Special Issue "Gender Equity and Academic Progression"
A special issue of Societies (ISSN 2075-4698).
Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021) | Viewed by 12689
Interests: women in academia; social services; child protection; race and ethnic relations
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals
Gender inequity in academic progression is a well-established and well-acknowledged problem, with many well-intentioned strategic plans to help address it. However, the rate of progress is painstakingly slow. According to Savigny (2014) , it will take 119 years to reach equal numbers in the professoriate at the current rate of promotions and appointments. Excluding Iceland, the best reported proportion so far is one female for every three male full professors (Crimmins, 2019) . These statistics are damaging to women’s professional and self-esteem, leading to a raft of self-policing behaviors that acquiesce to covert messages to ’stay in one’s box’, which they are also then blamed for later. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, hostage to a history that has never known how to equally value the work and worth of women. The ‘maternal wall’ is the primary reason women meet the glass ceiling at mid-level and struggle to go beyond it at rates comparable to men, but women without children struggle too, caught in the invisible insidious web of gender.
Contributions to a Special Issue dedicated to gender equity and academic progression may feel like achieving little more than narrative therapy for the authors in the short term, but in the bigger picture they do two things: they provide a time-lined snapshot of how the goal is tracking, and they keep it on the table. All the talk about gender can make people tire of it, or believe we are closer than we are, revealing their commitment as tokenistic and their understanding as cursory. Moreover, every type of evidence matters; economic modelling of intellectual prowess lost, correlational trends of patterns faring better or worse, and personal accounts that capture nuance which numbers cannot reach all have their role to play. Perhaps above all this, allyship from men seeking their own liberation from toxic masculinity lends power and privilege in positive and egalitarian ways.
Women differ among themselves. Gender intersects with race, age, class, sexuality, faith, and dis/ability to produce even more barriers. Young up-and-coming scholars, filled with a sense of agency about life and its possibilities, will not be able to see representatives and mentors they can seek out to help guide them through the trajectory of academic progression. That panel of “experts” will invariably look the same, and the message she will receive without anyone having said a word is that ‘you will not have knowledge considered expert or worthy publicly; pats on the back are the best it will get, be grateful for your breadcrumbs’.
There are three main types of power one might chase: time, money, prestige. The first two are more quantifiable. If a woman works in a government agency, overtime is paid close attention to and a rostered day off is offered in lieu of it. The power she gets is mental health, from being able to better manage the various aspects of her life especially the unpaid component of keeping house and caring for children. If a woman works in a corporation, overtime is also paid close attention to and a bonus might be offered in reward of it. She gets purchasing power, including the ability to hire a clone and fill ‘the wife drought’ (Crabbe, 2014)  by outsourcing parts of the unpaid work she would otherwise do. However, the overtime work that women in academia do is not paid close attention to, and the rewards are handed out sparingly. A woman’s exploitation is wrapped in rhetoric that she is lucky to be able to do intellectually free work with flexible work arrangements. In fact, such an assumption requires deep interrogation. When a reward becomes extremely difficult to attain, because leadership within a field is not easily quantifiable, and unconsciously compared to the white male prototype of intelligentsia by decision-makers with false presumptions of equality in access to opportunity, it begins to taint her desire for the goal and the sweetness of it when she does get there.
When a woman expresses desire for the title of Professor, she is seeking a nebulous form of power in the form of recognition and respect for expert knowledge. However, who such a person can and should look like is rigged from the start; hard work is not enough. If you have something to say about this, and would like to lend your expertise and experience to this issue, I welcome your voice—every one counts. Manuscripts can touch on any aspect of the topic of gender inequity and academic progression, and the possible points of contemplation listed below are not exhaustive:
- Neoliberalism, research, and teaching—Can you offer long-range reflections on what academic life was like pre- and post-neoliberalism? Can it really be called ‘academia’ anymore when the focus is so heavily on teaching—is it really just ‘higher education’? If research is so valuable for academic promotion (e.g., publications, citations, grants, etc.), why is investment in its opportunity to conduct and support it low compared to the amount of teaching allocation?
- Intersectionality—What has it been like for you in terms of being recognized for your intellectual labor as a person of color, an older or younger person, being first-in-family at university, a member of the LGBTIQ+ community, of Muslim or any other faith, and/or having a dis/ability? What is your hopefulness for becoming Full Professor?
- Discipline—How are the STEM disciplines faring in progressing gender equity and academic progression compared to the social sciences? Are there hidden social forces of oppression even in numbers that look more equitable? The desirable outcome may have been attained, but at what cost? Was the process gender-disaggregated and sensitive?
- Scholarship—How much intellectual freedom do scholars really have? What does the power of senior mentor researchers do to the creativity and track record development of junior researchers? Are journal editors and reviewers gate-keeping knowledge and controlling the freedom of ethical speech? How does a mid-level scholar break out to become an independent critical thinking pioneer in her field?
- Work–life balance and caring—Should flexible work arrangements such as working from home at any time be a positive legacy of COVID-19 as a means to increase gender equity in academic progression? Should the unpaid hours men contribute to domestic affairs, the unpaid caring for children that women do, and the unpaid emotional labor women contribute to their students be factors considered in academic progression?
- Budget allocation—Are there small wins in your field you wish to share and celebrate? For example, has your university had a major financial restructuring that more equitably supports research ambitions, diversity in teaching opportunities, and access to professional development and networking, all of which are translating to a fuller application for promotion a woman can prepare because she meets criteria she does not have to fund from her own lower-salaried pocket?
Out of respect to authors, reviewers will be reminded to provide collegial comments rather than criticisms, so long as the work is ethical, readable, properly justifies the fit of their chosen research methodology to their chosen research question, and properly acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses associated with that methodology. That is, final say about what stays in and out of the manuscript’s scope will belong to the author, if it meets these criteria for publication. Applications submitted before article submission are assessed by the Managing Editor based on the quality of the research article and the authors’ ability to pay. Please feel free to inquire further before proceeding to a full manuscript submission (article/review/conceptual paper), as only those directly relevant to the topic of gender inequity and academic progression will be accepted. An initial scoping of the relevancy of your idea can be offered if you are unsure.
I look forward to receiving manuscripts from a wide range of scholars to help make sure the academy celebrates its women’s intellect, creativity, innovation, caring, kindness, and strength, with rates of academic progression that match their male counterparts. Women have always been excluded from positions of leadership, so the world does not really know what it is missing out on and therefore what it needs to protect. Representation at the top—in all aspects of society, of which academia is one microcosm—should be proportionate to representation within the broader population, else there is an abuse of power and privilege remaining largely unexamined. Un/conscious protecting of self-interest and un/conscious intention to exclude women are serious challenges that society is accountable to answering.
- Savigny, H. Women, know your limits: Cultural sexism in academia. Gender and education 2014, 26, 794–809.
- Crimmins, G. Strategies for resisting sexism in the academy: Higher education, gender and intersectionality. Palgrave Macmillan: Australia, 2019.
- Crabbe, A. The wife drought. Ebury Australia: Sydney NSW, Australia, 2014.
Dr. Pooja Sawrikar
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- Gender equity
- Academic progression
- Higher education
- White privilege