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 7: Re-framing the Discussion: How White Male Supremacy Continues to Obscure the Reality of Gender in Higher Education

Elizabeth Higginbotham

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


Elizabeth Higginbotham Listening to news commentaries and reading in detail about now former President Lawrence Summers’s comments on women and higher education before the NBER Conference on Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce, I am reminded that he does not live in the world that I live in. That is not to say, that the world of a college president of an elite institution is altogether different from that of a professor in a highly reputable state institution or that speaking as a sociologist, I do not understand the world of a person whose training is in economics. I mean that as a White male from a comfortable, academically privileged background who is now quite wealthy, he does not walk in the world of an upwardly mobile Black woman—even one with some measure of middle-class comfort. These are very different worlds. While I am not one of those ‘high-powered professionals’ in science and engineering, I can speak with authority of a different sort about the impact of being a member of two groups that have historically faced discrimination—we could really say three—since higher education has social class barriers that are very much present as well. No, Summers’s image of the career trajectory of any woman is blurred by his racial, gender, and class privileges. This perspective is not new, but I continue to be amazed at the power of men with authority to shape national discussions of critical issues, even when they have limited...

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