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The Gender Division Exposed: A Case Study of Anthropology Journal Editorial Boards

Leslie Drane

Project Description 

This study explores how gender plays a role in academic anthropology journal editorial boards. I analyzed thirty journals (appendix 1), which consisted of 853 editorial positions. Each position on the current (2014) editorial boards was included, besides emeritus positions. I analyzed the gender division between the nineteen editorial positions seen in the journals (appendix 2). Higher-ranking positions, such as editor and associate editor, are further explored.

I want to reveal an alternative outlook on the atmosphere of academic publishing and investigate if there are differences in how people experience publishing and/or editing. Since many editorial boards are honorary positions, it is important to learn who is awarded these positions and who is widely recognized for their work. Since the majority of academics will interact (perhaps indirectly) with editorial boards during their careers, it is pertinent to know and recognize the possible biases and inequalities that exist in our field.


I collected data from thirty academic anthropology journals. The journals were selected by their ranking on Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Report of 2012 (the most recent year available online). This report ranks eighty-three journals by their impact factor, a measurement of the number of citations from the journal’s recent articles. Although there are drawbacks to this ranking system, academics often uses impact factor as a judgment of a journal’s importance in the field.

After collecting the thirty journals, I visited the journal’s website and recorded the editorial positions and names of people holding those positions. Then, I conducted an internet-based search of their names and affiliations. When I found web pages (most people had their own), I categorized gender affiliation from pronouns used in descriptive text. If there were no pronouns, I drew a conclusion based from photographs, with decisions based on my understanding of common Western gender presentation. If the website contained no pronouns or photographs, I made a postulation based on first names. When I could reach no conclusion (for example, if it was a common gender-neutral name), I listed the person as “unknown.”

I acknowledge that there are faults to this methodology. There is the large problem of using a gender binary, which can skew results, since people may not identify according to the Western binary of woman and man. This is a preliminary analysis and I did not look at other variables, such as race, ethnicity, sexuality, age, economic class, etc. that may have an impact on editorial positions.


Among the thirty journals, the editorial boards contained 853 positions. Women held 341 (39.98%) positions, men 471 (55.22%), while 41 (4.80%) people were labeled as unknown (table 1). This contests the popular belief that women dominate the publishing field. There were 51 main editors; 18 (35.29%) women and 33 (64.71%) men (table 2). Associate editors comprised 168 positions; 55 (32.74%) women, 105 (62.50%) men, and 8 (4.76%) unknown (table 3). The gender divide amongst these higher-ranking positions show that men still hold the majority of editorial leadership roles, while women may serve more often as assistants and on consulting boards.


At the start of my study, I hoped to interview anthropology editors and social science editors on United States’ university presses. Because some journal editorial boards are only honorary, I aimed to speak with editors at university presses who primarily focused their time and energy on anthropology. I thought this would provide an intriguing contrast and allow personal opinions about the publishing field to be shared. Although I reached out to 10+ editors, I only received a positive response for an interview from one person. My one interview did provide intriguing information, but the editor requested I not share her/his opinions with others. Although originally dismayed by my lack of success in obtaining interviews, I think the absence of conversations can also be considered informative data. The rejection of interviews and the request for privacy may indicate an unwillingness to discuss gender issues in the professional editorial field. This may be from fear of speaking up about disparities and being ostracized from the community. However, the lack of interviews may also indicate their beliefs that there are no issues and problems to discuss. Future analysis would benefit from more interviews; requesting interviews from those in any position on university press editorial boards, not just social science editors, or requesting interviews in a different way (in-person, through acquaintances) could prove successful.

There are many possibilities for further study on anthropology journal editorial boards. I would like to compare editorial boards in the present and in past intervals (of 5 or 10 years). Since only a small portion of journals provided past editorial boards to the public, further contact with the journal will be necessary to gain access to older boards. This analysis demonstrates there is a slight difference between the genders in regards to number of positions held. It also displays that top positions on editorial boards (such as editor and associate editor) may be held by men more frequently. A survey of PhD recipients shows that in 1972, women earned 32% of the degrees, while in 1995 they rose to 59% (Givens and Jablonski 2000). Although these data are dated, it provides a glimpse at the overall employment pool. This dispels the idea that differences seen in this study is just a seniority effect; there were not always more men in older cohorts.

This study considers one part of the overall themes of normality and biases in anthropology and publishing. We must explore the relationships between academia, gender, and culture if we hope to understand our field and the role we play in it. Although this study does not directly analyze bias, it encourages us to ponder the issue of whether there are missing or emphasized interpretations and understandings because of preferences on editorial boards.  We should not assume men and women think differently, but we must recognize that there are distinctions in how they comprehend reason and phenomenology, based on diverse experiences and conceptions (Pyburn 2013).



Givens, David B. and Timothy Jablonski 2000 “Survey of PhD Recipients.” American Anthropological Association Departments Website.

Pyburn, Anne 2013 Personal Communication. 2 December 2013 Ancient Sex & Gender, Indiana University.




Table 1: Number of women (341), men (471), and unknown people (41) holding positions on thirty anthropology journal editorial boards


Table 2: Number of women (18) and men (33) who hold “Editor” positions.


Table 3: Number of women (55), men (105), and unknown people (8) holding “associate editor” positions.



Appendix I. List of 30 anthropology journals analyzed

  1. Evolutionary Anthropology
  2. Journal of Human Evolution
  3. Social Networks
  4. Journal of Peasant Studies
  5. Cultural Anthropology
  6. American Journal of Physical Anthropology
  7. Annual Review of Anthropology
  8. Current Anthropology
  9. American Journal Human Biology
  10. Human Nature – an Interdisciplinary Biosocial Perspective
  11. Global Networks – a journal of transnational affairs
  12. Journal of archaeological science
  13. Yearbook of Physical Anthropology
  14. Journal of anthropological archaeology
  15. Human ecology
  16. American ethnologist
  17. Medical Anthropology Quarterly
  18. Medical Anthropology
  19. Annals of Human Biology
  20. American Anthropologist
  21. Journal of Anthropological Sciences
  22. American Antiquity
  23. Field Methods
  24. Culture Medicine and Psychiatry
  25. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory
  26. Ethos
  27. Antiquity
  28. Human Biology
  29. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology
  30. Public Culture


Appendix 2. List of positions on editorial boards analyzed (listed in order commonly seen in journal)

  1. Editor
  2. Associate Editor
  3. Editorial Assistant
  4. Book Review Editor
  5. Managing Editor
  6. Editorial Collective
  7. Reviews Section Editor
  8. International Advisory Board
  9. Web Developer
  10. Editorial Board
  11. Production Editor
  12. Corresponding Editor
  13. Methods Series Editor
  14. Regional Editor
  15. Assistant Editor
  16. Editorial Office Manager
  17. Copy Editor
  18. Proofreader
  19. Obituary Editor