Women and International Relations: WomanStats’ Participation at the VI Congress of RedIntercol

RedIntercolFrom the 2ndto the 4thof October, I had the opportunity to participate and represent the WomanStats Project in RedIntercol’s sixth Congress along with Professor Maria Catalina Monroy (one of WomanStats’co-principal investigators). RedIntercol is the Colombian network of International Relations, and its Congress is an opportunity to learn from other academics’– both teachers and students – developments and investigations on their field of work. As an undergraduate student, this was also my first participation in an event of this kind. It was amazing!


My participation had one main goal:to teach others about the WomanStats Project, its importance,and what I do as a coder. I had a presentation on one of the panels, called, “The role of women in International Relations: representation, productivity and leadership”. This panel also included Sarah Nieto and Professor Rebecca Nielsen.


Nieto is the publication assistant for the journal Desafíosascribed to the Schools of Political Science, Government, and International Relations at the Universidad del Rosario. Her presentation was about the small number of academic publications by women in Internal Relations and Political Sciences journals in Colombia. Given the importance of published investigations in academic journals, this poses an obstacle to women in order to achieve major recognition and success as academics. Despite the increase in recent years, women still publish less than men.


Professor Nielsen, another WomanStats’ co-pi, showed the results from her investigation about gender quotas for parliament elections in Africa. She compared the actual participation of women in the parliament to the established quotas, in order to determine what is an “effective quota”. Her research, which had a strong quantitative component, offered a statistical alternative to measure women’s participation.


Regarding my presentation, it first established why it is important to study women’s security status in order to understand a state’s status as well.  I shared the results and the conclusions from several studies, most from WomanStats’ investigators, about the relationship between gender and the security of states. For others to understand why what we do in WomanStats is important, I thought it was key for them to understand the “women and peace” thesis. Thus, the presentation was centered around a basic premise: “The fate of nations is tied to the status of women”.


The “women and peace” thesis, as presented in The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States [1], an investigation conducted by many WomanStats investigators, links the situation of women to state-level variables like security-related issues. In this article, the authors gather evidence from disciplines like evolutionary biology and psychology, as well as studies from International Relations, to find explanatory factors that help support these connections. In order to find a robust methodology, this investigation uses the WomanStats Database to prove the relationship between physical security and three measures of state security and peacefulness. The results show that women’s physical security is a better predictor for these measures.


Following this academic context, I presented the database and how it is composed. I RedIntercol (1)explained about the different types of variables we have and what information they show. For you who are new to our database, we have three types of variables: Practice, Law, and Data. Practice information covers what is happening on the ground of a country, its norms and customs. Law variables, as the name indicates, contain the legal information and definitions of different behaviors and norms. Last, data variables include quantitative information about prevalence. At the end, I was asked to talk about my experience as a coder. I felt so happy to share with others how we code and all the things I have learned while doing so!


It was really gratifying to see the room full of students like me who seemed truly interested in what we do as coders and on the conclusions our investigators have reached. One of the things I noticed from the Congress was the growing interest to understand our role as women in this discipline: as academics and as subject of studies. Likewise, it is amazing to represent this project. As a coder I am constantly learning new things and understanding better what is the status of women. Future investigations may use our database and continue to demonstrate that “the fate of nations is tied to the status of women”, as our main webpage promotes!


May this be an opportunity for all of us to remember what an important job we are doing here at the WomanStats Project!


This is the flyer I designed, and we passed around as I presented, it is a translation from: “The fate of nations is tied to the status of women…We make this linkage visible and demonstrable”.




Pictures belong to author.

Flyer designed by author.

[1] Hudson, Valerie M., Mary Caprioli, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Rose McDermott, and Chad F. Emmett. “The Heart of the Matter: The Security of Women and the Security of States.” Quarterly Journal: International Security, vol. 33. no. 3. (Winter 2008/09): 7-45


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