Women's Status in Higher Education


Equity matters. The posting below, which came to me recently via the Tomorrows-Professor mailing list, is the opening of the executive summary of the Association for the Study of Higher Education report Women's Status in Higher Education: Equity Matters by Elizabeth J. Allan. The report is available from the Wiley Online Library. Significant gains have been made in women's access to and representation in higher education. Although they are important, focus on these improvements provides only a partial picture of gender equity and inequity. 

Taken alone, enrollment data tend to eclipse other factors that shape women's experiences in higher education. For instance, aggregate enrollment data do not portray the persistent lack of gender parity among students studying engineering, computer science, and other science and technology fields, nor do they depict the quality of classroom and campus experiences. Women studying and working in postsecondary institutions continue to bump against glass ceilings and sticky floors, they experience pay disparities and the threat and reality of sexual harassment, and violence continues to interfere with workplace and living environments on campus.

Why should we care? Lack of equity in higher education can have far-reaching and negative consequences for learning environments, quality of life, and career satisfaction of both women and men studying and working in academic institutions across the country. This monograph foregrounds gains made and shared challenges women face while also acknowledging how race, social class, and other aspects of identity intersect with sex and gender and contribute to shaping one's professional status in profound ways. Literature related to women's access and representation in higher education, experiences of campus climate, and predominant strategies employed to enhance gender equity in U.S. higher education are reviewed.