Being the rather unapologetically energetic nonproliferation student that I am, I force my way into as many nonproliferation-related events, talks, and conferences as possible. Through this practice, I have been able to meet a variety of very interesting and intelligent experts in the nonproliferation field. But I have noticed a rather glaringly apparent problem in the nonproliferation community, and that’s the tendency of the MANel. MANel = Man panel. In most nonproliferation conferences, there are a number of panels that attempt to address current issues in the nonproliferation regime and analyze new events. And I have noticed a highly frequent tendency that the panels are comprised entirely of men.
Now a common response I hear in defense of the lack of balanced representation is that those chosen for a panel were based on who was available at the time or that they were chosen based on qualifications rather than diversity. I am by no means debating the fact that the number of women in nonproliferation is vastly less than men, but please do not try to tell me that the selection of leading experts ONLY comprises men.
Here is why this matters to me as a female nonproliferation student: We all look for indications that our aspirations are possible. As a student, if I do not see females being represented as experts in the field, it makes it more difficult to see myself achieving that in the future. Now, working towards something that statistically is less likely for me is not something that usually deters me. I like to think my pantsuit imbues me with the power to crush all in my path. But if we truly want to encourage more women to pursue nonproliferation studies, showing them that woman can, in fact, be nonproliferation experts is a necessary step. And an incredibly easy step, due to the fact that they already exist.
Here is why this matters to the nonproliferation regime in general: It should be no surprise to you when I say that in most cases, the problems facing the nonproliferation regime have remained relatively stagnant for the past few decades. Now more than ever, looking at problems and issues from new angles is incredibly important. One way to do that is to get people who are not from the same “mold” to take a fresh look at the issues (yes I did just refer to race and genders as human molds). Do I think that adding more women to the nonproliferation world will fix all of the problems? No, but I do think it will have a beneficial effect.
We are working towards this goal regardless, the number of women in the nonproliferation field is increasing. But I do think that it will benefit all of us if the rest of the nonproliferation community would stop pretending it’s not happening.
Also…. If you continue to have problems finding female representation for some reason and need nonpro women for a panel…..