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  • CLAGistas:The Rise of Women in Latin American Geography
  • T. Shawn Mitchell

the conference of latin american Geographers (CLAG) and I are both fifty this year, making it an apt time for celebration and introspection. When I finished my doctorate in 1997, pregnant with my second child, I didn't know how to balance fieldwork in Central America with motherhood, so I continued to teach as an adjunct but put my career on hold. Now that I am re-entering the academic world, I feel like Rip Van Winkle waking up after a twenty-year maternity leave to find an explosion in the number of women engaged in Latin American geography. In honor of our semi-centennial, I'd like to use this essay to outline the growth of women in CLAG ("CLAGistas") over the past five decades and then provide my perspective as an academic late bloomer.

Statistically, men still dominate geography, making up 65 percent of faculty in colleges and universities and 70 percent of employees in non-academic geographical professions (AAG, 2018). Those numbers belie the gains made by women on many fronts, from leadership to publications and employment. Publications serve as a valuable metric for assessing women's progress because they reflect not only the ability to conduct research, but also access to resources and institutional support. In most universities, peer-reviewed articles remain the "corner-stone of professional advancement" (Fredrich & Salazar, 1990, p. 361). To put CLAG's numbers in perspective, female contributors to the Annals of the American Association of Geography rose from zero in 1956 to 35 percent in 2016, with a similar trend in The Professional Geographer (AAG, 2015). According to Fredrich and Salazar (1990), women authored only 10 percent of articles in the first decade of CLAG's Publication Series. To provide a more complete picture of female authorship over time, I used the online archives of CLAG publications (Publication Series, Proceedings, Yearbook, and Journal of Latin American Geography) to tally articles with female authors and co-authors in fiveyear intervals between 1980 and 2019. There was little growth over the first three decades, but female contributions rose significantly after 2000, and in 2019 women (as authors and co-authors) contributed an impressive 65 percent of articles and 43 percent of reviews (Figure 1).

CLAGista research is diverse and leans more toward applied than theoretical topics. Agricultural and historical themes dominated the early decades, but migration, globalization, and environmental issues are now ascendant. Feminist geography "[a]lthough not solely a subject of interest to women … is perhaps the only subfield in geography [End Page 20] that is clearly dominated by women" (Schroeder, 2002, p. 149). Of the thirty-two articles and reviews with gender-related titles published between 1990 and 2019, 82 percent were authored or co-authored by women. The word "women" appeared in eighteen titles, "gender(ed)" in eight, and "mujer(es)," "feminist/feminism," "feminista," and "latina" each showed up twice. Since this count is based solely on titles, it overlooks articles in which the content might be gender related. It also neglects work CLAGistas do outside of academic publication to promote women in geography, like the "Let Girls Map" program started by Patricia Solis.

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Figure 1.

Female authorship as a percent of total journal content for select years, 1980–2019. (Articles include introductory essays, research articles, JLAG Perspectives, and "From the Field" notes. Those written by female co-authors may also have male authors. Reviews include reviews of films, websites and books).

Conferences provide another gauge of women's participation in Latin American geography. There were no female presenters at the first CLAG meeting in Muncie, IN, in 1970 (Davidson, personal communication, 18 May 2018). In the subsequent decade, women presented only 9 percent of papers, inching up to 17 percent in the 1980s (Fredrich & Salazar, 1990). At the 2018 conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, women presented nearly half of the papers, and received all eight of that year's student travel awards. While host universities are disproportionately represented at any given conference, the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, and the University...


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