Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

Patricia Roberts Harris


Problems and Solutions in Achieving Equality for Women

Most people in academic life are elitists. There is a deliberate search in academic life for "the best": the best student, the best teacher, the best performance. Therefore, the aspirant for admission to the groves of academe must be the best available, if the employing peers are to be satisfied. Because more men than women are encouraged to attend graduate school, present papers at meetings, and publish them, the standard of competence has been established by male performance. More men than women have been college teachers, and, therefore, the only test of performance is that of teachers who are already in the work place. The collegiate Mr. Chips and the Dr. Einsteins, tempered by Kingman Brewster types, are still the ideals. Since no "mother's preference" accompanies the application of the woman Ph.D. who took time out to have two healthy babies, and thereby learned self-discipline and responsibility in a way that is difficult for her preoccupied and dependent spouse, and because the assumption prevails that women will be mothers and wives before seriously indulging their intellectual interests, women tend to get short shrift in the academic selection process. No extra academic points are available to women being considered for appointment to an all-male sociology faculty examining a society in which 51 percent of the population is female; no sex points are available to a woman seeking appointment to a faculty teaching literature of the Brontês and George Sand or teaching biochemistry, with its need for gestalts and intuitive flashes. Although many women teaching assistants are coauthors of scientific papers with men, they seem not to show up later on university faculties.

There is an assumption by both male and female elitists that women are generally less well qualified than men for the higher ranks of the educational hierarchy. Women are penalized both by

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