The challenges that female academics face can seem insurmountable. In particular, gender inequality continues to pervade academic circles, placing female academics at a severe disadvantage in terms of both employment and finances. 

John W. Curtis, Director of Research and Public Policy for the American Association of University Professors prepared a document entitled “Persistent Inequity: Gender and Academic Employment” for New Voices in Pay Equity, an event pay day  in April of 2011. This document is a very informative, well researched statement on the state of affairs as it pertains to women, academic employment and gender inequality. Some of his opening statements reiterate the argument being made here. 

The reality on campuses all around the country is clear: women make up a majority of the students in American colleges and universities. In fall 2009, women comprised 57 percent of undergraduate enrollment and 59 percent of graduate enrollment (Knapp, et al., 2011)….What should be a corollary question has received less attention, however: when these high achieving women students look around campus for faculty mentors and role models, what do they find? The answer by and large is that progress for women into the most prestigious (and well-paid) positions in academia has lagged far behind the advances experienced by women students. 

Sadly, this remains to be a problem in our country, one of the most progressive in the world in terms of academia and equality. Curtis goes on to list a number of areas where we see the most inequality and lack of justice:

  • Faculty Employment
  • Leadership
  • Faculty Salary
  • Work

A 2008 article on insidehighered.com has a list of highlights as well from an article entitled “ Gender Equity in Academia: Bad News from the Trenches and Some Possible Solutions,” appearing from an issue of Perspectives in Politics.  These highlights present information and perspectives on:

  • Unintended bias and outdated attitudes
  • Devaluing positions once women hold them
  • Service and gender
  • Family vs Career
  • Activism vs Making it work

It saddens me that many of the studies and insights of some the education sectors most prominent leaders support theses that women are consistently and routinely subjected to less than equal treatment in both the world of academia and the general work force. Here is another excerpt from the paper by John W. Curtis:

Overall, women are less likely than men to be employed as full-time tenure-track faculty members, less likely to hold tenured or full professor positions, and comprise less than a quarter of all college and university presidents. Women in full-time faculty positions earn only about 80 percent of what men earn, and since women are also overrepresented in low-paying part-time faculty positions, the gender gap in earnings is actually even larger than that….More problematic is the approach that explains away differences in employment outcomes as the result of “choices” women make—in this conception, by the way, it’s almost always the choices of women that lead them down the path of career disadvantage.

Upon reflection of many of these statistics, ideas,research and thoughts, I would suggest a number things:

  • Read each of the articles mentioned. Educating ourselves on the nature of what women are experiencing within academic circles will help us to address this issue.
  • Consider the impact that gender inequality practices have on the self esteem and consciousness of women. These are damaging practices and lead to continued suffering on the part of those most affected.
  • Foster conversation. Open and expressive dialogue, by both men and women, needs to be fostered on college campuses and in school buildings across the country. Legislation and institutional policy needs to be affected and conversation will be the only way that is achieved.