Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Women Sociological Faculty and Scholarship Success in the Heartland

Academic journal article Forum on Public Policy: A Journal of the Oxford Round Table

Women Sociological Faculty and Scholarship Success in the Heartland

Article excerpt

Women in the Workplace

If I ask the following question any semester in any one of my Introduction to Sociology classes: "Are men and women treated equally in American society?" I will get a strong positive vote on the side of national gender equity. In many students' minds that war has been won. That opinion is not just held by first year sociology students. Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research also promotes this same idea. In a 2008 interview, Hoff Sommers explained:

Women are now approaching parity with men in law school, medical school, business school. There are more women than men in college. A lot of this happened in the so-called backlash decade. So that, in itself, is a myth. What historians and economists will have to explain was how there was so much progress in so short a time. That's the big story of the eighties, not the backlash. They got it backwards. Now, why they got it backwards is interesting: because the leadership and some of the more extreme feminists are addicted to a language and a rhetoric of oppression. They want to view American women as a subordinate class. They say we are oppressed by the "patriarchy." All of that is very silly. And it's also very inaccurate. (Sommers 2008)

Hoff Sommers' opinion is not a unique one. Many Americans would support her ideas. The reality is quite different, and the research that has been done would support the very inequality that Hoff Sommers believes has all but disappeared. Women are becoming very similar in their overall labor force participation with men, but their earnings still remain about 80% of what those men make (Macionis 2008). Women are still segregated both professionally and physically in the workplace. Women are still more likely to find the competing demands of home and job on a collision course, often disastrous for their professional careers. Hochschild's seminal work The Second Shift (1989) brought this concern out of the academic literature and into public sight, but women still today find themselves in a distinctly subordinate location in the world of work.

Women Academics in Higher Education

In higher education this is also clearly the case. Kramer (2005) reports that women are only 41% of college and university professors, and that the employment of these individuals tends to be disproportionately in non-tenured and part-time and/or temporary positions. The U.S. Department of Labor (Glayzer-Raymo 2008) states that women who have full-time appointments in higher education still only earn 79% of men's average income, even lower than the overall mismatched general employment situation. Academic women on the whole are more likely to be found in schools with lower levels of prestige, and they are less likely to be successful in their tenure aspirations (Lindsey 2005). Gender stereotyping also has been identified in the evaluations of faculty women by students, peers, and administrators. Female faculty often are straitjacketed by the requirements of their gender role script (Statham et al. 1991; Chamberlin and Hickey 2000; Miller and Chamberlin 2001; Bleakley 2002; Lindsey 2005) and "are expected to be nice as well as competent, maintain a pleasant classroom atmosphere, be more approachable and responsive to students with their personal needs, be overly accessible to students outside of class, ... [and they] are judged more harshly when they deviate from [this] gender-imposed model of a caring professor" than men (Lindsey 2005, 308).

U.S. women, however, do pursue and achieve over 50% of the doctoral degrees earned in this country (Smallwood 2003). This statistic, however, masks the reality of the situation. Women still are set apart from the whole of academia in narrowly focused disciplines, even though that space has somewhat expanded its boundaries. The disciplines into which women tend to be segregated are the ones that provide the least return in compensation and status. …

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