justin McCallum / The Tufts Daily

Women participated in high numbers in this year’s EPIIC symposium, but women are not evenly represented throughout the IR field.


This is the second article in a series focusing on gender issues within different contexts at Tufts. 

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may hold the stage as a leading lady of diplomacy and international relations, but overall women tend to be underrepresented in the historically male-dominated field. According to a 2006 survey conducted by the University of California, San Diego and the College of William Mary, only 23 percent of faculty respondents in the international relations field were women. On the Hill, the numbers are also unbalanced, but in the other direction: In the Department of International Relations (IR) at Tufts, women make up 59 percent of all IR majors.

Tufts’ interdisciplinary IR department, which spans over 16 departments and is composed of 60 core faculty members, has kept up with the university’s greater push for gender diversity over the years. According to Director of International Relations Drusilla Brown, as more women began to attend Tufts in proportion to men, the numbers of women within IR also increased, ultimately outnumbering men. 

The Institute for Global Leadership (IGL) is an important partner to the international relations program, fostering deeper research and engaged learning opportunities. With a variety of programs spanning a variety of global issues,  IGL Director Sherman Teichman, says out of the five hundred total students who participate in the instritute, women are well-represented.

Thee IGL’s largest program, Education for Public Inquiry and International Citizenship (EPIIC), is 80 percent female, marking a radical shift from the past when the number has been closer to 50 or 60 percent. 

Teichman pointed out that gender has only a peripheral bearing on the process of selecting among applicants to EPIIC.

“The choices I make are gender-sensitive,” he said, “but the issues I consider more important are intellectual curiosity, risk-taking, ability to suspend one’s preconceptions, a non-ideological way of looking at the world, openness, and the ability to be a rigorous thinker.”

Teichman attributed the EPIIC Symposium’s theme this year, “Global Health and Security,” as a contributing factor in the increase of women in the program. Gender issues have been present in this year’s EPIIC discourse as an important element of global health. Students have explored issues of sexual violence and mental health issues related to rape, as well as women’s unequal access to healthcare in many countries.

The IGL provided funding for approximately 40 students to travel abroad to conduct research over winter break in locations such as Rwanda, Nepal, India and Cambodia, according to student Program Coordinator Patricia Letayf. The majority of these were EPIIC students and, significantly, the vast majority were female, Letayf said. 

“These are not destinations you would envision would be easy destinations for women,” Teichman said. 

The New Initiative for Middle East Peace (NIMEP), another IGL program, displayed the opposite tendency on its winter-break research trip to Turkey. According to sophomore Will Beckham, who attended the trip, three male student leaders were responsible for selecting participants. They initially selected an all male pool of candidates, until the IGL stepped in, granting additional funding and adding two female candidates to the trip, according Teichman.

“The group composition was fascinating in how it broke down a lot of those lines, and who was originally involved and who was added on,” said senior participant Madeline Hall. “I think it speaks to not specifically NIMEP but to the larger IR community at Tufts that there are strange and unseen barriers to females despite the fact that we have a larger presence in the IR program itself and in other IGL programs.”

Both male and female students on the trip expressed strong sentiments that female representation was vital.

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