Women and Feminism in Higher Education Scholarship: An Analysis of Three Core Journals

Article excerpt

Today, more women than ever before are active participants in higher education. For example, more than 50% of all undergraduate students are women and the numbers of women graduate, professional, and doctoral-degree recipients and faculty are increasing ("The nation, " 2003). In fact, for the first time, American women have earned more doctorates than American men have (Smallwood, 2003). (1) Given this shifting postsecondary climate, more scholarship by women and about women, as well as an increase in feminist scholarship from previous generations, should be part of the discourse. Thus, the purpose of this article is to investigate the academic literature in the field of higher education, using gender and feminism as lenses due, in part, to the increased presence of women in the academy. By analyzing data collected from three leading journals in higher education, The Journal of Higher Education (JHE), The Review of Higher Education (RHE), and Research in Higher Education (ResHE), I hope to better understand how feminist scholarship and how women are treated in the scholarly work contained in these journals.

Theoretical Framework

To guide my analysis, I will use a feminist framework. I am interested in whether women as a subject of study and as scholars continue to be marginalized in academe because of gender. As a result, this perspective will shape how I view the data that emerge, for I see academe as entrenched in the power of patriarchy. By this, I mean that power is male-centered and, in many cases, women are oppressed in this system. Of course, not all women are equally marginalized in patriarchy. However, the fact that power is male-centered indicates that achievements by women are gained in spite of that male-centered power (i.e., patriarchy) (Johnson, 1997). In addition, since I will be looking at academic scholarship, which is critical to faculty work, I will use professionalization theory to frame my study further. Professionalization theory suggests that the reward structure and the status of the professorate are tightly coupled with producing research for juried publications. Thus, the nature of faculty work is constructed, in part, by the content of the leading journals (Silverman, 1987). The knowledge that is created and proliferated in the leading journals further shapes the subsequent creation of knowledge. Moreover, knowing who and what is published is important to understand better the value of feminism and the treatment of women in one aspect of academic work.

Background Literature

Research by DuBois, Kelly, Kennedy, Korsmeyer, and Robinson (1985) serves as a model for my study. In addition, I will expand upon work by Townsend (1993) to explore higher education scholarship in three core journals of this field. DuBois et al. examined the publication patterns in several disciplines from 1966 through 1980. Their study was intended to capture the nature of scholarly work during the height of Second Wave Feminism. While considerably narrower in scope, my study seeks to extend DuBois et al.'s work by looking at the extent to which feminism and women are featured in current higher education scholarship during the current generation of feminism (specifically, from 1990-2002). The temporal constraint for this analysis is significant because it provides the most recent perspective on the treatment of feminism and women in this field.

In addition, this work expands upon and updates a study by Townsend (1993) that explored the extent to which feminism and scholarship about women are included in higher education journals. Her study took a longitudinal sample of journal articles from the three core higher education journals in the late 1960s, the late 1970s, and the late 1980s. The current study study used the journals identified in Townsend's study but analyzed the scholarship published after her data analysis. This study will also provide insight into the kinds or strands of feminism that shape scholarship, offering a perspective that has not been explored in the higher education literature. …


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