Diversity in academia: It takes raindrops to make a river

PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group

PSA ECNJessica Smith (Birkbeck), Communications Officer for the PSA Early Career Network, reflects on the ECN’s recent workshop on ‘Demystifying and Navigating Early Career Academia’, held at the University of Manchester on 3 February 2017. 

In February, the Political Studies Association’s Early Career Network hosted a day of workshops and panels at the University of Manchester aimed at demystifying early academia and discussing how we can increase diversity in our ranks, co-sponsored by the PSA Women and Politics Specialist Group. The most recent figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed that just 24 per cent of UK professors are women, we know that it is lower in political science (around 20%) and that numbers for BME representation are even worse. The day offered training sessions for early career academics within which there was recognition of the varying experiences different identities and backgrounds can create. The day finished with a panel on increasing diversity in…

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Ideal academics (and the women behind them)

The Slow Academic

A highlight of the week on Twitter has been the hashtag from @bruceholsinger #thanksfortyping which reveals the contributions of anonymous wives to the research of male academics:


The entire thread is well worth reading (and there are also some more recent positive examples where wives are named and acknowledged). It reminded me of the uncomfortable images of hidden mothers in Victorian photographs:

Hidden mother in unsettling Victorian photograph of childrenmother-and-baby-portrait-001Image result for victorian hidden mothersImage result for victorian hidden mothers

In a previous post, I provided some links on the disproportionate load of care work, emotional labour, housework and service that women carry in and out of the academy. #Thanksfortyping shows…

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Globalisation & the environment (a rap)

Thomas Sheldon



With regard to the environment, the

impact of globalisation is significant,

Multifaceted and complex, but I will

try my best in this brief talk to address, a

few theories and thoughts that have been put forward,

to assess the descriptive and normative nature,

of this relationship between nature and global

trade between nations. So let’s begin…


Globalisation is often thought,

To damage our ecology across the board. When the

transport of goods by ocean and air alone, a-

-ccounts for a tenth of all petroleum blown, it’s

easy to see how you’d reach this conclusion, but

in reality the situation is nuanced,

The bad may well outweigh the good, but

some positive elements can’t be ignored.

Perhaps a global neoliberal order,

Allows positive pressure to spread wider,

If we vote with our wallets and purses,

And every time we make a purchase, we

take into consideration, the pollution and re-

duction to bio-diversification that ensues,

the companies that profit from it, will see their profits plummet,

Unless they change the way they make their pay,

J. Frankel puts it quite simply,

Without global trade between countries,

The ethical consumer in Milan wouldn’t

be able to sway the producer in Taiwan,

But that doesn’t negate the state’s role, con-

sumers can only control when they’re in the know,

Proper labelling of packaging is a must,

With origin and method of production up front,

Without a set of laws to dictate,

Companies can too easily obfuscate,

If free markets entail a free choice,

Then the state has to step up and regulate,

But what chance is there that they’d do this?

Most governments have double incentives,

As Professor Peter Newell puts it:

Those charged with tackling environmental problems and promoting sustainable development are the same actors that create the conditions for the expansion of trade, production and finance which generates environmental harm in the first place. It is imperative to be clear about the contradictions and strategic dilemmas that flow from this situation if we are to meaningfully advance a project of socially just sustainable development in a context of globalisation”.


There’s the fear that globalised markets, make

states afraid to reign in their corporates,

So they reduce the regulatory burden, placed

upon them so they compete stronger.

If China can produce your goods cheaper,

Despite causing more pollution,

And if neither you nor them pay for the clean up,

Most firms will see it as an efficient solution.

This ‘race to the bottom’ hypothesis,

Isn’t entirely evidenced however.

Empirical studies have generally concluded,

Environmental regulation doesn’t always do this,

The cost of complying with eco-regulation,

Doesn’t compare to other considerations,

The price of labour, training and infrastructure

Is much greater, and besides

In his book, ‘Trading Up’, David Vogel,

Says that northern markets are too profitable

To be ignored even when the cost of compliance is

borne, so standards rise overall,

I think this analysis is flawed,

Although a company that moves overseas wouldn’t

want to ignore northern markets and in

turn they ensure that their goods are fit for

Sale over here and fully comply with

our laws, our laws are quite poor.

Though not by design, it’s more by compulsion,

Let me explain the conundrum…


It’s all because the W.T.O,

Though permitting the setting of trade barriers

Where an imported product is damaging to the

environment of the importing country,

Don’t allow for the importing country

To set restrictions on the method of production

Utilised in the originating country

Even if the method contributes to global warming.

Therefore it’s hardly surprising to see that

in developing states factory standards are shaky,

and to compete on the international scene they

have to keep production methods cheap or cease to be.

Consider an example: a

factory in Bangladesh that manufactures textiles.

It’s heavily polluting, but a

waste treatment plant would vastly reduce this.

The only problem is the cost,

When any global company can cut corners to undercut,

They can’t afford to clean up, and the

tax rate’s low so the state’s broke and can’t pay too.

Well that’s not exactly true,

The government has money but has to spend it subsidising,

Water supplies for the factories’ dyes,

To keep the economy alive.

So in a sense, it’s fair to say that

states have the power to regulate effectively,

But in reality, it depends entirely

on the type of externality.

If pollution is local to a region, then

states can legislate to alleviate the grievance,

But if the problems are more global, then

unilateral action won’t work to solve them,

And wealth plays an enormous part, or

What Boyce calls the ‘ability to afford’.

The UK can pay for clean cars, while

developing countries can’t.

If we feel that a decent environment,

Isn’t a luxury but more a human right,

Then the north can’t just ignore, the

damage that’s caused by the goods we import,

When pollution is externalised to war-

mer climes or future times so that we’re blind to

what we’ll reap from what we sow, it’s inevita-

ble that competition won’t address on its own

The crisis of the commons,

That global warming represents.

We need to co-operate or

sooner or later we’re spent.


So far we’ve looked at how people,

countries and international agreements,

In the context of neoliberal

capital can still act to advance en-

-vironmental protection.

But this doesn’t necessitate action,

Despite the fact that we can see,

Global temperature rising so predictably,

And due to human directed activity,

There are those who would deny responsibility,

And as the far-right gains in popularity,

The worrying fragility of public awareness is

laid bare before us, and it’s enormous-

ly important to reflect on the fact that

right now the man who sits in the White House,

thinks the Chinese invented the greenhouse,

And wants to ignore environmental law, and

thinks we can afford to abort the Paris Climate Accord,

He may be on the other side of the pond,

But the consequences will be felt from London to Hong Kong,

For decades most states could have been blamed

For not doing enough to help save the

planet from our ecologically damaging ways

but other threats dropped off the radar,

It’s not exclusively the laws that are made and the

talks that are staged that relate in an obvious way

to the environment that have the potential to sway,

climatological change. Let me

give you an example so you can relate,

As Trump and Bannon plan to ban citizens travelling from seven

Majority Muslim states, thereby undermining

trust that wasn’t easily made, it’s not unthinkable that

all the work that went into assuaging Iran,

could be harmed beyond repair and lead to an affair where,

both end up proliferating nuclear arms,

and the aftermath sees the earth scorched bare and,

leaves the seas toxic sees the leaves dropped from

all the treetops. And that’s just the local,

turn to the global, most studies show that,

from pole to pole will be frozen over,

A cyanosis that the globe won’t cope with,

For five years our crop yield will be near zero,

Black smoke injected into the stratosphere

will block light and cause plant life to die,

Sobriety is called for,

We can’t afford to ignore the risk of a nuclear war,

And how it would affect the climate,

On a global scale like no war before it,


So to conclude I’ll offer my own thoughts.

In my view we need more co-operation,

And less competition to ensure,

We make globalisation work for us all.

From hate-mongering to greed,

From cutting every corner just to earn enough to eat,

To maximising profit by homogenising seeds,

It’s unsustainable. So I propose…

Well, right now the W.T.O

sets rules to promote financial growth,

and though the evidence shows it’s not so, they

hold that this is the sole consideration,

In trying to fight degradation:

‘States will clean up if they prosper’ they say.

But we need compulsion,

The stakes are too high to rely on fake wisdom.

In the same way world trade states,

must agree to liberalise their trade with others nations,

I say they should make a dedication,

To cut pollution and reduce carbon emission.

If all countries had to play ball,

Companies couldn’t be undercut anymore,

It would encourage finding genuine efficiency,

And not externalising liabilities.

So in short its worth keeping in mind,

Despite all the trends we might find,

The way globalisation will evolve,

Depends on us and the world we choose to mould.

I’ll end now with a quote from James Boyce,

To emphasise this most important point,

When it comes to our future direction…

As its critics fear, globalisation could accelerate worldwide environmental degradation and deepen environmental inequalities. Yet globalisation also gives impetus to countervailing forces that could bring about a greener and less divided world. The history of the future is still to be written.”

PSA Care Commission commentary on The Spring Budget

Juanita Elias

Chancellor Philip Hammond’s first budget saw the government make commitments to make £2 billion in funds available for social care over the next three years. This was a significant development especially considering how Hammond had been widely criticised after his autumn financial statement which failed to make any mention of the NHS or Social Care. Indeed the criticism faced by Hammond from local government, social care providers, key charities and think tanks alongside the political opposition was palpable. In certain respects then, this appeared to be an embarrassing about turn in government policy – but is that really the case? Or are we looking at business as usual when it comes to issues of social care?

More money for the sector is something that must, of course, be welcomed. The fact that this funding is not linked to last year’s introduction of the council tax funded social care levy is a positive development – since this served to distribute care funding via a postcode lottery in which those local authorities with the highest proportions of older people are also those that have significantly lower council tax revenue bases. It also appears that this is not money that is being syphoned off from elsewhere, although we will have to see what conditions are attached to this extra funding.

Nonetheless we must raise the concern that many other have also raised that this is still not enough. Such are the numbers of people living with unmet care needs, does this funding constitute more of a sticking plaster?  Bold thinking is required about how to manage the care crisis long term. The government promises in the budget that it will ‘set out proposals in a green paper to put the social care system on a more secure and sustainable long-term footing’. We also know that parliament is currently undertaking a review of social care and integration – but concerns are consistently raised that unless funding for social care is properly ring-fenced within integrated health budgets and these budgets themselves receive further funding, then social care will become a ‘Cinderella service’ – or the service that always has to simply get by on whatever funds are made available. Furthermore, it also seems to be the case that the government can easily ignore/fail to respond to the findings of this inquiry.  This and previous governments have an established history of kicking the can down the road so to speak when it comes to addressing the issue of the consistent underfunding of social care. After all, we have been here before. The 2011 Dilnot commission sought to address the issue of NHS funding, commitments that were taken up in the 2014 Care Act but never actually implemented. Other sensible proposals such as the 2014 Barker commission have simply been ignored. So what will the proposed green paper actually do?

Reflecting on Hammond’s budget, we also need to consider the way in which social care is consistently framed merely as a ‘problem’ for the NHS. Spending on social care certainly promises to free up NHS beds – but at the same time, missing from such a simplistic equation, is any notion of a right to be cared for, of any underpinning vision in which care for older people is seen as a central component of living in a just and fair society. The care crisis is not simply a crisis for the NHS, it is also an everyday crisis – one in which many many older people are simply denied the opportunity to live well into old age and their carers (both paid and unpaid) struggle to ensure people’s care needs are met. A focus purely on social care as a crisis for the NHS also means that we lose sight of how this crisis has gotten so bad in the first place. Part of the story here is about successive government’s failing to implement long term funding solutions for the sector – but there is more than merely this at work – what we identified in our report Towards a New Deal for Care and Carers was that gendered norms of caring (the idea that someone, usually a female family member) will step in and do the work of care actually makes possible these years of government neglect. Foreign investors might leave an ailing steel or car plant – but how easy is it for family members to abandon those that they love? Why does there appear to be little willingness on the part of the state to step in and support carers in times of need? Care then, is socially necessary labour that is widely undervalued and overwhelmingly performed by women. Caring for older relatives is important work, and yes, it is also often rewarding work – but it is, at the same time, difficult, backbreaking, labour with little respite which serves to lock many women out of higher paying work opportunities. As we found in our report, the difficulties of navigating a complex care system places further stresses and strains on those doing this work.

An Age UK commentary prior to the budget made the important distinction between social care (that is, personal care for those unable to care for themselves) and other forms of care (from friendship through to local services such as lunch clubs and day centres) – and suggested that there was a tendency in government thinking for the latter form of care to be seen as some sort of replacement for the former. This is an important point; the ‘big society’ will not save social care. At the same time these two forms of care must be seen as linked. Unpaid carers and older people seeking to navigate the social care system are doing so at a time when their ability to access information is becoming ever more difficult. Library and day centre closures for example are the inevitable outcome of the cuts to local authority budgets at a time of social care crisis – but such places often serve as important hubs for the accessing information about help available to older people and their carers. So let’s also talk about how austerity has impacted those community based services that enable older people to live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

In the current context, any funding for social care is of course welcome. But at the same time, we have to shift the conversation in ways that acknowledge how we cannot as a society rely on families to pick up the slack. Comments by Government care Minister David Mowat in January that families need to do more, show that government thinking in this area has not shifted. On a budget that took place on the same day as International Women’s Day, it shouldn’t be forgotten that asking women – and it is indeed usually women – to take on more and more of the burden of unpaid care is something that is at odds with the attainment of gender equality and what Teresa May suggested back in July 2016 when she stood on the steps of Downing Street and said that she would strive to deliver ‘a county that works for everyone’.

[Reblogged with permission from Commission on Care]

Teaching Feminism: What’s in it for me?

Lindsay Clark


This is my third (or maybe fourth) year of leading first year seminars in IR theory. This week was gendering IR. That meant, unsurprisingly talking about gender and international relations, and that filthy word ‘feminism’. It has been a source of fascination to me to see how, over the years, and between the classes there is such a wide range of different opinions regarding gender (and its usefulness in IR) and in particular, feminism.

In my first year I was dismayed that almost none of my students, male or female, were prepared to identify themselves as feminist. Whereas in my second year I had a wide range of different feminists- again both male and female. This was heartening except that almost all of them agreed that whilst feminism was important, and inequality was #bad there wasn’t really any chance of equality occurring any time soon so they might as well just shrug and go back to discussing their night out. So I was overjoyed and then dashed into depression. Accepting inequality that you know is wrong just because you can’t be bothered to think about what it might take to make changes?! The apathy fairly killed me off. This year I have a larger than previous cohort, and a wider range of students, a greater degree of diversity. Which is awesome- both in its own right and because it makes for a wider range of opinions and perspectives which I think are important. I was delighted that many more students were engaging with the ideas of feminism, and prepared to be vocal about it. I was delighted that students were prepared to problematize different types of feminism and to engage with debates on equality as similarity and difference, to engage with ideas of femininity as power, language as creating gendered structures and intersectionality in relation to race, class and sexuality. So far, so glorious.

I’ve just finished my last class on this topic and was struck how one of my usually very critical (i.e. embracing of Marxism, critical of Realism) students was only prepared to engage with the idea of feminism as a good thing once we talked about how women and men would benefit. If there wasn’t anything in it for him then he was prepared to shrug it off. Now I get that talking about gender inequality from a position of privilege (i.e. as a man, particularly a white man) can sometimes feel difficult and there is a fear of saying the wrong thing. It’s the same issues I have to tackle during the weeks on race and racism, and colonialism. In those classes I am forced to acknowledge, as a white woman, the oppression of non-white peoples which places me in a position of privilege. But here’s the thing: it might be difficult to talk about that but it’s far more difficult to be situated outside of privilege, it is far more difficult to be oppressed, it is far more difficult to experience and live with the existing structural and personal instances of racism. And therefore it would simply be wrong for me to remain silent, enjoying my white privilege without asking what it means for others. I am deeply troubled by the idea that to combat inequality of any format there needs to be some kind of quid pro quo: that I should ask ‘what’s in it for me?’ How dare I collude in the continuation of any form of oppression that my attention is drawn to (or is drawn away from- after all it is often the silences and absences that point to where inequality exists) purely because I cannot see a benefit to myself?

I try very hard to be mindful of the fact that these are first year students; that they are dealing with sensitive topics that they might not yet feel they have the knowledge or vocabulary for. I always try to make sure that the class engages with both ‘where are the women?’ in international relations and the importance of noting that gender does not just apply to women through looking at masculinity and world politics. I tried to make the class friendly and accessible: I included a slide of different types of feminism linked to different kinds of Pokémon (yeah cheesy I know but anything to get this one opened up!). I included a quote from Emma Watson’s He for She campaign about the importance of gender equality for men. But for the majority of students in this class ‘feminism’ remained a dirty word, and some students even claimed that men and women are not equal.

For this class feminists, in my students’ young, fertile, future-leading brains, were bra burning, ugly and dangerous. I tried to tweak things a little by ‘outing’ myself as a feminist (I don’t think anyone was surprised, despite the fact I was wearing a bra and make up, and hadn’t, during the course of any of my classes, set light to anything). I tried giving an example of sexism that I had personally experienced- to which they shrugged and said ‘yeah but the men found you threatening, your femaleness and femininity, so they were probably scared of being judged.’ And maybe the student’s assessment of my sexist characters reasons were right, but their acceptance of that behaviour as ‘normal’ or acceptable in some way, I think, was incredibly wrong.

We’re making progress, I know we are. There are gradual international steps towards gender equality being made I am sure. But it frightens me to still be living in a world where students who are apparently interested in politics (domestic and international) are prepared to shrug off dealing with oppression or inequality because it’s hard, because that’s the way it is, or, worst of all, because it’s not clear what’s in it for ‘me’.



What We Talked About at ISA: The Climate for Women in International Relations and Politics

The Disorder Of Things


Yesterday, The Guardian reported on the level of sexual harassment in British universities. Based on Freedom of Information requests (and for this and other reasons necessarily a partial insight into the incidence of harassment) the investigation nevertheless notes the combination of allegations from students against staff, and from colleagues against each other (roughly 60% and 40% of the total allegations respectively). Perhaps the most high profile media story on sexual harassment in universities so far, The Guardian piece nevertheless follows from a series of stories and controversies, most notably Sara Ahmed’s documentation of specific cases at Goldsmiths (covered in posts on the initial harassment conference, on the nature of evidence, on discovery and speaking out, and on resignation as a feminist issue).

Many of the same concerns have been raised in International Relations (IR) and politics. Individual stories of harassment have long circulated (and been…

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