ERIC Identifier: ED340273
Publication Date: 1991-10-00
Author: Hensel, Nancy
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher
Education Washington DC.| George Washington Univ. Washington DC.
Realizing Gender Equality in Higher Education: The Need To
Integrate Work/Family Issues. ERIC Digest.
American higher education is facing a severe shortage of qualified teachers
at the same time that it is under pressure to diversify its faculties. Colleges
and universities must recruit an estimated 335,000 new faculty to meet needs in
the next decade, and yet declining enrollments at the nation's graduate
institutions suggest that those with doctorates will be in short supply.
Qualified minorities will be even scarcer, since nonwhites remain
underrepresented in both undergraduate and graduate degree programs.
ARE WOMEN AN UNDERUTILIZED RESOURCE FOR NEW FACULTY?
exists, however, one underutilized minority group which offers a potential
solution to both problems. Women constitute 50 percent of undergraduate
enrollments yet remain broadly underrepresented in tenured faculty positions.
While the status and representation of women in academe have improved since
the 1960s resurgence of the women's movement, women faculty remain
underrepresented on most campuses. Several recent studies (Justus, Freitag, and
Parker 1987; University of Virginia 1988) found that women comprised about
one-fourth of the faculty but only about one-tenth of the tenured, full
professors. Furthermore, the attrition rate among women in academe is higher and
women who stay take two to ten years longer for promotion than their male
counterparts. Increasing the numbers of female faculty may be the best solution
to the predicted teacher shortage; however, we must first address the issues of
higher attrition and slower career mobility for women in higher education.
GENDER DISCRIMINATION: DOES IT STILL EXIST?
discrimination exists, it is often subtle and systemic. Academia has long been
dominated by men, and the male perspective in policy development, performance
evaluation, and interpersonal interactions generally prevails. Student
evaluations indicate that women's classroom performance is often evaluated more
critically than men's. Research by women or about women is frequently
undervalued by male colleagues. Initial salary differentials between men and
women increase in favor of men as faculty progress through the ranks. Women take
two to ten years longer than men to achieve promotion an tenure; women's greater
child care responsibilities may account for some of this differential. Each of
these issues leads to a cumulative disadvantage for the female professor. Women
who earn doctorates are more likely than men to desire an academic career but
are not being hired at equal rates; the cumulative disadvantage also results in
women leaving the profession in greater numbers than men.
ARE THERE DIFFERENCES IN SCHOLARLY PRODUCTIVITY BETWEEN MEN AND
There are those who suggest that women are less capable, less
competitive, or less productive than men and that these characteristics account
for the scarcity of women in higher ranks. While the question of gender
difference in scholarly productivity is complex, the evidence suggests that
women are as capable and as productive as men in the academic arena. A recent
study of highly productive scholars of both sexes (Davis and Astin 1987) found
that differences did exist in the type of publication but not in the quality or
quantity of work.
Few studies have examined the relationship between marriage and scholarship
or parenthood and scholarship. Results of studies which did consider family
issues were mixed. In some cases marriage had no effect on women's scholarship,
and in other cases it had a positive effect. Parenthood seemed to make scholarly
activity more difficult for men and women. No study was found which asked women
how they felt about the choices they had made to maintain their scholarly
HOW DO WOMEN MANAGE THE CONFLICTS BETWEEN FAMILY AND
Nearly one-half of the women who stay in academe remain either
single or childless, which raises the question of how work/family conflicts
influence the choices women make. Women who choose to have children are often
pursuing tenure during the peak of their childbearing years. Often, colleagues
and universities are not supportive of a woman's choice to be both parent and
professor. A faculty career is demanding; the average professor works 55 hours
per week. When child care and home responsibilities are added, a woman can work
70 or more hours per week.
Conflicts arising from opposing career and family responsibilities are no
longer restricted to women in the workplace. A growing number of men who chose
to be highly involved in childrearing are now entering the workforce and are
experiencing added stress. Additionally, men in dual career relationships can no
longer expect the career and family support offered by traditional wives.
Interviews with men and women faculty reveal that both are experiencing stress
in balancing careers and families and are finding their universities largely
WHAT CAN UNIVERSITIES DO?
The climate of college and
university campuses that has prevented women from achieving their full potential
must change if higher education is to resolve issues of faculty diversity and
the impending shortage of qualified teachers. Formal and informal policies which
consider the needs of diverse individuals, including the feminine perspective in
expectations for faculty, must be broadly adopted and enforced. The following
are suggested steps:
1. Address inequities in hiring, promotion, tenure, and salaries of women
2. Conduct a family responsiveness evaluation of university policies and
practices to determine the level of support available to parents and others in a
caregiving role and to eliminate factors which add to work/family conflict.
3. Develop a recruitment and hiring policy which is responsive to dual-career
couples. A placement program for faculty spouses is one option.
4. Adopt a maternity policy which takes into account the special role of
faculty. It is difficult for a woman professor to leave teaching if childbirth
occurs in the middle of the semester. Students need consistency in faculty
expectations of work and evaluation. The university should find ways of making
alternative assignments during the semester of birth so that students do not
have to adjust to a new professor midterm. Additionally, deans and other faculty
must be made aware of maternity leave policies and support the woman's right to
a leave. Maternity leave must be made viable for women faculty.
5. Adopt a family leave policy and encourage new parents to take advantage of
it. Neither mother nor father should feel pressure not to use the allotted
family leave. Allow a minimum of three months and make it paid, if possible.
Maintain fringe benefits during the parental leave whether or not it is paid.
Make family leave available for the care of a sick child, spouse, or elderly
parent. Define "family" broadly to include all family configurations.
6. Allow new parents options to reduce their teaching load or committee
assignments for the semester or year following childbirth or adoption. Make
similar options available for other types of family leave.
7. Stop the tenure clock for one year for the birth or adoption of each child
or for severe family crises. Stopping the tenure clock should not be viewed in a
negative manner at the time of tenure review.
8. Study the feasibility of providing on-campus child care. If universities
are large enough, they should be able to support a child care facility. Finding
adequate child care is a major concern of parents. Leaving a young child some
distance from work is stressful.
9. Recognize that employees have a life outside of the university by reducing
the number of early morning, late evening, and Saturday obligations.
10. Reexamine the teaching and research expectations for all faculty. Perhaps
it is unrealistic to expect faculty to be effective teachers and researchers in
light of the changes in the family. Institutions might consider hiring faculty
members in either primary research positions or primary teaching positions and
evaluate them accordingly.
In academic work there is a high correlation between career and life
satisfaction. The university, more than other places of employment, is highly
influenced by life outside of work. In addition, universities are training
grounds for future leaders and need to offer an effective model on how to
balance family and career. Institutions must recognize that children are not
only an individual responsibility but are also a social responsibility.
Universities which seek creative solutions to the underrepresentati of women in
higher education and career/family conflict will also solve the problem of
recruiting qualified faculty during a faculty shortage. More importantly, they
will be making a significant contribution to the development of a new social
order which values the care and nurturing of children and others and the role of
Bowen, W.G., and Sosa, J.A. 1989. Prospects for
Faculty in the Arts and Sciences: A Study of Factors Affecting Demand and
Supply. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Davis, D., and Astin, H.S. 1987. "Reputational Standing in Academe." Journal
of Higher Education 58(3): 261-75.
Justus, J.; Freitag, S.B.; and Parker, L.L. 1987. The University of
California in the Twenty-first Century: Successful Approaches to Faculty
Diversity. Berkeley: University of California.
Menges, R.J., and Exum, W.H. 1983. "Barriers for Women and Minority Faculty."
Journal of Higher Education 54(2): 123-44.
Ochsner, N.L.; Brown, M.K.; and Markevich, T.S. 1985. "A Study of Male and
Female Faculty Promotion and Tenure Rates." A paper presented at the Annual
Forum of the Association for Institutional Research, Portland, Or. ED 259 685.
27 pp. MF- ; PC- .
Piccirillo, M. 1988. "The Legal Background of Parental Leave Policy and Its
Implications." In The Parental Leave Crisis: Toward a National Policy, edited by
E. Zigler and M. Frank. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.
Reed, L.; Douthitt, R.; Ortiz, B.; and Rausch, D. 1988. "Gender Differences
in Faculty Retention at the University of Wisconsin-Madison." Mimeographed.
Madison: University of Wisconsin.
University of Virginia. 1988. Toward Equity: The Final Report of the Task
Force on the Status of Women. Charlottesville: University of Virginia.
This ERIC digest is based on a new full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC HIGHER
EDUCATION REPORT series, prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education
in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and
published by the School of Education at the George Washington University.