A Research Companion
Edited by Mustafa F. Özbiligin
Chapter 2: Subtle Mechanisms: Reproducing Gender Inequity in Academia
2. Subtle mechanisms: reproducing gender inequity in academia* Patricia A. Roos INTRODUCTION Issues of gender equity in the academy have re-emerged as front page news. In January, 2005, Harvard University’s President Lawrence Summers addressed a Conference on Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce. His claim that ‘intrinsic’ differences between men and women play an important role in creating sex differences in achievement in science reverberated across academe, and beyond. The resulting furor revived memories of March 1999 news stories about the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) admission that it had discriminated against its women faculty (Goldberg, 1999). The MIT report documented extensive discrimination against senior women, who were by all reports stellar members of the university and gifted scientists in their larger professional communities. Gender equity researchers have shifted in recent years from explanations that posit overt discrimination, to more subtle forms of favoritism and/or barriers to women’s advancement. Synthesizing and building on research in this latter tradition, I examine how this more subtle sex bias operates in practice. I thus focus attention on the various mechanisms that reproduce gender inequity,1 through nonconscious beliefs and attitudes that operate via workplace interactions, and through the use of subjective policies and procedures institutionalized in the academic workplace.2 NARROWING THE GENDER GAP With its study of Radcliffe graduates in the 1950s, Harvard University published a report on sex discrimination in higher education (Radcliffe Faculty Trustee Committee, 1956). Instances of overt discrimination were not hard to find. Reflecting the sex inequity in the...
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