Surviving the Academy: Feminist Perspectives

Surviving the Academy: Feminist Perspectives

Surviving the Academy: Feminist Perspectives

Surviving the Academy: Feminist Perspectives

Synopsis

Surviving The Academy brings together new writing and research on feminist experience in academia. Issues such as management, care, and maternalism are explored to show the effects they have on the behaviour and interactions of female academics.

Excerpt

The roots of this volume lie in the 1996 Women in Higher Education Network (WHEN) conference. Why, about a century after women first fought for entry to higher education, is it still necessary for women to 'speak our place(s)'?

In the case of the student population overall, the situation looks quite good numerically. the proportion of women uk undergraduates is roughly equivalent to the proportion of women in the population as a whole. However, women students are still under-represented in the physical science and engineering disciplines, and for the majority on education and language courses. Thus there is a considerable gender divide, with women students still concentrated in what have been considered traditionally 'female' subject areas (Department for Education, 1994; Universities Statistical Record, 1994).

The situation for those who teach these women students is unsatisfactory. in no disciplinary areas do the number of women academic staff outnumber those of men, even in those areas where women form the majority of students. Moreover, the distribution of women academics across the hierarchy of grades is remarkably skewed; women form the vast majority of contract researchers and a small minority of senior lecturers and professors. Overall, where institutional and managerial academic power is, women are not. Where employment is insecure, low status and poorly paid, women are.

When it comes to difference between women academics, it is difficult for us to say much about the combined effects of gender, ethnicity and class. While statistics are now collected on students' ethnic origins, there are no official figures on the number of black women academics. and while we supposedly know about students' class backgrounds from statistics collected on their (mainly) fathers' occupations, once women get an academic post they automatically become classified as middle-class, even though from autobiographical accounts we know they do not feel it (Mahoney and Zmroczek, 1997; Walkerdine and Lucey, 1989). Questions of sexuality and disability, as well as the place of non-academic women in the higher education system, such as domestic and clerical workers, are also major silences in official statistics.

Unless we adopt a purely liberal equal opportunities agenda, however, we have to ask what difference it would make if the diversity of women were equally represented in all disciplinary areas and across the academic hierarchy? the entry of women as numerical individuals onto the higher education scene does not necessarily shift the academic knowledge-making project, or the exercise of academic power, as masculinist-defined activities.

There is now a relatively considerable body of feminist work that has unpacked the assumptions behind traditional academic knowledge-making (including, Aptheker . . .

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