Crunching the Numbers on Think Tank Gender Balance

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lawrence MacDonald, vice president for communications and policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, cites an article indicating that many foreign policy-focused think tanks are “male bastions.” He stresses the importance of gender balance, saying that leaders of these think tanks should recognize the negative impact of gender imbalance on their effectiveness.

“Why Think Tanks Hate Women” was the inflammatory subject line on Foreign Policy’s email newsletter this morning. The misleading packaging aside, the relevant FP article by Micah Zenko contained some interesting numbers.  In the ten foreign policy-focused think tanks for which Zenko crunched the numbers “women constituted only 21 percent of the policy-related positions (154 of 723) and only 29 percent of the total leadership staff (250 of 874).”  Some tanks really are male bastions (for tank-specific numbers, see here). Our friends at the Peterson Institute, for example, can boast only six women among the 38 policy staff, or 16 percent.

I wondered how we would stack up here at CGD, using Zenko’s definitions. Here’s the results:

Senior Policy Related Staff: 20 staff, 8 women (40%)

Total Senior Staff: 23 staff, 11 women (48%)

Zenko didn’t report on total full-time staff.  For the record, here at CGD we currently have 55 full time staff, of whom 27 (49%) are women.

Many of the comments on Zenko’s article took issue with the premise, arguing that it makes no sense to calculate gender shares. I disagree. The leaders of the foreign policy tanks should wake up and recognize that their gender imbalance undermines their effectiveness and puts them at a competitive disadvantage. Gender balance matters: having a woman leader and a substantial number of senior female colleagues makes CGD a great place to work and is one of the keys to our success.

Re-published with permission by the Center for Global Development. Visit the original article.

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