Women in Higher Education

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

K. PATRICIA CROSS


The Woman Student

Although most educational leaders are aware of inequality of opportunity for women in higher education, many find it hard to get excited about the matter. The Newman Task Force stated that "Our study found that discrimination against women, in contrast to that against minorities, is still overt and socially acceptable within the academic community."1 In light of the present pressures for equality of educational opportunity, attitudes that prevent realization of the goal for women are difficult to understand.

The negative attitudes seem to stem from biases of knowledge and sensitivity. A few educators deny that discrimination against women exists. Some know it exists, but believe that women have distinctively female talents and roles and that educational opportunity may be differentially presented to men and women. Others maintain that higher education is less important or less useful for women. And still others have adopted a style of crisis administration that calls for attention and change only when the old way becomes more uncomfortable than a new alternative.

Equal educational opportunity for women presents some new problems that are both more and less difficult to resolve than those faced in the drive for minority rights. The relative distance from the presumably aggrieved parties affects the view held. Most men, after all, know some women well enough to feel that they understand their attitudes and feelings. If a wife, for example, finds ample satisfaction and fulfillment in her role as wife and mother, the husband (and many wives, too) may readily feel critical of, and even threatened by, women who want another way of life. Some people believe that the extremists of the women's liberation movement will deny women the right to choose to be wives and mothers without feeling guilty or unliberated. But that is not what the women's rights movement is about. It is about blatant or subtle discrimination that treats women as a class rather than as individuals.

____________________
1
Task Force, Frank Newman, Chairman, Report on Higher Education, U.S. Office of Education ( Washington: Government Printing Office, 1971), p. 80.

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