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Gender and Higher Education

reviewed by Kathryn Linder - March 23, 2012

coverTitle: Gender and Higher Education
Author(s): Barbara J. Bank (ed.)
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
ISBN: 0801897823, Pages: 456, Year: 2011
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Gender and Higher Education is a revised and enhanced edited collection of 50 “encyclopedia-style” (p. x) essays that explore how gender impacts and influences the diverse range of people, spaces, policies, structures, traditions, and theories that make up the grouping of institutions that construct higher education.  The encyclopedic nature of Gender and Higher Education is a continuation of the style offered in the original collection, Gender and Education: An Encyclopedia.  Editor Barbara J. Bank offers a wide breadth of topics in her selection of essays, 40 of which where included in the original collection.

However, for this reader, some of the encyclopedia-style choices of the collection are constraining.  For example, each section has chapters listed by alphabetical order, rather than organized more intentionally based on each chapter’s content.  Each chapter author was also deliberately instructed to limit the inclusion of citations and references and instead offer a list of references for further reading.  For readers looking for additional sources of information, this limitation may be frustrating.

While not explicitly stated in the title of the collection, it is also important to note that Gender and Higher Education focuses almost exclusively on higher education in a North American context (a notable exception is Rosemarie Tong’s chapter, “Multicultural and Global Feminisms”).   Yet, for the most part, the overall collection is intersectional with its approach, acknowledging the many ways in which gender is not the only identity affecting the lives of those within higher education institutions.  This is particularly true of Part 4: Gender Constructions in the Extracurriculum, which explores LGBT campus resources, fraternities and sororities, and activist movements in higher education.  Part 2: Institutional Structures and Contexts, also offers an intersectional analysis of institutional contexts built in response to gender, race, ethnic, and class identities.  This section in particular presents a wealth of information, especially for those academics and administrators who have primarily chosen to remain within one or two institutional contexts.  

Although “the aim of this book is to reflect the current state of scholarship, research, and practice concerned with gender and higher education” (p. ix), one of the primary strengths of Gender and Higher Education is the attention paid throughout several of the essays to historical constructions of gender, gender roles, and gender policies in higher education and how each of these has changed the institution of higher education in unique ways.  Thus, the collection serves as a wonderful reference guide for students as well as seasoned academics who study gender, but the collection also offers a valuable context for student affairs administrators, teachers across disciplines, university policy advisors, and all upper-level administrators at universities of all sizes.

One of the most helpful contributions of Gender and Higher Education is in Part 3: Gender Constructions and Controversies in the Academic Curriculum, which offers a collection of essays on the history of gender in various disciplines.  Chapters discussing curriculum ranging from more traditional disciplines such as Literary Studies (Kolodny), History (Frederickson), and Mathematics (Herzig) are explored alongside more contemporary disciplines such as Black Studies and Black Women’s Studies (Karenga), Men’s Studies (Heasley), and Multicultural Education (Martin).  The inclusion of a chapter on Feminist Pedagogy (Malka Fisher) is also a helpful addition.

Bank’s collection serves as a both a reminder of how far we have come with gender parity in higher education as well as how far we have yet to go.  This is especially evident in Parts 5 & 6, which discuss “Gendered Faculty and Administration” and “Gender and Higher Education Policies,” respectively.  These two sections may also be most interesting to readers currently employed in academe.  Essays in this section discuss the impact of gender on workload, leadership, advising, mentoring, and other foundational components that make up the day-to-day existence of most academics.  Moreover, they explore how current trends in academe came to be.  Elizabeth J. Allan and Lisa Plume Hallen’s chapter, “University Women’s Commissions and Policy Discourses” was one of the most fascinating for its analysis of gender discourses that situate women in academe as “vulnerable,” as “outsiders,” or as “professionals” (pp. 402-403).  Allan and Plume ultimately argue for “the development of alternative and perhaps more empowering ways to address the issues and concerns of women on campus” (p. 404).  Allan and Plume’s essay, while interesting, is also an example of how many of the essays in the collection interpret explorations of gender as primarily being about achieving gender equality for women.  Although certain chapters focus on men’s experience in higher education (see, for example, Miller-Bernal’s “Men’s Colleges and Universities,” Whipple & O’Neill’s “Fraternities,” or Heasley’s “Men’s Studies”), the majority of them do so through a feminist lens that is consistently asking about the place of women in all higher education contexts.

In the six parts of the collection, Bank demonstrates the pervasiveness of gender in all areas of academe and simultaneously illustrates the changing nature of gendered influences across the landscape of higher education.  Part 1: Theoretical Perspectives and Educational Research, helps frame the collection through an overview of the foundational theories within educational research that have been used to explore gender through a variety of disciplinary frameworks. One critique I have of this collection is based in this section because of its lack of overt discussion of methodologies used in research on gender in higher education.  Other than some broad references to feminist methodologies, methodology is not included in the collection as much as it could (and perhaps should) have been, especially considering that the primary audience for this collection may be academics conducting their own research on gender in higher education.  With the transition in this collection to more overtly include components of higher education, it seems odd to not also more overtly highlight research methodologies, a topic that would be of interest to most academic audiences.

Gender and Higher Education is a valuable book to have on the shelf for those who teach undergraduate students in education or graduate students in education or student affairs.  It offers a collection of essays on gender and higher education that focuses more on breadth than depth, but many of the essays, when combined with more detailed analyses of the topic in question, will serve their purpose well by providing an encyclopedic overview

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 23, 2012
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 16735, Date Accessed: 1/23/2022 8:38:03 PM

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About the Author
  • Kathryn Linder
    Suffolk University
    E-mail Author
    KATHRYN LINDER is the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence at Suffolk University in Boston. She received her PhD in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from The Ohio State University. Her research interests include cultural studies of education, literature and film studies, youth studies, academic writing development, and faculty development. Some of her recent articles can be found in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education; To Improve the Academy: Resources for Faculty, Instructional, and Organizational Development; and Red Feather: An International Journal of Children’s Visual Culture.
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