Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Jane Mansbridge Research Award Winners 2016

In its fifteenth year, the Jane Mansbridge Research Award is presented at HKS Class Day for an outstanding research papers (PAEs, SYPAs, etc.) whose analysis of an organization or topic is focused on some aspect of women or gender.

This award is named in honor of Jane Mansbridge, the Adams Professor of Political Leadership and Democratic Values at Harvard Kennedy School. Professor Mansbridge is a WAPPP affiliated faculty member and has been instrumental in fostering, conducting, and promoting gender-related research as well as changing the face of power at the Harvard Kennedy School through her portraiture project.

This year, our faculty selection committee was impressed by the rigor of all nominations saying, “They bring new information into the world and make practical recommendations to advance the cause of gender equality.” From this impressive group, they found two truly exceptional PAEs. And the winners are:

Gender Equality in the Mexican Foreign Service by Tania Del Rio, nominated by Hannah Riley Bowles

Partnerships in Investigating Sex Trafficking: Bridging Gaps to Support Survivors by Caitlin Ryan and Deena Zeplowitz, nominated by Julie Wilson.

About the papers:

Tania Del Rio’s “Gender Equality in the Mexican Foreign Service” is an original and thought-provoking study of the barriers facing women in the Mexican foreign service, along with immediate steps that can reduce those barriers. This careful analysis used three sources: an existing survey of professionals in the foreign service; in depth interviews with members of the service; and an original database compiled for this study that, for 844 foreign service officers, includes demographic information as well as the scores for each element of the promotion exams that the officer had taken since 2002, posts to which each officer had been assigned, and the date of each promotion. The study reveals different obstacles at different stages. At the earliest entrance stage, Del Rio demonstrates potential biases both in the content of written exams and in the process of in-person interviews. At the second stage, she finds significant differences in postings to highly responsible positions and to “hardship post,” both of which count significantly for future promotions. The steps she recommends for de-biasing the exams and interviews and for rethinking the postings are practical and politically feasible.

Caitlin Ryan and Deena Zeplowitz’s “Partnerships in Investigating Sex Trafficking: Bridging Gaps to Support Survivors” investigates programs for reducing sex trafficking in four cities – Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. Based on interviews with practitioners in all four cities as well as on existing case studies and government documents in each city, the study takes as its focus the problems of foreign-born women who are the victims and survivors of trafficking, particularly those employed in one common venue: illicit massage parlors. The twelve recommendations for action around which the study is organized reveal sensitivity to many points of view – particularly necessary because the authors argue that the government and non-profit agencies concerned with trafficking need to work in coalition. Thus the coalition members need to recognize their differences and find common ground on tactics and intended outcomes even while disagreeing on ideology, theories of causality, and other central issues. Law enforcement officers have different incentives and training from both government workers in family courts and service agencies, and from the voluntary members of the NGOs that engage in work to prevent sex trafficking. A serious approach to these differences informs almost all of the study’s recommendations, including identifying a neutral third-party organization to manage the coalition and establishing clear boundaries between agencies regarding roles and responsibilities. The study recognizes the victims’ and survivors’ own different responses to trauma, need for housing and employment, fear of deportation, fear of the police, and fear of retaliation to themselves and their families in their home countries. Because it is so sensitive to the subtleties of the facts on the ground, this study has produced some highly useful recommendations.


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