Shattering the Myths: Women in Academe

Article excerpt

Shattering the Myths: Women in Academe

Judith Glazer-Raymo. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999, 200 pp., $38


THE MYTH THAT GLAZER-RAYMO seeks to shatter is that women have made great progress in academe. But when we consider the status of women in academe, we may confront not so much a myth as a glass half empty or half full. On the positive side, there have been enormous increases over the past thirty years in the numbers of women enrolling in graduate and professional schools (with exceptions in some scientific and technological fields); the rising numbers in medical and law schools are particularly noteworthy. For entry-level faculty positions, women are being hired at rates approximating their availability.

On the negative side, there are few women full professors in the country's most prestigious universities and few women presidents or deans of professional schools. In nearly all institutions, women are underrepresented at the upper faculty ranks and among the most highly paid professors. Although nearly every month women win substantial financial awards through litigation to remedy years of discriminatory pay and harassment, many are unable to achieve remedies in the courts, and the pattern of discriminatory treatment continues.

Glazer-Raymo announces that she intends to examine the causes of women's lack of progress in entering higher academic ranks, but she offers little analysis or insight. The suggestion that universities and disciplines must be reorganized to conform to a vaguely expressed feminist model seems not only unrealistic but also ill advised. In particular, the notion that 11 equal opportunity and merit pay are contradictory remedies" is anathema to those women faculty members who think that women are not inherently less meritorious than men. It is analogous to the theme expounded by feminist critics of science, who are not scientists themselves and who have little understanding of the field, but who nonetheless insist that science must somehow change its fundamental nature if women are to succeed as scientists. Glazer-Raymo, a professor of education at the C. W. Post campus of Long Island University, writes from a personal perspective, having entered academe relatively late in life after years in local school-board politics.

She has assembled statistics about women faculty members from many sources, including Academe. While it is convenient to have this information in one place, it would have been more useful had the data been integrated to portray the overall situation of women faculty members, or at least been put into similar formats for purposes of comparison; the latter problem is particularly acute in the chapter on women in the professions. Also, one would expect to see data more recent than those included in the book, given that it was published in 1999.

Glazer-Raymo's skepticism about internal mechanisms meant to improve the status of women in academe is well founded. Affirmative action or equal-employment-opportunity officials all too often see their role as protecting the institution, not helping women and minorities. Commissions on women have frequently been denied access to relevant data; when they get the information and produce thorough analyses and recommendations, their reports are often ignored. …