Fifteen Eighty Four

Academic perspectives from Cambridge University Press


Why We Need an International Perspective on the Psychology of Women and Why We Need It Now

Fanny M. Cheung, Diane F. Halpern

Psychology is way too weird. By that we mean that it is overwhelmingly the study of people who are White, Educated, and live in countries that are Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic. A study of the research participants in one of psychology’s leading journals found that 85% of the samples were representative of fewer than 7% of the people on earth (Rad, et. al. 2018). How can we consider psychology to be a legitimate science when it routinely ignores most of the world? To remedy this critical problem with a focus on sex and gender, we compiled the Cambridge Handbook on the International Psychology of Women. Thirty-seven International and cross-cultural teams comprised (collectively) of more than one hundred of psychology’s most knowledgeable psychologists addressed a range of topics that are critical to understanding an international psychology of women. They represent every continent (except Antarctica—it is hard to get quality work from penguins).

Often, when talking about the need for an international perspective on the psychology of women, we were told that the questions we posed are no longer relevant because women and men are now equal. We were stunned by these comments, and realized that we, and others like us, are responsible for the lack of knowledge in this essential area of psychology. Do they know that at the current rate, they will never live to see women reach parity on salary? The World Economic Forum (2018) estimated that it will take two centuries for women around the world to reach this milestone. Do they know the consequences of China’s One-Child Policy, which in 2014 resulted in 33 million more men than women in China? Do they know that when cultures rely on water collection off premises (over 3 billion people do not have access to clean water), 80 percent of the time, girls and women carry the water, which puts them at risk of sexual violence (World Health organization, 2017)? These are just a few of the facts that come to life when we consider women’s lives (and of course, men’s as well) from the lens of different regions and cultures of the world.

We learned much from our many talented authors. Many deep-seated controversies came to light as international teams worked together on contemporary topics. We learned that sex and gender are not binary and that they never were. Women are not a homogenous group, so we cannot talk about their lives as though they share a common psychology. We must consider how all people fall into multiple intersecting categories based on their culture, age, race, socioeconomic status, gender identity, and many more. We look forward to sharing all that we have learned with you.
In closing, we dedicate our work to all of the women whose lives have been invisible to psychology– – women from parts of the world that are not included in most textbooks or in the psychological research literature. We cannot have a psychology of women that excludes most of the women in the world. We realize that we have a long way to go before we have an internationally inclusive psychology. Please join us in this pursuit.

The Cambridge Handbook of the International Psychology of Women  Edited by Fanny M. Cheung , Diane F. Halpern
The Cambridge Handbook of the International Psychology of Women Edited by Fanny M. Cheung , Diane F. Halpern

About The Authors

Fanny M. Cheung

Fanny M. Cheung is Choh-ming Li Professor of Psychology and Vice-President (Research) at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. She is also the Founding Chairperson of the Equal Oppo...

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Diane F. Halpern

Diane F. Halpern is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Claremont McKenna College, California....

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