Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

"What about Women?" Historical Perspectives on the CSWE Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education (Women's Council)

Academic journal article Journal of Social Work Education

"What about Women?" Historical Perspectives on the CSWE Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education (Women's Council)

Article excerpt

THE COUNCIL ON THE Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education (WC), a volunteer committee of the Council on Social Work Education (CSWE), was represented by more than 155 volunteer members from the late 1960s through 2006. As evidenced within this article, the WC throughout its history has strived to carry out its mission to develop educational resources relevant to women's issues, eliminate procedures within academe that hinder full participation of women, make recommendations to the CSWE Board of Directors on matters of policy, and initiate and coordinate programs and activities related to women in social work education (CSWE, 2006b). To date, a history of the WC has not been written. The authors seek to remedy this gap and to answer the question: What are the strengths and struggles of this group over time, and how might they inform the present and the future, especially in light of the fact that social work remains a profession of predominantly female educators, practitioners, and clients? Even though specific women and men will be noted, we acknowledge the significant contributions made by many individuals, some unnamed, unknown, or forgotten, to the creation and maintenance of the WC within a professional association that, at times, lobbied for its dissolution.

Analytical Framework

To examine the impact of the WC, the authors chose a qualitative design for historical analysis (Patton, 2002) and drew on available primary and secondary data sources including (1) personal interviews, conducted by the authors via telephone, e-mail, and written communication with all past and current chairs and other members of the WC; (2) annual WC reports and other CSWE documents; (3) materials from the Social Welfare History Archives at the University of Minnesota; (4) firsthand knowledge through personal and professional experiences; (5) communication with selected CSWE leadership; and (6) a review of relevant literature. As data sources were examined, themes emerged and were explicated through triangulation of the data. Through this methodological approach of constant comparison and validation of themes and sub-themes, the limitations of any particular data source were minimized, resulting in a more comprehensive perspective. Additionally, the authors were guided by a feminist framework that places significance on the centrality of gender in their analysis of the WC's role within CSWE.

We begin by describing the historical context of the WC and then identify the two major themes that enrich our understanding of the WC's relevance within CSWE. These themes are informed by and grounded in the historical analysis. The first centers on the organizational development of the WC, while the second focuses on the contributions of the WC to social work education. Sub-themes within each of the two major themes are identified and discussed (see Table 1).

The Early Years

During the years 1969-1974, when the WC was being developed, the Women's Movement took a prominent role in societal changes relative to the expectations placed on women and men. Examples of these changes can be seen in Betty Friedan's (1963) groundbreaking work, The Feminine Mystique, and the 1966 formation of the National Organization for Women. The creation of the antecedent to the current WC--the Task Force on Women in Social Work Education (TFWSWE)--occurred during this period of societal agitation, change, and the reemergence of feminist critique. Sadly, many of the themes noted from that time period remain relevant today.

The origins of the contemporary CSWE Council on the Role and Status of Women in Social Work Education go back to 1969, when the CSWE House of Delegates, a group with an advisory relationship to the CSWE Board of Directors (Kendall, 2002), met and explored the need for task forces focused on special ethnic/racial populations (at that time including Black, Chicano, and Native American). Myrtle Reul, then an untenured faculty member and affirmative action officer at the University of Georgia, remembered thinking to herself, "What about women? …

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