The ‘Woman Question’ and Higher Education

The ‘Woman Question’ and Higher Education

Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America

Edited by Ann Mari May

This uniquely interdisciplinary study offers a provocative, contemporary look at the ‘Woman Question’ in relation to higher education at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Leading feminist scholars from a wide variety of perspectives and disciplines — including history, philosophy, education, psychology, sociology, and economics — evaluate the role of biology, discrimination, and choice in rationalizing women’s exclusion from fully participating in the process of knowledge production, as well as examining institutional impediments. Contextualizing arguments against women’s inclusion and including contemporary perspectives on gender, this book offers a rich, multi-layered examination and critical insights into understanding the near universal difficulties that women encounter as they seek to participate fully in the process of knowledge production.

Chapter 2: Gender, Biology, and the Incontrovertible Logic of Choice

Ann Mari May

Subjects: economics and finance, economics of education, education, economics of education

Extract

1 Ann Mari May The history of men’s opposition to women’s emancipation is more interesting perhaps than the story of that emancipation itself. (Virginia Woolf [1929] 1972) In the last third of the twentieth century, women made significant strides in expanding their representation as students in higher education throughout the world (UNESCO, Institute for Statistics 2005). While certainly not universal, this trend toward greater gender balance in student enrollment is remarkably similar in a large number of countries.2 Moreover, this expanded role for women as students has occurred at all levels of higher education and nowhere is this more obvious than in the United States where, at least amongst American students, women now receive the majority of doctorates from US universities (Hoffer et al. 2003). Of course this increase in the number of women students receiving doctoral degrees has inevitably raised questions about the lack of women as faculty in these same institutions (Glazer-Ramos 1999; Curtis 2005; May forthcoming). As the now former President of Harvard University, economist Lawrence Summers would find out, it would require some finesse to try and explain their absence. Speaking before the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce, Summers touched off a round of controversy seldom seen in higher education. Raising a cloud of dust not five minutes after he spoke, Summers addressed the issue of women’s representation in tenured positions in science and engineering at top universities and research institutions (Summers 2005). According to Summers,...

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