Gender Imbalance in NT Studies

Everybody knows there is a gender imbalance in NT studies. But it’s the sort of thing that’s hard to quantify. So I did a very brief, unscientific calculation by looking at articles published by women in two important NT journals over the roughly six year period from 2009-2014 (inclusive). The results surprised me.

JSNT has, since 2009, published 121 articles (ignoring Booklist issues). Of those, only nine have been written by women. And of those nine, two are by the same person (Jane Heath) and two are co-authored with a man. This means the percentage of articles published by women in this journal for the period only reaches about 7.5%.

For interest, the women published are Nicola Denzey Lewis, Wendy North, Anna C. Miller, Jane Heath (bis), Alice E. Connor (as co-author), Louise Lawrence, Susannah Heschel, and Beverly Gaventa (as co-author).

I repeated the calculation for NTS, with slightly better results:

Total = 205 articles

Articles by women: 29 (of which four as co-author), 14%, as opposed to JSNT’s 7.5%.

Articles by: Korinna Zamfir; Brittany E. Wilson; Dorothea H. Bertschmann; Sheree Lear; Jane Heath (bis); Madison N. Pierce (as co-author); Helen Bond; Karen King; Emily Gathergood; Christine Gerber (bis); Candida Moss (as co-author); Margaret Mitchell; Gudrun Nassauer; Adela Yarbro Collins; Margaret Y. MacDonald; Jacqueline Assaël (as co-author); Eve-Marie Becker (bis); Lee A. Johnson (as co-author); Susan Grove Eastman; Paula Fredriksen; Hanna Roose; Alicia J. Batten; Susan Docherty; Adele Reinhartz; Rita Müller-Fieberg; Camille Focant.

In both these cases, I don’t think it’s right to blame the journal or their policies. They are simply double-blind peer-reviewing what is sent to them. But it does provide a couple of hard numbers, although unscientific since the scale of the investigation is so small, that begin to move toward quantifying this troubling imbalance in the field of NT studies more broadly.

  1. #1 by fellowsrichard on September 14, 2014 - 5:47 am

    These are startling statistics and I’ld be interested to hear how others interpret them. The double-blind peer-reviewing gives me only partial reassurance. I wonder what proportion of the reviewers are female, and whether male and female reviewers assess the merits of papers by the same criteria.

    I also wonder whether there is bias in the criteria that the journals lay down. Journals often insist that submissions engage in excessive detail with secondary literature (and the result is that any original insights that papers offer are often hard to find). Authors, it sees, are required to have a geeky obsession with (often scarcely relevant) secondary literature, and I wonder if that is more of a male thing. I would be happy to be corrected, though.

    By the way, a few years ago there was internet discussion about why bibliobloggers are mostly male.

    • #2 by David Lincicum on September 14, 2014 - 2:40 pm

      I’d also be curious to hear how others think this could be interpreted. It would be interesting to know whether these ratios are the same when it comes to number of articles submitted. It seems like that information might not be impossible to obtain?

  2. #3 by fellowsrichard on September 14, 2014 - 9:41 pm

    I am surprised that an extensive study of gender imbalance in biblical studies does not seem to have been done. A bit of googling revealed this, which suggests that 6% of publications in the field are by women.

    SBL gives a statistic for their publications:
    “In terms of gender representation, 20 percent of all 2013 authors and editors are female, an improvement over some years but still slightly below the representation of females among the SBL membership as a whole.”

    A few years ago there was some discussion of the gender imbalance among bibliobloggers. Rosson thought that ego had a lot to do with it.
    See here. This could apply to journal papers too.

    In keeping with my own tentative suggestion, my wife suggests that the discipline of New Testament studies would be of more interest to women if it had more practical application.

    One other thought: biblical scholarship us a competition between ideas and can therefore be quite combative. And publishing papers requires persistence in the face of rejection (at least it did for me). Perhaps women are less inclined to persistent combative self-promotion than men.

  3. #4 by Marianne Meye Thompson on October 27, 2014 - 10:17 pm

    My name isn’t on that publication list for JSNT or NTS, but I have served as a reviewer for NTS and JTI; on a panel to review the Achtemeier award for SBL; and have juried other publications and materials. I don’t remember details, but it was pretty rare that the “blind” reviewers disagreed with each other. I have no idea, most of the time, who the other reviewer was, but my hunch is that in most cases it was a “he” (since there weren’t that many women on the reviewing boards). In those cases where we sat down as a committee to go over a paper or book, I thought it was rare that my views differed very much from those of the male reviewers.

    Why aren’t there more women in biblical studies? I think a lot of it has to do with models. My uneducated hunch is that Bible is generally of more interest to persons in the broadly speaking “conservative” orbit; and here there are fewer models, and probably less encouragement (explicit or implicit) to young women to pursue the field. Some friends have suggested to me that languages are an issue; but I’m not sure why they are more daunting to women than to men. I’m not sure it has to do with the practicality of the field.

    Academia generally is not always very attractive to women wanting to have families, too. Again, why that isn’t an equal deterrent to men — and whether academia is generally hostile to mothering (and I’m a mother) — might be worth asking, too.

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