The Association for Iranian Studies has agreed to adopt a gender diversity policy that puts an end to male-only panels at its conferences, following a letter signed by more than 160 academics.
"Recently, we were surprised to see a day-long conference on the 40th Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution featured only male participants," said the letter.
"While we understand this was not an AIS event, we believe the association can set an example by changing its own policies and practices, and in doing so lead the way for others."
The letter was written by Negar Mottahedeh, literature professor at Duke University, and Naghmeh Sohrabi, Middle East history professor at Brandeis University.
"On the 40th anniversary of the Revolution we've had many opportunities to listen to each other and to really witness the wealth of perspectives that make up our scholarship," Sohrabi and Mottahedeh told iroon.com.
"We think it is significant that the policy on inclusivity emerged in this context, and not from above, but out of a collective reflection on who we are as scholars and on the generative diversity that nurtures our research on Iran, the Iranian diaspora, and the Persianate world today."
The letter resonated with the Iranian academic community shortly after it was posted by Sohrabi on her Facebook page.
"When I saw the letter and the support it enjoyed, I saw a tremendous opportunity to better align the mission of the Association of Iranian Studies with the professional values of our membership," said AIS President Camron Amin.
He added: "The AIS Council embraced the proposal in the letter very quickly at its May 29 meeting, and, then we began imagining how we might implement the new policy effectively in our newsletter, journal, and our upcoming conference at the University of Salamanca in Spain in August 2020."
May 26, 2019
Dear Prof. Amin, President of the Association for Iranian Studies,
We, as members of the AIS community, are writing to ask that the AIS Executive Committee and AIS Council Members vote to implement a new policy regarding gender equality and diversity in AIS sponsored and supported events. It is our belief that AIS as one of the main associations for the study of Iran and the Persianate world can, and should, take the lead on this issue in the field of Iranian Studies.
Recently, we were surprised to see a day-long conference on the 40th Anniversary of the Iranian Revolution featured only male participants. While we understand this was not an AIS event, we believe the association can set an example by changing its own policies and practices, and in doing so lead the way for others. At the last AIS conference held in UC Irvine, several panels featured only male participants and of the past sixteen AIS presidents, only two have been women. It has been our experience that this has had a real effect on membership of AIS, discouraging female scholars in particular from joining the association.
We find this egregious given the gender make up of our field and ask that you take a stand against this in your role as leaders of our scholarly community. We request that AIS add gender equality and diversity language to its call for papers for all upcoming conferences and events it supports. Specifically, we ask that the 2020 program committee reject male-only panel proposals in light of the adoption of this language as AIS policy. We draw your attention to examples from other associations such as Political Science Association and Jewish Studies Association that have implemented this policy successfully and a recent article in Foreign Policy on how to avoid them.
AIS is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all areas of its work and the profession. Diversity encourages innovation and creativity and strengthens the community by harnessing a variety of skills, perspectives, talents, and resources to meet new challenges. As such, it is incumbent upon AIS to endeavor to reflect the gender diversity of the profession in multiple ways including its biennial conference, which is the main showcase of our thriving field. In doing so, AIS will be part of an increasing movement within various academic associations to mitigate gender inequality in academia.