Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

What We Know about Women in Community Colleges: An Examination of the Literature Using Feminist Phase Theory

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

What We Know about Women in Community Colleges: An Examination of the Literature Using Feminist Phase Theory

Article excerpt

Occupational Status: Analyzing Occupational Differences for Community and Four-Year Entrants." The Sociological Quarterly, 24 (1983), 393-404.

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41. Moore, K. M. "The Cooling Out of Two-Year College Women." Personnel and Guidance Journal, 53 (1975), 578-83.

42. Morgan, G. "Journals and the Control of Knowledge: A Introduction

A majority of all community college students are women, and approximately 60 percent of its part-time students are women. In fact, much of the growth in community college enrollments can be attributed to increased participation by women |63~. There have been parallel gains in the share of administrative and faculty positions held by women |3, 28, 43~. In 1987 there were 101 female two-year college presidents, more than double the number of women presidents in 1975 |3~. These gains are significant, and compared to most other types of postsecondary institutions, community colleges appear to be hospitable to women at all levels. However, historian Barbara Solomon |55~ cautions that equity in numbers has not assured equality for women in higher education, and community colleges would appear to be no exception. Billie Dziech |18~ writes, "In reality, the story of women in 'the people's college' is an account of success and failure, of hope and despair". She goes on to say, "The statistics |on the percentage of administrative positions held by women~ remind women staff that although on the surface the community college has been a good place for them, it has not always been good enough. Not good enough to recruit them, pay them, promote them, or tenure them equitably. . . . Not good enough to challenge academic traditions and build an environment in which men and women can work as equals".

The ambivalence of the community college attitude toward women is dramatically demonstrated by two pieces of writing, published more than ten years apart. In the mid-1970s the editors of the Junior College Journal created a fictitious author, C. M. Pegg, who wrote a supposedly satirical piece about the progress of women in community colleges |45~. Pegg, a "modern man," rails against the recently formed American Association of Women in Community and Junior Colleges and affirmative action legislation; community colleges have done quite well without Washington's help he insists. Further, he warns against the dangers of women advancing into places for which their temperament is not suited, namely administration. The reader is left to ponder just what the editors were intending to satirize: Pegg's attitudes or women's concerns.

This "fictitious" article can be dismissed relatively easily as being time-bound or light-hearted, but the second is not so easily ignored. In his most recent book on the community college presidency, Vaughan |61~ includes a chapter entitled "Women Who Are Presidents" in an attempt to compensate for the fact that most treatises on the college presidency are written as if all presidents were men. And this chapter makes an important contribution. However, while discussing the search process, Vaughan makes a very revealing statement. He says, "Although women encounter certain difficulties that men do not when seeking the presidency, to assume that being female caused failure to be selected for a given presidency is to greatly oversimplify the presidential selection process. . . . Trustees are obligated to determine the right fit, or chemistry for a college at a particular time and location. There are some cases when the right fit requires a white male president and other cases when it requires a female president". He makes a similar statement about minority presidents. So while lamenting the difficulties faced by women (and minorities), he, perhaps unintentionally, reinforces stereotypes that certain characteristics and skills needed in the presidency are primarily associated with one's sex. …

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