“Manels” are a hot topic right now in discussions of academic conferences and workshops, and especially in political science. Conference panels and workshop programs are self-contained sites of social interaction among academics, and when the roster of a panel or a workshop contains only men, it both reflects the absence of diversity within our discipline and sends a negative signal about “who does what work,” “who is prominent,” and “whose research is valuable.” Some institutions have banned manels, and some scholars refuse to participate in manels.
Avoiding manels—and embracing both gender and other forms of diversity—is ultimately the responsibility of those who create conference programs and workshop panels. Sara Goodman and I worked on this together for the Comparative Politics division of APSA 2017, and found that it was easier on some dimensions than we expected (very few manels were submitted to us), and harder on others. In concert with the Diversity Hackathon that APSA held this past year, we obtained data on gender and other identity characteristics from the 2017 and 2018 annual meeting programs, and also sought feedback from the other 2017 program chairs about their experiences.
We have written up our analysis and reflections in a new paper entitled “Gender Representation and Strategies for Panel Diversity: Lessons from the APSA Annual Conference.” Comments, as always, are welcome.