In 2005, the Society for Political Methodology (Polmeth) founded the Diversity Committee. The committee began actively encouraging increased participation by women at professional conferences. At the 2006 APSA meeting, Janet Box-Steffensmeier organized and hosted an informal happy hour for women, as an opportunity for them to take a break and network with other political scientists.
In 2006, the Diversity Committee targeted selected women and invited them to attend the 23rd Annual Political Methodology Meeting, held that year at the University of California, Davis. The committee offered assistance, through an NSF grant, for the targeted participants’ transportation and lodging, and also waived the $200 registration fee. Fifteen travel fellowships were awarded to female scholars to attend Polmeth that year, with a 93% positive response rate to the invitations. The invitations and travel fellowships also allowed junior faculty to list attendance at the meeting on their vitas.
As a consequence of the fellowships, a then-record number of women attended the 2006 meeting at UC Davis. Encouraged, the committee again offered fellowships for women to attend the 2007 Polmeth meeting, hosted by the Pennsylvania State University. Eighteen female faculty members received fellowships to attend the meeting. A similar number of female scholars received fellowships to attend 2008 meeting at the University of Michigan.
The 2006 Polmeth meeting also marked the start of the annual women’s dinners, open to female faculty and female graduate students. Cindy Kam (Davis) hosted the inaugural First Annual Women’s Dinner. The full set of women’s dinner (or happy hours) hosts include:
- 2006 (23th Polmeth): Cindy Kam (@ UC Davis)
- 2007 (24th Polmeth): Suzanna Linn (@ Penn State)
- 2008 (25th Polmeth): Elisabeth Gerber (@ Michigan)
- 2009 (26th Polmeth): Michelle Dion (@ Yale)
- 2010 (27th Polmeth): Megan Shannon (@ Iowa)
- 2011 (28th Polmeth): Xun Pang (@ Princeton)
- 2012 (29th Polmeth): Sunshine Hillygus (@ UNC)
- 2013 (30th Polmeth): Lynn Sanders (@ UVA)
- 2014 (31th Polmeth): —
- 2015 (32th Polmeth): Gretchen Helmke (@ Rochester)
- 2016 (33th Polmeth): Leslie Schwindt-Bayer and Tiffany Barnes (@ Rice)
- 2017 (34th Polmeth): Ellie Powell (@ Wisconsin)
The Visions in Methodology (VIM) conferences also grew out of the Diversity Committee’s efforts. Janet Box-Steffensmeier organized and hosted the first VIM meeting in 2008 at The Ohio State University. Box-Steffensmeier, Sara Mitchell, and Caroline Tolbert subsequently acted as the main point of contact for VIM. Since 2008, VIM has met multiple times, at multiple host universities. We continue to meet once annually, usually in May.
As VIM has matured, its network and general governance have become increasingly institutionalized. Michelle Dion created the first version of the VIM website after the 2014 VIM conference at McMaster University. Jane Lawrence Sumner created the VIM listserv and VIM Facebook page, to help keep past participants connected, also after the 2014 conference at McMaster. Shawna Metzger created a Twitter bot to watch for VIM participants’ publications after the 2016 VIM conference at UC Davis. Finally, a year shy of its 10th birthday, VIM’s first slate of standing officers was selected in 2017 by a committee composed of past VIM participants, based on nominations from the VIM community, with Sara Mitchell serving as VIM’s inaugural president.
Several of our members have written about VIM and the importance of diversity in political methodology as a subfield, more broadly:
- The entire June 2014 edition of The Political Methodologist focused on gender diversity in the subfield. It was guest edited by Megan Shannon, and included contributions from Tiffany Barnes, Emily Beaulieu, Janet Box-Steffensmeier, Michelle Dion, Megan Shannon, and Yanna Krupnikov, among others.
- Janet Box-Steffensmeier wrote more extensively about VIM’s origins and evolution in the spring 2017 issue of the Comparative Politics Newsletter.
- Tiffany Barnes, along with Justin Esarey, are guest editing a forthcoming issue of PS: Political Science & Politics on gender diversity in the subfield.