Gender Equity Online, When There
Is No Door to Knock On*
Center for the Study of Women in Society, University of Oregon
The majority of U. S. undergraduate college students are women. The majority of U. S. students taking online courses are women. And for the first time, because of the new types of computerbased classes, online women students seemingly do not need to worry about being identified and stereotyped by their gender—or their race or age or appearance. Online, it would seem, the focus can be on both women's and men's academic discussions, on their minds.
So online there are no, or at least few, gender equity problems? Unfortunately, there are problems experienced primarily by women that call for attention from all distance education administrators, teachers, and students. We have a special opportunity and responsibility right now to make sure that past sexist practices, which have been a problem on most campases, are not perpetuated online.
This chapter draws heavily on research conducted for a report for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), including interviews with more than 100 women and men, and more than 400 survey questionnaires completed by university teachers and students (online and on campus) and potential students from a great variety of backgrounds (Kramarae, 2001). In addition, I have benefited from discussions with graduate students and teachers from a dozen countries working together in a “Future of Higher Education” course at the International Women's University in Germany in 2000.
For more than a century, adult women, differing widely in age, interests, economic and marital status, and amount of formal education, have used distance education to try to complete courses and degrees after having interrupted their education, often for family reasons. Many women____________________