This virtual special issue is the outcome of a project entitled Women and JAS, which was launched by the coeditors of the Journal of American Studies in October 2019 to document the involvement of women in the journal's day-to-day business from its inception in 1956 as the Bulletin of the British Association for American Studies. The project arises out of – and will hopefully contribute to – larger conversations about the progression of women scholars in academia. While the UK and US higher-education contexts (the contexts most pertinent to this discussion) differ, there are notable similarities in terms of the relationship between gender and career advancement. Both witness attrition of women from academia as they progress from undergraduate studies to PhD and beyond; both see disproportionate numbers of women scholars employed in precarious, part-time and/or teaching-only roles; both see a very low proportion of women in senior professorial roles; fewer women in both locations apply for (and are, therefore, awarded) major grants. In the UK, specifically, recent conversations around gender inequality in higher education have revolved around issues (and initiatives) such as the gender pay gap, Athena SWAN, sexual harassment and the effects of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs), caring responsibilities and affective labour.