The Women's Center, Barnard College, pamphlet, 1971, page 8

Download: Transcript

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 View All

Show transcript

          Women in the Academic World

Why do so few talented
women go on to academic
careers? One reason is that
many of them attend the
major universities and lib-
eral arts colleges where
women faculty and admin-
istrators are noticeable by
their absence, particularly
at the top levels of academic
and administrative ranks. Women constitute about two
percent of the full professors in the liberal arts depart-
ments at such institutions as Columbia, Chicago, Stan-
ford, and Berkeley, and a lower figure at Yale, Prince-
ton, and Harvard.

Another possible reason for the poor showing of
women in the academic world is overt discrimination,
although obvious disregard of women scholars is not
as common today as it was in earlier years.

The most powerful reason, however, is a psychologi-
cal/cultural one: the "internal ambivalences" most
American women feel about combining career and
family, especially between the ages of 18 and 25.
(Ellen and Kenneth Keniston have written perceptively
about such ambivalences.) Men generally devote these
years to intense preparation for a career. Women who
marry and have children between 18 and 25 may find
these activities at variance with serious vocational
commitment in a way that men do not.

The problem of aspiration is closely tied to the in-
ternal ambivalences. If one is uncertain about whether
one should have a career, one cannot aspire, either
publicly or privately, to be an art historian, plasma
physicist, or professor of philosophy. Low expectations
of women for themselves so infect the society that both
men and women refuse to think of women as likely to
occupy important posts.

The low proportion of
women in top positions in
universities is often attrib-
uted to the fact that they do
not publish. If this is indeed
true relative to men Ph.D.'s,
it is because most women
Ph.D.’s are not put into posi-
tions in which they must.
Often if a woman is teaching, it is in a less prestigious
institution than her husband's, and there she is under
less pressure to publish. Sometimes she rationalizes
her non-research on the basis that it would not be
helpful to her professionally, anyway, so why bother.
Her chances of having secretarial help and graduate
students are probably less than those of men profes-
sors. In short, the incentives for her to do research are
generally missing.

The simple question of time is another serious ob-
stacle to women's professional advancement. There are
just not enough hours in the day to do all she must.
A recent UNESCO study revealed that the average
working mother had 2.8 hours of free time on a typical
weekday compared with 4.1 for a working man.

A final obstacle that a woman Ph.D. (or sometimes
her husband) faces is the nepotism rule that still pre-
vails on many campuses. Although more and more
institutions are now willing to overlook two members
of the same family teaching in one institution, few
regard with enthusiasm the prospect of husband and
wife in the same department, particularly if both are
on the faculty. Rarely is the wife given the superior
appointment. Typically she takes a job in another
institution or works part—time as a “research associate”
at her husband's institution.


Women's colleges, and
certainly Barnard, have
always encouraged
students to pursue
serious lives. But many
institutions, even those
now admitting women,
are inhospitable to their
intellectual ambitions.

6