The ‘Woman Question’ and Higher Education Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America
Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America
Edited by Ann Mari May
Chapter 2: Gender, Biology, and the Incontrovertible Logic of Choice
2. Gender, biology, and the incontrovertible logic of choice1 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  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...
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