Perspectives on Gender and Knowledge Production in America
Edited by Ann Mari May
Chapter 7: Re-framing the Discussion: How White Male Supremacy Continues to Obscure the Reality of Gender in Higher Education
7. Re-framing the discussion: how White male supremacy continues to obscure the reality of gender in higher 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...
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