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Unfinished Agendas: New and Continuing Gender Challenges in Higher Education

reviewed by Mary Gatta - January 15, 2009

coverTitle: Unfinished Agendas: New and Continuing Gender Challenges in Higher Education
Author(s): Judith Glazer-Raymo
Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
ISBN: 0801888638, Pages: 299, Year: 2008
Search for book at Amazon.com

Almost a decade after publishing Shattering the Myths: Women in Academe, Judith Glazer-Raymo has organized an exciting new compilation of essays which lay out the “unfinished agendas” that exist in higher education and prevent women from achieving full equity and participation in scholarly professions. In Shattering the Myths, Glazer-Raymo detailed the status of women in the academy from the 1970s onward, noting how policies designed to promote equity had made substantial progress during the latter part of the twentieth century, but significant work remained. Her new book, Unfinished Agendas: New and Continuing Gender Challenges in Higher Education, further contributes to gender equity studies in higher education.   

Glazer-Raymo’s framing of this new book calls for a more nuanced and comprehensive analysis of women’s experiences in the academy, especially within a climate that is progressively retreating from gender-equity policies and programs. Glazer-Raymo notes that the “new gender gap”—where women outnumber men at the undergraduate level—has served as “evidence” that policies such as affirmative action, Title IX , and others are no longer needed. Yet Glazer-Raymo notes how critical it is for us to go beyond those numbers and understand the complexity of gender inequity in universities. Central to Glazer-Raymo’s arguments, and those of her contributors, is that gender inequity exists not just in forms of overt discrimination, but also via subtle mechanisms. These subtle mechanisms produce the micro advantages or inequities that lead to sex differences in outcomes in the academy, and are often a direct consequence of how work is organized in twenty-first century academia.  

Glazer-Raymo begins by updating her data from Shattering the Myths, highlighting university employment trends that continue to illustrate sex segregation and inequity in higher education. Her data demonstrate that women remain severely underrepresented at the highest professorial ranks and concentrated in lower paying, feminized fields of education, English language and literature, history and the performing and visual arts. While these findings are not particularly surprising, she goes on to present data which demonstrate how women increasingly comprise the casualized, non–tenure track, adjunct teaching and research staff at the university. Indeed the larger trends of decreasing tenure-track appointments and increasing causalized appointments are poised to continue in upcoming years, and the gendered impacts of this academic re-structuring will continue to be significant.  

It is then in this new academic environment---characterized by the need to compete in a global marketplace, increased entrepreneurial endeavors, significant budget constraints on universities, increased use of technology---that Glazer-Raymo has encouraged her contributors to detail the challenges and “unfinished agendas” for women in the academy. Each of the contributors offers in-depth, empirically grounded, yet reflective essays to delve into the overt and subtle forms of gender discrimination in a changing academic environment. And it is the weaving of both personal reflections and sound data analysis that strengthens the message of this volume.

The chapters in this volume represent a diverse array of research in the academy, organized around broad themes of gender equity and share some new findings. For instance, contributors demonstrate how women must negotiate diverse identities within their academic role. Central to this challenge is integrating work and family identities and responsibilities, and how policies to support a family-friendly work environment must be integrated into the academy and not marginalized. Kelly Ward and Lisa Wolf-Wendel in their chapter note that the “don’t ask, don’t tell” work-family policy context must be replaced with real dialogue across all individuals in the academy, and challenges the gender-based power assumptions in the academy. In addition, Becky Roper-Huilman and Caroline Sotello Viernes Turner, in their respective chapters, note how we must move beyond a solely gender analysis, and employ an intersectional approach to understanding women’s experiences in higher education, and in particular, to understand how race, ethnicity and class are able to privilege some women in the academy, while rendering others marginal and often invisible. Indeed their chapters are important reminders for us that as institutional change occurs, we must also be careful not to re-create inequity among women as we attempt to reduce inequity between women and men.

Other chapters highlight areas of gender inequity and progress that are often less discussed in research on women in higher education. Rita Bornstein (a former college president herself) and Judith Glazer-Raymo contribute chapters on the experiences of women at the highest levels of leadership in universities—presidencies and governing boards. In these chapters they focus not only on the challenges women face in attaining these positions, but also on how women can redefine leadership in these positions. Aimee LaPointe Terosky, Tamsyn Phifer and Anna Neumann introduce us to the “Plexiglas room” where scholarly activity is occurring, but recently tenured women often find themselves unable to enter. Their entry is blocked by their post-tenure workload, characterized with increased academic service obligations that prevent them from transitioning to mid-career scholarly success. Kathleen Shaw, Kate Callahan and Kimberly Lechasseur explore the experiences of women in community colleges. In this arena they are closer to “equity” with men in terms of salaries, job satisfaction and resources; yet community colleges represent the lowest status sector of higher education. As more and more women find themselves in community college positions, we must begin to develop policies that can elevate their status.

Finally, several chapters directly explore the impact of the redesign of the academy within the global marketplace. The need to develop “academic capital” by being entrepreneurial, engaging in partnerships with the private sector, and developing extensive research centers is explored in a chapter by Amy Scott Metcalfe and Sheila Slaughter. They note that this new form of work—a faculty member’s relationship to the marketplace—has the real potential of being a new form of discrimination within the academy. Ana Martinez Aleman further explores this gendered nature of academic work by exploring how conceptualizations of faculty productivity are gendered and differentially rewarded. Central to this is how publishing, which can be easily quantified, becomes an output measure of real productivity, while teaching and learning can be regulated to a gift economy. Frances Stage and Steven Hubbard, note the challenges that women scientists experience, and by disaggregating data on women scientists, Stage and Hubbard find that many women scientists begin their educational preparation in non-selective colleges, as opposed to research institutions. Their findings raise important questions about the pipelines for women in science, engineering, technology and mathematics or STEM fields.

Glazer-Raymo and her contributors provide us with a framework and important areas of inquiry, which need to be explored in order to better understand the complexity of gender equity in the academy. As the university continues to adapt to the global marketplace and undergoes institutional changes, it will be even more critical to assess and remedy gender inequity (both in its overt and more subtle forms).  Indeed, as a woman scholar in academia, each of the chapters resonated with me on a personal, as well as intellectual level. While that is often a common reaction when one studies the world one works in, this volume encourages us to go that next step—to work toward social change in academia so that gender equity can become a real realty.  

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: January 15, 2009
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 15483, Date Accessed: 10/23/2021 12:58:45 AM

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About the Author
  • Mary Gatta
    Rutgers University
    E-mail Author
    MARY GATA is a Director, Gender and Workforce Policy at the Center for Women and Work, and on the faculty in the Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at Rutgers University. Dr. Gatta has published several books, articles, and policy papers. Her latest book, Not Just Getting By: The New Era of Flexible Workforce Development, released from Lexington Press's imprint Press for Change, chronicles groundbreaking thinking and research on new and innovative workforce development initiatives that delivers skills training to single working poor mothers via the Internet. Her book, Juggling Food and Feelings: Emotional Balance in the Workplace, was released from Lexington Press in 2002. In addition to books, Dr. Gatta has published numerous scholarly articles and public policy papers on topics including gender equity in academia, the gender based pay gap, and welfare policy. With Patricia Roos, Dr. Gatta has published on women and the academy, understanding how academia, as a gendered workplace, impacts women’s opportunities to advance in their careers.
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