This project was inspired by the Canadian Historical Association’s June 2014 awards ceremony at which the majority of prize winners were men. Why, we wondered, are so few women awarded prizes outside the areas of women’s history, the history of sexuality, and the history of childhood and youth? First, we asked who is working in history? To what degree have departments achieved gender parity in hiring? Do women produce work at a rate proportional to their presence in departments? We collected data in three categories: book reviews, other journal content, and books published between 2004 and 2013. We found that women produce fewer books than do men. Women’s books are less likely to be reviewed than are books written by men and few men review books written by women, a fact with significant implications for both advancement and the inclusion of women in the wider curriculum. Women produce a number of articles proportionate to their presence in the discipline; we suggest that this is because articles require less time of one’s own than do books. It is time to revisit openly and explicitly how academic excellence is determined, and how structural forces produce the sexual inequalities documented here and elsewhere.
La présente recherche a été inspirée par la cérémonie de remise des prix de la Société historique du Canada en 2014, à laquelle la majorité des lauréats étaient des hommes. Nous nous sommes demandées pourquoi si peu de femmes remportaient des prix à l’extérieur des domaines de l’histoire des femmes, de la sexualité, de l’enfance et de l’adolescence. D’abord, nous avons cherché à savoir qui travaille en histoire et dans quelle mesure les départements ont atteint la parité des sexes à l’embauche. Nous avons également tâché de voir si les femmes publient à un taux proportionnel à leur nombre dans les départements. Ensuite, nous avons amassé des données dans trois catégories : comptes rendus de livre et autre contenu de revues scientifiques et livres publiés entre 2004 et 2013. Nous avons noté que les femmes publient moins de livres que les hommes. Les livres des femmes sont moins susceptibles de faire l’objet d’un compte rendu que ceux publiés par des hommes et peu d’hommes font des recensions de livres écrits par des femmes, un fait qui a des incidences importantes tant pour l’avancement des femmes que pour leur inclusion dans les grands programmes d’enseignement. Parallèlement, les femmes publient un nombre d’articles proportionnels à leur présence dans la discipline. Nous suggérons que cela s’explique par le fait qu’un article prend moins de temps à écrire qu’un livre. Il est temps de revoir ouvertement et explicitement la façon dont l’excellence universitaire se mesure et dont les forces structurelles produisent les inégalités des sexes relevées ici et ailleurs.
Corps de l’article
This project was inspired by the Canadian Historical Association’s (CHA) June 2014 awards ceremony when fourteen men received prizes for work deemed by their colleagues to be the best books and articles produced that year. Eight women received prizes too: four of these were in the area of women’s history, one in the history of sexuality, and one in the history of childhood and youth. The remaining two awards were regional prizes. Why, we wondered, had so few women been awarded prizes outside the areas of women’s and family history? Is women’s history still on the margins of the discipline, rarely to be considered among the most innovative and important areas of historical inquiry? Do women write fewer books than men? Are women’s books and articles of lesser quality than those penned by men? Were the 2014 prize results simply anomalous or are they an indication of a systemic bias at work? We decided to investigate.
First, we needed to determine who might be expected to write books and articles in the field of history in Canada. Who is working in history departments across the country? To what degree have departments achieved gender parity in hiring? Then we set out to collect data in three categories: books, book reviews, and journal content other than book reviews published between 2004 and 2013. Although we know that Canadian historians publish with international presses and journals, we limited our search to Canadian university presses and other well-known Canadian presses that publish scholarly history, and to five Canadian journals. While we recognize that this sample is therefore incomplete, we believe that it is large enough to reflect important trends. We recorded each work’s title, publisher, year and language of publication, and the names of its author(s) or editor(s). We also recorded the sex of all authors or editors, except for eight instances in which we were unable to ascertain this information. In order to measure the status of feminist and gender analysis in the discipline, an issue that is distinct from the status of female versus male authors of scholarly history, we also made an attempt to determine whether or not books and articles employed these modes of analysis.
We recognize that collecting data about men and women would be much more meaningful if it could be further broken down to capture the status of scholarship published by indigenous scholars, scholars of colour, and trans* people to illuminate how these scholars’ published work compares to that published by white, cis-gendered scholars. The 2006 census shows that 83 percent of university teachers identified as “not a visible minority.” The only way to collect data on minority status would be to contact each author individually, a task well beyond our capabilities. The marginal place occupied by people of colour and indigenous people has multiple implications, and as is the case regarding the status of women in the discipline, requires multi-pronged strategies if it is to be meaningfully addressed. We recommend that a study of the status of people of colour and indigenous people in our discipline be undertaken by the CHA at the earliest possible date. As you read the data we were able to collect, we ask that you keep in mind the marginal place people of colour and indigenous people occupy in the field of Canadian history and history departments, as well as the dominance of hetero- and gender normativity.
Our next step was to gather data on published books. Because our interest is in the status of women’s scholarly production in the Canadian historical profession as compared to men’s, our focus was on academic rather than popular histories. We recognize that there is considerable overlap between the categories “academic” and “popular,” and that some works fit well in both categories; we aimed to weight our data sample towards the former. We asked all 13 Canadian university presses to provide us with a list of their Canadian history titles published between 2004 and 2013. As it is common for Québec historians to publish scholarly work with non-university presses, we requested a list of titles from two of these, les Éditions du remue-ménage and Les Éditions du Boréal. We included one additional English-language press, Between the Lines, which also actively publishes scholarly Canadian history. We received lists of titles from 8 of the 16 presses contacted. We did not attempt to refine these lists to differentiate between academic and popular works, but we eliminated titles that did not appear to relate to Canada or to take a historical approach. Our final data sample included the indicated number of books from the following publishers: University of British Columbia Press (214), Athabasca University Press (38), University of Alberta Press (46), University of Toronto Press (149), Between the Lines (25), McGill-Queen’s University Press (311), les Éditions du Boréal (42), and Presses de l’Université du Québec (13).
Next, we examined the content of five journals: Canadian Historical Review (CHR), Histoire sociale/Social History (HS), Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (JCHA), Labour/Le travail (LLT), and Revue d’histoire de l’Amérique française (RHAF). We created a list of book reviews published in these journals between 2004 and 2013. Some books appear on our list more than once if reviewed in multiple journals or if published in more than one language and reviewed separately. Review essays were in most cases treated as book reviews; if a review essay analyzed multiple works, each work was entered separately in our database. Short descriptive “book notes” such as those published in LLT were generally excluded from our list of book reviews. Longer multi-paragraph “notes bibliographiques” such as those published in RHAF were generally included because some of these approached the length and scope of a book review in other journals. Reviews of special issues of most journals were excluded, the exception being certain issues of Socialist Register, which are titled as books. Reviews of works other than books (films, museum exhibits, web sites, CD-ROMs) were not included in this study either.
We created a separate list of other journal items, including articles, essays, editors’ introductions, presentations, reprints of speeches, notebooks, notes, notes with documents, notes critiques, research notes, statements, controversies, visages de l’altérité, débats, and réponses, as well as roundtable and forum contributions. Excluded from our analysis are obituaries, bibliographies, lists of contributors, anonymous or very brief introductions to articles or sections, authors’ brief responses to book reviews, front and back matter, advertising, and tables of contents. For the most part, forum or roundtable contributions were treated individually and listed as multiple items; in some cases where individual contributions were very brief, the entire forum or roundtable was treated as a single item. Because book reviews were analyzed separately from other journal content, reviews are not included in this list of journal items, but several items that we deemed to be more of any essay or literature review than a book review were included in this list rather than in the book reviews list.
Book reviews and other journal content were obtained through a number of databases and on-line indexes: Proquest Journals, Érudit, Project Muse, Réparer, JSTOR, and Taylor and Francis Journals. Each database has its own idiosyncrasies and some databases excluded certain articles that appeared in print editions of journals; we made an attempt to identify and include these missing items. We obtained some of our data from print copies of journals and from web sites of journals and their publishers. Some information on books was also retrieved from publishers’ on-line catalogues.
We also attempted to identify whether books and journal content incorporated some measure of gender or feminist analysis. The number of works considered (a total of 4,229 books, book reviews, and journal items) created something of a logistical challenge. To determine if a work included a degree of gender or feminist analysis, we first looked at keywords and subject terms if provided by the publisher or database. We then scanned for keywords or their stems (gender, femin*, women, masc*, sex; genre, fémin*, masc*, femme, homme, sex*) in abstracts or descriptions, if these were provided by publishers, and sometimes in book reviews. For some journal content, the entire article or book review was scanned. If any of the target keywords were located, before coding the work as “yes” or “no” for gender or feminist analysis, we undertook a qualitative assessment of the context in which a keyword appeared. For example, a scan of a book review might return the word “gender” if the reviewer’s comment was that the author did not pay attention to gender, so this was taken into account. For our list of books, the abstracts and publishers’ descriptions were usually very brief, thus our determination was often based on limited information; in some cases, when a determination could not be made, we sought additional information in book reviews. When a title from our “books” list was also included in our list of book reviews, we always based the assessment on the book review because it provided more extensive information about the work. In the case of edited works, we did not examine each chapter but, if we had a book review to refer to, we coded the book as “yes” if the reviewer mentioned that even one chapter had a gender or feminist analysis. We sought to err on the side of inclusivity.
Our method for assessing whether an item would be categorized as “Canadian history” was similar to that used for gender/feminist analysis. If the geographic focus of a work was not apparent from its title, we scanned the abstract or publisher’s description for capitalized words. If a Canadian geographic location was mentioned, before coding the work as “yes” or “no” for Canadian history, we undertook a qualitative assessment of the context in which the term appeared. Works that appeared to be purely theoretical were not included in our list.
We consulted the web sites of the CHA and its affiliated committees for information on awards and prizes. We recorded the name and sex of all award recipients; in the case of collaborative works, each individual author or editor was counted. The discussion and tables in our “prizes and awards” section (below) exclude lifetime achievement awards, awards that have been offered for only one year, and undergraduate awards.
In this paper, some of our findings are presented as descriptive statistics, generally in the form of percentages rounded to whole numbers. In places, visual representations of these descriptive statistics — pie charts, bar charts, and line graphs — are used to make it easier for readers to assimilate the information. Descriptive statistics do not provide an explanation as to why certain facts were found. However, they do provide information that allows us to raise questions and to explore wider issues affecting the profession.
Readers who wish to review the data that we compiled for this project, or to make use of the data to answer additional questions, may download the file from Simon Fraser University’s research repository, Summit, at http://summit.sfu.ca/item/15840.
Results and discussion
1. Number of women in the profession
Before discussing female historians’ rate of participation as authors of books, journal articles, and book reviews, we review some recent statistics that provide an indication of women’s presence in the profession as a whole. The Canadian Association of University Teachers /Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’université (CAUT/ACPPU) reports in its 2013–14 Almanac of Post-Secondary Education in Canada that, of 1098 full-time academic staff in university history departments across Canada, 62.8 percent were men and 37.2 percent were women. These figures include lecturers and assistant, associate, and full professors. Because the CAUT/ACPPU figures do not include a breakdown of areas of specialization, and because they do not identify historians who may be working in departments other than history, we turned to membership statistics provided by the CHA, which are available only for the years 2010 through 2014. While total membership numbers fluctuated during these years from a low of 848 in 2010 to a high of 939 in 2012, the percentage of CHA members who are women decreased slightly from 47 percent to 43 percent over the five-year period. Not all Canadianists are members of the CHA, and not all members of the CHA are Canadianists, but the CHA statistics do provide an indication of the sex ratio of professional Canadian historians and graduate students who are actively publishing their research in professional journals.
Imperfect as they are, if these numbers can be used as an indication of the ratio of women to men, then the field of Canadian history is for women comparatively better than is the historical discipline as a whole in Canada. Even so, whether women constitute 37.2 percent or 43 percent of Canadianists in history departments, the numbers are disappointing. Despite a long and well-documented history of academic departments excluding women and other marginalized groups, we would have hoped that departments might be closer to achieving parity in terms of gendered representation in the twenty-first century. It is particularly disturbing to note that CHA membership amongst women might have declined. Is this because women are, disproportionately, in non-tenured, teaching, part-time positions, and cannot afford membership and conference attendance fees? Or are fewer women choosing to study history? Women students represent more than half of the undergraduate population at Canadian universities. Is this true in history departments? If so, are female students choosing not to pursue graduate studies? Do female graduates continue to confront sexism when seeking employment in history departments? Is the content of our teaching — which may, as we illustrate below, still fail to represent the historical experiences of women and other marginalized groups — not attracting female students in optimal numbers compared to other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences? This issue deserves further exploration.
Our analysis of 838 Canadian history titles published in Canada from 2004 through 2013 (775 in English and 63 in French) indicates that 63 percent of these works were authored or edited by men; some had a single male author or editor and others were co-written works where all authors or editors were male (see Figure 1). Women authored or edited 28 percent of the works. An additional 8 percent of the titles on the list had multiple authors or editors who were not all the same sex; in these instances women and men were equally likely to be the first-named author or editor. A handful of works did not fall neatly into any of the above categories; these included those authored in whole or in part by a collective or an institution, or those for which we were unable to ascertain the sex of the authors or editors.
In the context of women comprising somewhere between 37.2 and 43 percent of practicing historians at Canadian universities, the fact that women are the sole authors of only 28 percent of published scholarly books is significant. Over this sample size, such a differential cannot simply be random, and requires discussion. While we cannot definitively explain the cause of this difference, we suggest that there could be multiple contributing factors. Some of these are internal to universities and some are external to such institutions. Researching and writing scholarly works of history require time and ability to travel to archives, and considerable time to write. Studies show that women bear a greater service and administration burden than do men in their departments and institutions, and in journals and organizations central to the profession. This is even more the case for women of colour who are more frequently called upon to serve on institutional committees in order to fulfill diversity mandates, and who spend much more time providing support to students of colour. Do women provide a disproportionate amount of the unremunerated labour that sustains our profession, thus allowing men more time to visit archives and complete writing projects? More female than male university teachers have children, and they carry greater responsibility for children, and increasingly also for aging parents. How do such obligations affect the work that women are able to do in terms of historical research? Are women more likely to choose to publish articles instead of books because articles are more manageable in the limited time that remains available after teaching, administrative, and family labour are taken into account? Men are consistently more likely to have their research financially supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Grant. Does women’s lesser remuneration — by 18.1 percent according to a 2005 CAUT/ACPPU study — place them at a further disadvantage when it comes to bearing out-of-pocket research costs or paying for domestic and caregiving services that would free up time for research and writing? Considering that most academics work well beyond a forty-hour workweek, how might the cost of choosing to limit the time we spend beyond normal workweek hours on work-related activities and dedicating more of that time to caregiving activities be a factor in shaping the status of women in our profession?
Given women’s additional burdens, we might have predicted that women would be more likely to choose collaborative publishing projects than men, but this is not the case. A total of 166 of the titles on our list were collaborative works and, considering only this group, the first-named author was male in 57 percent of cases and female in 42 percent (with one percent having collective or undetermined authorship). Interestingly, however, our data shows a strong tendency among both men and women to collaborate with a person of the same sex. Of this same group of 166 titles, 59 percent were created by collaborators of the same sex, while only 39 percent of collaborations included both men and women. Why are same-sex collaborations more common than mixed? The answer is beyond the scope of our study, but there are implications we can consider. If men outnumber women in the profession, and men are more likely to collaborate with men, this may result in a greater likelihood that men will value the work of other male scholars over that of female scholars. How much this may be a factor in the assessment of the Canadian historical scholarship on prize committees is uncertain, but the data does suggest how a bias might come to be: male authors of scholarly Canadian history outnumber females and, as a group, men publish more than women, therefore male-authored scholarship dominates the discipline. Finally, that men are more likely to collaborate with other men indicates a culture that could result in sex-based biases. In short, it seems plausible that men are more likely to value the work of other men. It may also be that publishing houses share the biases that cause women’s work to be under-valued, thus reducing opportunities for women to publish; it has been suggested that this problem exists in the world of literary publication. Our findings regarding authorship of book reviews also reveal important differences between male and female scholars and further support the possibility of sex-based bias among male scholars in Canadian history, which we address later in our discussion of book reviews.
The lesser status of scholarship authored by women is perhaps further exacerbated because a significant percentage of female scholars undertake feminist and gender-based analysis of the past, which is particularly compelling to many women for the same reasons that this study has come into being: women’s lives continue to be over-determined by sexism, even in the academy. We categorized only 24 percent of the 838 books on our list as employing some measure of gender or feminist analysis. This suggests that most men and some women do not consider feminist critical analysis to be central to the enterprise of history, or that publishers and reviewers do not consider such analysis important enough to mention it in a description, abstract, or book review. Although women constitute a minority of academic historians and author fewer books and articles than men, they publish a majority of books and articles that employ feminist and gender analyses — approximately 55 percent of works included on our books list. This imbalance may contribute to women’s further marginalization within the profession, resulting in fewer book prizes. After all, if male scholars regarded feminist and gender analysis as being on a par with other modes of analysis, wouldn’t more historians employ it?
Our analysis of book reviews published between 2004 and 2013 also indicates that the percentage of books that incorporated some measure of gender or feminist analysis differed between French-language and English-language works. Limiting our data set to books with a Canadian topic, reviews indicate that 32 percent of English-language books and 20 percent of French-language books include a gender/feminist analysis. Of the works of Canadian history that we examined, those published in French were less likely to include a gender or feminist analysis than those published in English, although this may be partially explained by the significantly lower number of French-language books reviewed in the four selected journals during this ten-year period. It is also possible that Francophone and Anglophone researchers could produce different results when coding works for gender or feminist analysis.
3. Book reviews
Our study of book reviews brought to light a number of other sex-based differences in publishing. We examined 2568 reviews published between 2004 and 2013 in CHR, HS, LLT, and RHAF; JCHA did not publish any reviews during this time period. The study included 2056 reviews of books written in English, 499 of books written in French, nine of books that included sections written in both English and French, and four of books written in other languages; 2084 of the reviews were written in English and 484 in French. Books published in Canada were the subject of 1699 reviews; books published by Canadian and foreign university presses were the subject of 1680 reviews. In 1797 of the reviews, the topic of the book under discussion was, at least in part, related to Canada. More than two-thirds of the book reviews were written by men: 68 percent, compared to 32 percent by female reviewers. Most of the books reviewed were authored or edited by men: 64 percent, compared to 28 percent by women, with 8 percent falling into our “mixed” category (Figure 2, next page). We found, then, that a majority of the book reviews published in these journals were of works written or reviewed by men.
To what extent were men and women reviewing each other’s books during this time period (see Figure 2)? Of all the reviews examined, 50 percent were of works both produced by and reviewed by men. Books that were both produced by and reviewed by women accounted for only 16 percent of all published reviews. Overall, we found that books written by women were more likely to be reviewed by women than by men (Figure 3). When the first-named author or editor of a book was male, 78 percent of the reviews were written by men. When the first-named author or editor was female, only 46 percent of the reviews were written by men. If we exclude edited collections, the ratio changes only marginally: when the first-named author of a book was male, 79 percent of the reviews were written by men; when the first-named author of a book was female, 46 percent of the reviews were written by men. If we further refine the analysis to include only books published by university presses on a Canadian topic, the ratio changes slightly more: when the first-named author of a book was female, 56 percent of the reviews were written by women; when the first-named author of a book was male, 26 percent of the reviews were written by women. This data indicates that, in general, both male and female reviewers were more likely to review books authored or edited by a member of the same sex.
Women’s actual contribution to the field is diminished by the under-representation of female-authored books in book review sections of our professional journals. We speculate that this leads to the perception that female historians are generally less productive and less important than male scholars. That men write the majority of book reviews, that they review mostly books by men, and that men make up the majority of the profession, combined with the gendering of “academic excellence” (which we discuss in our “prizes” section), leads us to speculate that male-authored books are more likely to be perceived as path-breaking and foundational, are more likely to be taught at the graduate and undergraduate level, and are more likely to be awarded prizes, and that female-authored books are more likely to be de- or undervalued.
Recognizing that men’s over-representation in book review sections of professional journals could affect the allocation of awards and other forms of recognition for outstanding scholarship, we must also consider how such biases could contribute to the imbalance of women to men in the field. If books by women are not perceived to be foundational, and are not taught routinely to our students, we perpetuate the idea that history is the story of (white) men, as told from non-feminist perspectives, and we may unwittingly deter female (and some male) students from further pursuing history. The politics of memory have serious implications for the present.
We also separately considered reviews of books that incorporated some measure of gender or feminist analysis, to determine whether that might affect the sex ratio of reviewers (Figure 4). Of the 819 reviews in this category (32 percent of all reviews), we found that the majority were written by women: 54 percent, compared to 46 percent by male reviewers. A majority of this category of books reviewed were also authored or edited by women: 56 percent, compared to 36 percent with male authors, and 8 percent with mixed authorship. Although women are significantly outnumbered by men as authors of both book reviews and books reviewed in these journals, women do outnumber men as reviewers and creators of works that incorporate a gender or feminist analysis. This suggests that gender history is still seen as a women’s field; the less that men engage with these works, the less likely they are to consider a work of gender history to be a major contribution to the field. Of course, the bias could also be with book review editors who may be more likely to send a female-authored book to a woman than to a man for review. We do not assume that a reviewer’s sex is indicative of the sex of the book’s readership, but we do argue that the clear preference among male reviewers for male-authored books is an indication of a serious problem regarding the equality of the sexes in our field.
4. Journal articles
In addition to book reviews, we also examined the content of all issues of CHR, HS, JCHA, LLT, and RHAF published from 2004 through 2013. Our list of 823 journal items includes 643 articles and 180 other substantial contributions. Of these items, 597 are in English, 224 are in French, and 2 incorporate both languages. We categorized 716 of the 823 items as Canadian history. Women were the first-named authors of 40 percent of the total number of journal items during this ten-year period, and of 41 percent of the items with a Canadian topic. If we limit the data set to items with a Canadian topic that also incorporated some measure of a gender or feminist analysis, the percentage of items with a woman as the first-named author increased to 70 percent for both French- and English-language items. Comparing the data from our journal and book lists, we note that, on average, women created relatively more journal content than they did books: 40 percent of listed journal items, compared to 32 percent of listed books. Between 2004 and 2010, the percentage of journal items created by women fluctuated slightly, with a low of 34.62 percent in 2006 and a high of 43.59 percent in 2010 (Figure 5). In 2011, the percentage of journal items with a woman as first-named author spiked at 65.43 percent. This was the only year in which more than 50 percent of items in all five journals were produced by women. After 2011, the percentage of items produced by women dropped again, to a low of 25.24 percent in 2013. Each of the journals had at least one year in which the percentage of journal items for which a woman was listed as first-named author exceeded 50 percent — in one case reaching as high as 78 percent. In contrast to this, in at least three instances a journal published no substantial items in an entire year for which a woman was listed as the first-named author. In no year did any of the journals fail to publish an item for which a man was listed as first-named author.
Women are producing journal articles at a level that roughly parallels their numbers in the profession, making it clear that the under-representation of women as authors of books is not a reflection of a failure to research or to write. Evidence of similar differences in rates of publication according to sex exists across the humanities and social sciences. Scholars who have studied these differences argue that they are due to women’s comparatively heavy service loads and responsibilities.
Overall, the percentage of journal items with a gender or feminist analysis averaged 28 percent of the total number of items published between 2004 and 2013. Figure 6 illustrates the extent to which this percentage has changed during this ten-year period: the percentage of items incorporating some measure of gender or feminist analysis appears to be decreasing.
Does this represent a decline in interest in gender and feminist analysis? If so, is it a reflection of the overall shift toward conservatism within both the profession and society in general? Or, does it reflect the relative influence men continue to have over the field, despite the fact that women constitute 38–43 percent of the profession? Does the male Canadianists’ low rate of engagement with feminist and gender analyses cause female scholars to fear that focusing on such issues might make it more difficult for them to obtain a position or promotion?
5. Prizes and Awards
We gathered data on recipients of prizes awarded by the CHA and its affiliated committees, from the inception of each award through 2015. The three most prestigious awards have all been won more often by men than by women. The François-Xavier Garneau Medal is awarded every five years for “an outstanding Canadian contribution to historical research.” It has been awarded eight times since 1980, thrice to women and five times to men. The Sir John A. Macdonald Prize is awarded annually for a “work of Canadian history judged to have made the most significant contribution to an understanding of the Canadian past.” It has been awarded to 12 women and 26 men since 1977 (8 men and 6 women in the last 12 years, 2004 through 2015). While the failure to achieve parity in these two prizes is disappointing, the number of women who have received prizes does at least approach the proportion of women to men in the profession. This is not true of the Wallace K. Ferguson Prize, which is awarded annually for “the outstanding scholarly book in a field of history other than Canadian history.” It has been awarded to 29 men and 5 women since 1980 (11 men and one woman in the last 12 years).
Figures 7 and 8 (on the two pages following) tally the number of female and male recipients of other CHA awards as listed on the CHA website. Consistent with our findings that women are more likely than men to write and review works that incorporate a gender or feminist analysis, we note here that works written by women are most likely to win prizes in the fields of women’s history, history of sexuality, and the history of childhood and youth. When it comes to awards distributed by the CHA and its subcommittees, women exist in something of a “prize ghetto”; they predominate in the fields of women’s, family, and sexuality studies and are in the minority in many other fields of history. This is especially bad news for women who do not work on the history of gender, sexuality, or the family.
These findings are consistent with current research showing that academic excellence is not an objective and measurable attribute, but a:
social construction that is always embedded within a social context and is thus subject to multiple cultural and political influences. Merit is not the only factor that determines whose articles will be published; the impact of status of the institute, theoretical orientation, reputation, and the networks of journal editors and reviewers may also play a role. Publications must be read, discussed, and cited; a wide range of network contacts can help authors to disseminate their work. Blind peer review and the system of journal rankings that should warrant the quality of academic work have been contested, in some cases because they are part of hegemonic structures of inequality in academia that favour white, middle-class men.
The allocation of Canada Research Chairs (CRC) is a lucid illustration of this phenomenon. Launched by Industry Canada in 2000, CRCs were intended “to help Canadian universities attract and retain the global research stars of today and recruit Canada’s research stars of tomorrow.” In the first two years of this programme’s operation, 83 percent of all CRCs were awarded to men. Eight scholars launched a human rights complaint against Industry Canada, which led to the requirement that universities and affiliated institutions set goals and targets for the recruitment of women. Eight years later, 62 percent of CRCs in Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) disciplines were held by men, demonstrating that gender equality requires structural measures to mitigate sexism in determining academic excellence.
Subcommittees of the CHA exist to support fields that are not well recognized by the profession. The Canadian Committee on Women’s History has clearly done a good job of ensuring that excellent work in women’s history is recognized, but if that work is only, or primarily, recognized within the field of women’s history and amongst women historians, and not by men in the field and those with interest in other specialties, do women still face discrimination? Producing scholarship that challenges sexism and gender discrimination, and experiencing exclusion and oppression are intertwined. Prizes and awards are important to our advancement within the profession; they can help advance an historian’s career by influencing funding agencies and hiring committees. These distinctions also signal to others working in an author’s area of specialization, and to those who share her or his minority status, that they have a place at the Canadian history table.
Conclusion and Recommendations
We presented an earlier version of this article at the CHA annual meeting in Ottawa in June 2015. Despite an early time slot, attendance was strong and discussion during and after the session was lively, which suggests that we are not alone in our concern regarding the status of women in the profession. Comments during the discussion period revealed that many women perceive their work to be ghettoized and our research confirms that these feelings are based on fact. Participants also cited administrative loads and family responsibilities as serious impediments to writing and to career advancement. It is time for the CHA, and the profession more widely, to revisit openly and explicitly how academic excellence is determined, and how structural forces produce the sexual inequalities documented here and elsewhere.
We offer a few recommendations to jump-start this process:
Further study of the questions raised here should be undertaken.
Curricular review at individual institutions, and perhaps also by the CHA, should explore the extent of the inclusion of women’s and feminist scholarship in core courses on Canadian history.
All historians should read and engage with women’s and feminist history.
Publishing houses and journal editors should work explicitly towards equity in publication.
Ironically, some of the recommendations that we propose would add further responsibilities to women’s schedules, and yet a potential obstacle to women’s ability to publish is that they are already over-burdened by administrative work. All these suggestions call on women themselves to work yet harder to overcome oppression that they did not create.
The authors are grateful to Tess Elsworthy, Rebecca Dowson, Robin Speedie, and Michel Bédard, for their invaluable assistance at various stages of this project, and to Michel Duquet of the CHA and staff members at the presses who responded to our inquiries. We also extend our thanks for comments and suggestions to Jarvis Brownlie, Esyllt Jones, and other participants at the 2015 CHA annual meeting where we presented some of the results of this study, and to the anonymous reviewers.
ELISE CHENIER is Professor of History at Simon Fraser University where she teaches and researches the history of sexuality, oral history, and the history of modern Canada.
LORI CHAMBERS is a Professor of Women’s Studies at Lakehead University where she teaches a variety of courses in legal history and feminist theory.
ANNE FRANCES TOEWS is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at York University.
This compares to 84.6 percent for the labour force as a whole. Statistics Canada, 2006 Census, quoted in Canadian Association of University Teachers /Association canadienne des professeures et professeurs d’université (CAUT/ACPPU), “The Changing Academy? A Portrait of Canada’s University Teachers,” CAUT Education Review 12, no. 1 (January 2010): 4; see also CAUT/ACPPU, “A Partial Picture: The Representation of Equity-seeking Groups in Canada’s University and Colleges,” CAUT Equity Review no. 1 (November 2007).
Statistics Canada, quoted in (CAUT/ACPPU), 2013–14 Almanac of Post-Secondary Education in Canada (CAUT/ACPPU, 2014), 25.
Thomas Peace’s 2015 enumeration of university-based historians suggests that if the gender gap is closing, it is doing so very gradually: in that year, 62.2 percent of faculty members in history departments at Canadian universities were men, while 37.8 percent were women. Peace, “Let’s Stand Up and Be Counted: Gender and the Need for a Better Understanding of the Profession,” ActiveHistory.Ca, 13 July 2015, http://activehistory.ca/2015/07/lets-stand-up-and-be-counted-a-call-for-a-more-rigorous-understanding-of-the-historical-profession-in-canada/#more-16641, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
Lara Campbell notes that many historians teach in other departments, including women’s and gender studies, sociology, health studies, First Nations studies, liberal arts, Canadian studies, and education. “Comment,” ActiveHistory.Ca, 7 August 2015, http://activehistory.ca/2015/07/lets-stand-up-and-be-counted-a-call-for-a-more-rigorous-understanding-of-the-historical-profession-in-canada/#more-16641, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
Data provided to the authors by Michel Duquet, executive director of the CHA, 13 March 2015.
Donald Wright, The Professionalization of History in English Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005); Julie Des Jardins, Women and the Historical Enterprise in America: Gender, Race and the Politics of Memory (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).
CAUT/ACPPU, 2013–14 Almanac, 31.
We categorized edited works according to the sex of the editors, regardless of the sex of authors of individual chapters.
In our lists and charts, we use the abbreviation “mix” to represent these works.
See the 2011 collection of reflections on, and analysis of women in the liberal arts in Canada in Susan Brown, Jeanne Perreault, Jo-Ann Wallace, and Heather Zwicker, eds., Not Drowning But Waving: Women, Feminism, and the Liberal Arts (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 2011).
Some have suggested that academic women still face pervasive sexism in the humanities. See Selina Todd, “The Academics Tackling Everyday Sexism in University Life,” The Guardian (24 February 2015), www.theguardian.com/education/2015/feb/24/sexism-in-university-academics-feminism, <viewed 30 January 2015>.
Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, “Women of Color in Academe: Living with Multiple Marginality,” The Journal of Higher Education 73, no. 1 (2002): 74–93; Benjamin Baez, “Race-related Service and Faculty of Color: Conceptualizing Critical Agency in Academe,” Higher Education 39, Issue 3 (April 2000): 363–91; J. Luke Wood, Adriel A. Hilton, and Carlos Nevarez, “Faculty of Color and White Faculty: An Analysis of Service in Colleges of Education in the Arizona Public University System,” Journal of the Professoriate 8, no. 1 (2015): 85–109.
Joya Misra, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, Elissa Holmes, and Stephanie Agiomavritis, “The Ivory Ceiling of Service Work,” Bulletin of the American Association of University Professors, Jan–Feb 2011, http://www.aaup.org/article/ivory-ceiling-service-work#.VdARr3joq-c, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
Martha Friendly, “Think Child Care is No Longer a Women’s Issue?” Child Care Canada Now, 6 March 2013, http://www.childcarecanada.org/blog/think-child-care-no-longer-women%E2%80%99s-issue, <viewed 14 August 2015>; CAUT/ACPPU, 2013–14 Almanac, 33.
CAUT/ACPPU, 2013–14 Almanac, 57.
CAUT/ACPPU, “The Changing Academy,” 3. See also Anke S. Kessler and Krishna Pendakur, Gender Disparity in Faculty Salaries at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC: Department of Economics, Simon Fraser University, 2015), http://www.sfufa.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/salary_equity_study.pdf; Karen Bakker, Lara Boyd, Nicole Fortin, Jim Johnson, Tom Patch, Mark Trowell, and Walter Sudmant, An Analysis of the Gender Pay Gap in Professorial Salaries at UBC (Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2010), http://www.facultyassociation.ubc.ca/docs/news/GenderPayEquity_Report_DATA.pdf.
One work was co-authored by the Kwagu’l Gixsam Clan; we were unable to determine the sex of the co-author of one additional work.
For a discussion of the experience of a woman who submitted her literary work under a male pseudonym, see: Alison Flood, “Sexism in Publishing: ‘My Novel Wasn’t the Problem, It Was Me, Catherine,” The Guardian (6 August 2015), www.theguardian.com/books/2015/aug/06/catherine-nichols-female-author-male-pseudonym, <viewed 30 January 2015>.
Of our list of books with gender/feminist analysis, 56.22 percent were created by women, 35.32 percent by men; 8.46 percent had mixed authorship. Of our list of reviews of books with gender/feminist analysis, 54.82% were created by women, 35.9 percent were created by men; 9.28 percent had mixed or undetermined authorship.
Note that the discussion in this paragraph is based on book reviews published in journals. This list differs from the list of books discussed previously because: journals published reviews of books on topics other than Canadian history; journal reviews included books produced by many more publishers than those who provided us with their lists of Canadian history titles; many books were reviewed more than once; many titles on our books list were not reviewed in the four journals that we examined; and, book reviews do not necessarily appear in the same year that the book was published.
Of the 517 Canadian history titles reviewed that incorporate a gender or feminist analysis, 427 were in English and 90 in French. Of the 381 Canadian history titles reviewed that incorporate a gender or feminist analysis and that were also published by a university press, 354 were in English and 27 in French.
Data was processed by two researchers: one is bilingual and the other is Anglophone with a reading knowledge of French. The same method was used for determining gender or feminist analysis for books in both languages (as explained in our methodology notes), but if the researcher was already familiar with a given work, no scanning for keywords was done. The researchers were familiar with more English-language than French-language books, but it seems unlikely that this in itself could account for a statistically significant difference in the results of a study of 2568 book reviews.
The calculations in this section exclude five reviews written by mixed-sex collaborators and seven reviews for which we were unable to determine the sex of the reviewer or author/editor of a work reviewed.
This problem is not unique to history. Reports suggest that women’s literature is also less likely to be reviewed than is literature written by men: Ruth Franklin, “A Literary Glass Ceiling,” New Republic, February 7, 2011, https://newrepublic.com/article/82930/vida-women-writers-magazines-book-reviews.
In the case of book reviews, we were assessing the gender or feminist analysis of the book under review and not that of the book review itself.
Book reviews were not included in this section of our analysis. See the methodology section for details of the categories of items that we included and excluded from our analysis.
Helene E. Cummings, “Queen Bees and Mommy Tracking: How’s an Academic Woman Supposed to Get Ahead?” Advancing Women in Leadership 32, no. 1 (January 2012): 79–91.
Our method for assessing whether an item qualified for inclusion in this category was similar to that used for books, but a more extensive qualitative assessment was done for most journal items.
Note that eligibility for this award is not restricted to works of Canadian history. “The François-Xavier Garneau Medal,” Canadian Historical Association, 2015, http://www.cha-shc.ca/english/what-we-do/cha-prizes/the-francois-xavier-garneau-medal.html#sthash.MdgPgltK.dpbs, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
“The Sir John A. Macdonald Prize,” Canadian Historical Association, 2015, http://www.cha-shc.ca/english/what-we-do/cha-prizes/the-sir-john-a-macdonald-prize.html, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
The figures in parentheses here include the three editors of one mixed-sex collaborative prize-winning work; we have therefore counted 14 winners in 12 years.
“The Wallace K. Ferguson Prize,” Canadian Historical Association, 2015. http://www.cha-shc.ca/english/what-we-do/cha-prizes/the-wallace-k-ferguson-prize.html, <viewed 14 August 2015>.
The research data that we compiled for this study would support further exploration of differences in gender equity between Canadianists and non-Canadianists.
Our information regarding prizes was gleaned primarily from this source.
Marieke van den Brink and Yvonne Benschop, “Gender Practices in the Construction of Academic Excellence: Sheep with Five Legs,” Organization 19, no. 4 (July 2012): 507–24. See also Margaret Thornton, “The Mirage of Merit,” Australian Feminist Studies 28, no. 76 (June 2013): 127–43.
Government of Canada, Minister Manley appoints chair of Canada Research Chairs program’s steering committee (2000), quoted in Janice Drakich and Karen R. Grant, “When Women are Equal: The Canada Research Chair Experience,” Canadian Journal of Higher Education 41, no. 1 (2011): 62.
Drakich and Grant, 62. It is worth noting that the disparity is much greater at the Tier 1 level, which is assigned to senior scholars, than it is at the Tier 2 level. See ibid., 63.
ELISE CHENIER est professeure d’histoire à Simon Fraser University, où elle enseigne et fait de la recherche dans les domaines de l’histoire de la sexualité, de l’histoire orale et de l’histoire du Canada moderne.
LORI CHAMBERS est professeure en études des femmes à Lakehead University, où elle donne divers cours en histoire du droit et en théorie féministe.
ANNE FRANCES TOEWS est doctorante au Département d’histoire de York University.