Women have been increasing their ranks in leadership positions at some of the US's top think tanks, but others have seen a decline in top spots for women in recent years.
Micah Zenko and Amelia Mae Wolf of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) have outlined recent findings in a piece in Foreign Policy entitled "Leaning From Behind":
Data gathered from publicly available sources - on what we subjectively considered the top US think tanks working on foreign policy issues four years ago - reveals that women now comprise 24 percent of people working in policy-related positions and 33 percent of total leadership staff. The prevalence of women in these nine think tanks has increased by less than 1 percent annually in the past four years.
For this analysis, "policy-related" positions were classified as leadership roles (directors, presidents, and fellows) within departments focused on foreign policy, and "total leadership staff" included senior positions in non-policy roles such as human resources, development, and communications, which play an essential role in developing and implementing think tank programs.
The authors go on to say, among other things, that foreign policy and national security communities are "missing out on a wealth of expertise that could provide alternative thinking and policy options" by not hiring enough women.
Also noted is the idea that women are better for preventing war and corruption, and help with the economic competitiveness of a country:
The inclusion of women is proven to have enormous benefits for national security and foreign policy. The International Peace Institute found that women’s participation in peace negotiations, whether holding seats at the negotiating table or as political leaders, benefits the longevity of a peace agreement, making it 20 percent more likely to last at least two years and 35 percent more likely to last 15. This is particularly relevant for the United States, which will have spent an estimated $4-6 trillion on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is engaged in a $9.9 million per-day open-ended air war against the Islamic State. Other studies have found that a higher number of women in senior government positions is correlated with lower levels of corruption and economic competitiveness of a country.
The authors call on senior administrators at think tanks to make it a priority to increase the percentage of female experts to 50 percent.
They cite the "women and foreign policy" programs at several think tanks as positive developments, and say that males are "empowered to influence change" by refusing to speak on all-male panels (something that FP Group CEO/Editor David Rothkopf has done), or responding to media/speaking requests with suggestions for alternative female speakers.
Based on the data that Think Tank Watch has reviewed, the Council on Foreign Relations is the first major foreign policy think tank to have at least 50% of its leadership roles given to women.
Interestingly, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) was the only think tank in the study that had a decline in policy-related leadership positions given to women. Overall leadership positions held by women at CSIS remained stagnant from 2011 to 2015.
The Stimson Center was the only think tank in the study that had a decline of women in leadership positions (overall) from 2011 to 2015.
A chart comparing women's representation at major foreign policy think tanks from 2011 vs. 2015 can be found here.
Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on women in think tanks.