Tag Archives: women

Why Are There So Few Female College Presidents?

Lady in the Ivory Tower post by Lakshmi Sarah on April 2, 2013 – 4:27pm; tagged academiacollegefeminism,presidentsuniversitywomen.

A crowd of mostly male college presidents

Women make up a majority of college students, but at the top of the academic ladder, the percentage of women wanes: only 26 percent of college presidents are female. Why is this?

The percentage of female college presidents is actually better than the stats for other positions of leadership—women make up only 20 percent of Congress. In order to gain a better understanding of some of the intricacies in of the role of college president, I spoke with Laura Trombley, the president of my alma mater, Pitzer College.

President Trombley has clearly been busy and successful in her role as the head of a liberal arts college; Congress recently named her to the 12-member J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Notably, having chlldren is not necessarily an issue in the lack of women in the stressful presidential job. Trombley combines being an administrator with her work as a scholar, teacher and mother who also considers herself a feminist.  As Swarthmore college president Rebecca Chopp told the New York Times, “I wrote my dissertation from 5 to 7 every morning, and then got my son off to school. Having a child in graduate school helped keep me grounded.”

Instead, says Pitzer President Trombley, the gender gap comes down to both money and academic bureaucracy.

“You look at where women presidents tend to be concentrated, it tends to be at the community college level,” says Trombley. The smallest number of female presidents are at Ivy Leagues and research universities, she noted. “You can trace power, status and money. That also gives you a really interesting snapshot of gender issues.”

One problem for women in academia is that traditional departmental structures create a narrow path to the top. For women, it is often very difficult to become department chairs, because they are usually not among the most senior faculty.

“It is actually a pipeline issue. If you don’t start looking at how women can enter the administration ranks at a lower level, then you are not going to solve greater representation at the presidency level,” says Trombley.

That means the problems with a gender gap at the top of the ladder stem in a large part from workers not having an equal footing when they start the climb. The gendered pay gap in academia isn’t as bad as in many careers, but female faculty members earn 19 percent less than their male colleagues—a number that hasn’t changed in thirty years. Instead of sticking around in academia for decades and following the regular academic “pipeline,” some of the most prominent female college presidents have landed through nontraditional tracks, landing the job after building successful careers in media and politics.

As with all discussions of why gender differences exist at the top of the heap, we can’t just look at what’s going on at the top. The problems begin much deeper.

Photo of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitee via Treehugger.

Read the rest of the Lady in the Ivory Tower series about feminism and academia!

Emerging powers and the Indian elephant

This article originally appeared on Al Jazeera opinion

India is in the red colour zone with a ranking of 105 in the international ranking on the gender gap [AFP]
As Superman once said, and it has since been quoted by President Obama, “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Looking at the emerging power of the BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – what are the responsibilities?

In the wake of the Delhi gang rape and news of the Swiss woman’s rape, I propose the BRICs – with India as a leader – take steps to act responsibly when it comes to women’s rights and violence against women.

The BRICs have gained attention since 2001, when the term was initially coined. From 2000 to 2008, the BRICs’ share of GDP rose from 16 to 22 percent. The Times (London) has quoted a financial adviser predicting that by 2050, the BRICs nations will “dominate the globe”. Each BRIC country has its own view of power and responsibility. Each BRIC country also has its own record when it comes to human rights and women’s issues.

International Ranking on the gender gap ranks Brazil 62nd out of 135. Russia comes in at 59 and India is in the red colour zone with a ranking of 105 and China still makes it into the orange zone at number 69.

Gender violence is a global human rights concern and should be considered an even greater concern for the BRIC countries to continue to be competitively responsible economic leaders. According to Nicholas D Kristof:

“Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence then because of cancer, malaria, war, and traffic accidents combined.”

In addition, the World Health Organization estimates that domestic and sexual violence impacts 30 to 60 percent of women in most countries. A new film, Girl Rising, highlights some of the issues that young women face, arguing that the key is to invest in girls and women.

As co-author of the Gender Gap study, Laura D Tyson, SK, and Angela Chan, Professor of Global Management, Haas School of Business, University of California at Berkeley, say:

“Gender gaps can be closed with the right policies. As countries experiment with policy choices in this area, they should share the lessons from their experience to accelerate progress.”

Of the 635 rape cases reported in the first 11 months of 2012 in New Delhi, there was only one conviction. There is something seriously wrong with this. A wide range of policies and actions should be put in place to ensure that rape and violence against women do not continue to be accepted in society.

 Swiss tourist ‘gang-raped’ in India

Are the BRIC countries responsible stakeholders? Looking at the case of India, we see it is both an awkward elephant in its own desire for a stable region and a responsible partner in creating world order.

In contrast to Pakistan, India sides with the West and has cooperated in the “war on terror”, especially after 2008 Mumbai attacks.

India is set to be the fourth largest economy in 2025. The high-tech industry is booming along with its growing population. It is already a nuclear power, in addition to being a force for soft power through its Bollywood movies and music.

While it would like a place on the UN Security Council, India still struggles with human rights abuses, as evidenced by reports from the Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. India has not signed the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, but of course, it has not been ratified by the US either.

In addition, India serves as home to the Tibetan government in exile – which along with domestic disputes, regarding Naxalites and Maoists in the Northeastern provinces, threaten its ability to work in conjunction with China.

Still, India is not a permanent member of the UN Security Council, nor does it receive a plethora of preferential treatment through any global institutions. Despite Bollywood, the tech industry and a diaspora that covers much of the globe, for India to be a power player, it must be given greater responsibility and it must take action to eradicate violence against women.

Here there is a challenge. If India has to take on a greater role, it needs to be given greater responsibilities. But, if the global community has to give it greater power, India has to demonstrate that it can use the power responsibly.

Given India’s history, these greater roles and responsibilities will not be able to come from the West or the rest of the world. It must come from an Indian desire, in an Indian way and perhaps at an Indian time to speak up and speak out.

If the BRICs want to continue collaborating in a way that makes a difference beyond economic policy, they should start with acting to stop global violence against women.

The Best Conference You’ve Never Heard of: Empowering Women of Color Conference

This post is part of a guest blog series on women in academia for Bitch Magazine.

I don’t exactly remember  how I discovered the Empowering Women of Color Conference (EWOCC) in Berkeley, California but I first attended the event last year. Far from the stuffy conference rooms of a fancy-dancy hotel, EWOCC is a grassroots conference geared toward women of color, and open to all. This is a place that offers childcare, access for all people regarless of ability and offers low-to no cost registration. Last year’s conference was complete with spoken-word performances, a workshop on agriculture food justice, actually interesting panels, and a creative writing exercises.

This year, the 28th Annual Empowering Women of Color Conference was titled, “Labor of Love, Labor of Sorrow: Bodies and Souls Building Life,” and seeks to honor a multiplicity of women’s experiences around labor: “As women of color, our journeys are marked by stretches of struggle and moments of victory. We seek to honor labor across generations: our mothers, grandmothers, and caregivers whose souls and bodies gave us life.“

EWOCC’s intention is to “build with ancestral ways of working that are attentive to the politics of liberation, decolonization, and healing.“

This year’s conference just happened last week. I asked the organizers to answer a few questions on the history and evolution of their event.

How did the Empowering Women of Color Conference start? 

EWOCC was founded in 1984 by a group of undergraduate students at the University of California, Berkeley. The initial project, was entitled “Women of Color in the United States,” and received an overwhelmingly positive response. Students decided to organize another event. In 1986, with the formation of the GA’s Graduate Women’s Project (GWP), it was decided to institutionalize this event and make the conference an annual project under the auspices of the GWP. EWOCC was one of the first conferences to present women of color with an opportunity to address the racial, class, and gender issues facing American Indian, African American, Asian American, and Chicana/Latina women.

How is it organized?

EWOCC is completely volunteer-run. Every year, the planning committee selects new members, based on their background, interest in planning, and their passion for continuing our conference. Our keynote speakers are chosen by the entire committee over several months of discussion regarding specific issues we want to address in our conference and who would be the best representative of these issues. In the past, notable women of color have given keynotes including Cherrie Moraga, Gloria Anzaldua, bell hooks, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Elaine Brown, Dolores Huerta, among many other extraordinary women.

How do you manage to stay true to feminist principles?

We stay true to feminist principles as the foundation of our existence. Specifically, the principles of community, education, holistic healing and overall empowerment are principles at the core of our conference, and why the planning committee remains dedicated to ensuring that this conference continues. This conference fills a gap in many traditional feminist spaces and discussions in that we address issues specifically facing women of color in the United States. We provide a safe space to facilitate dialogue and to share experiences in an empowering way unlike any other conference of its kind.

EWOCC is not the typical scholarly conference in that we expand the invitation participate to community members as both conference planners and presenters, rather than restrict our conference to the academy. We also strive to incorporate the arts, spiritual practices, and other means of knowing, more so than a typical academic conference provides.

How Can Harvard Help End Rape in India?

This post is part of a guest blog series on women in academia for Bitch Magazine.

Today, six men accused of gang rape in India head to court. If that sounds eerily familiar, it’s because just two months ago, six other men also went to trial for gang rape in India in a high-profile case involving a woman fatally assaulted on the bus in New Dehli.

After these terrible crimes come to light, we all want to see major change. In reaction to the New Delhi rape, Harvard University decided to sponsor a policy task force “to offer recommendations to India and other South Asian countries.” But the group received a critique from Delhi blogger Nivedita Menon, who wrote in a post called “Harvard to the Rescue!” that Harvard would be better able to discuss rapein South Asia not from the ivory tower, but by consulting with feminists on the ground in India. “It’s been a long hard haul, so it’s a great relief that the Harvard Law School has stepped in to take this burden off our shoulders,” writes Menon sarcastically.

Harvard’s plan is to produce a working paper to advise on the implementation of the recommendations from India’s Verma Committee, a report pulled together by three members of India’s judicial system that spells out crucial ways to make rape cases come to trial more quickly in India and to create harsher punshiments for people convicted of sexual assault. Feminists in the Global South may have overreacted to the plan for a working paper—it’s possible that Harvard has every intention of consult women across India on what should be done. However, the general sentiment seems to be indignation that Harvard would be able to “save” the poor women of India. This is illustrated in a letter in The People’s Record that charges Harvard with ignoring “the long history of Indian activists themselves fighting to end rape and sexual violence.”

There is clearly a need for collaboration internationally on rape issues, in addition to study.

In Harsha Walia’s piece on the Feminist Wire, she says, “While navigating my own relationship to Delhi and home, it has been infuriating to read Orientalist renditions of South Asian women needing saving from barbaric South Asian men.” Walla sees the myth of Western superiority as a part of a facade of gender equality “‘at home’ that invisibilizes, for example, the gruesome gang rape in Steubenville, Ohio, and US representative Todd Akin’s comments about ‘legitimate rape,’ and the ritualized colonial violence against Indigenous women murdered at alarming rates, and Black women in prisons and migrant women in detention centers, and women of color, poor women, transfolks, and sex workers.”

Let’s continue to create task forces, and study these issues. But let us also work on our transnational feminist collaboration and coalition building, so as not to continually repeat history and create different groups trying to achieve the same thing. I look forward to seeing greater coalition building between Harvard feminists and those on the ground in India.

 

 

Q&A with an Editor of Race and Class in Academia Anthology Presumed Incompetent

In my last post, I explained my love for the new anthology Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia. Using personal narratives, empirical studies, and scholarly essays, over 40 different authors discuss the challenges faced by academic women of color in higher education. I emailed with Seattle University School of Law Professor Carmen G. Gonzalez about what it’s like to put together such a meaty and long-overdue book.

How did the idea for this book come about?

CARMEN G. GONZALEZ: As women of color who have managed to survive and thrive in academia despite formidable obstacles, we (the co-editors of Presumed Incompetent) felt a need and a responsibility to create a public dialogue about the subtle and not-so-subtle forms of workplace bias women of color experience.

Despite decades of struggle to achieve workplace equity in academia, both women of color and white women face daunting obstacles. For example, a recent study found that female faculty in the United States on average earn 6.9 percent less than men in similar academic positions.

At each full-time rank, women are hired at lower salaries than men, receive less career support than men (such as research leave, relief from service work and research assistants), and are tenured and promoted at lower rates than men. The statistics for women of color are particularly grim. Women of color hold only 7.5 percent of U.S. full-time faculty positions. But even this low number is misleading because women of color are concentrated at the lowest faculty ranks.

Those who differ from the invisible and largely uncontested white male norm find themselves, to a greater or lesser degree, presumed incompetent as teachers, scholars, and participants in faculty governance.

In other words, it is necessary but not sufficient to increase the numbers of women faculty of color. What is required is a transformation of the culture of academia.

 

What was the most surprising thing you found through your research?

The most surprising thing for me was how difficult it was to articulate the role of class in the experiences of women faculty of color. Our book focuses on the intersection of all three. But when one faces workplace subordination based on several intersecting identities, it can become difficult to tease out what part is due to gender, to race, to class, or to sexual orientation.

We don’t talk about class in the United States despite the fact that the United States has among the highest levels of income inequality in the developed world and the lowest rates of upward mobility.

Women of color from working class backgrounds face enormous obstacles—not only due to material disadvantage, but due to the alienating nature of academic culture. Without family members who can help them decipher the opaque rituals and expectations of academic culture, academics from the working class are essentially navigating without a map. They often struggle with isolation, with the disorientation of stepping into middle and upper class worlds, and with the nagging sense that they have abandoned their communities of origin or “sold out.”

How do you believe we, as a country, community, and world will be able to overcome overt and covert sexism and racism?

I don’t think we will begin to overcome overt and covert gender and racial bias until we stop pretending that we live in a “post-identity” society where race and gender no longer matter.

Only by talking openly about racism and sexism, in all of its manifestations, in all of the institutions that affect our daily lives, will we understand it, deconstruct it, and overcome it.

Lady in the Ivory Tower: If You Pack Only One Book, Make it a 570 Page Hardcover on Race and Class

I brought just one book to India: It was a 570 pages hardcover on race and class. It is true, I did consider that it could be used as a weapon or a seat if needed. Still, it got me through a 30-hour train ride. I call it my “survival book”—without it, the long, hot days of travel would have been unbearable. What would your survival reading be?

Before embarking on a trip of any extended length, many of us privileged enough to read this screen have an important choice to make—what book to bring? Yes, of course, those who have a kindle or tablet can essentially pack an endless number of books in their bag. But for those of us who prefer print or can’t afford the alternative, choosing the one or two books to haul along with us is a crucial decision. What did I choose on my most recent trip? Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (2012, Ohio University Press) was the book whose 570 pages would keep me company throughout my trip to India, and help me sort out my thoughts as I delved further into academia by drafting a Ph.D application.

It’s rare to find a book worth hauling across a foreign country. Though I was a bit embarassed at the weight of my bag, Presumed Incompetent deepened my understanding of the challenges women in academia face.

Presumed Incompetent has been four years in the making and maps a history that mirrors the history of higher education in the United States. The book’s more than 40 essays examine the working lives of women faculty of color. Using personal narratives, qualitative empirical studies, and scholarly essays, the authors discuss challenges that stretch beyond pay equity and overt sexual harassment. The book focuses on resilience in the face of adversity and developing supportive networks, as well as what academic institutions need to know to improve the tenure process. As Kimberlé Crenshaw, a prominent figure in Critical Race Theory and current professor at UCLA School of Law and Columbia Law School said, “It reminds us that the mere passage of time is not enough to create equitable workplaces for anyone facing institutional subordination.”

You can preview the book here, I suggest picking up an actual copy. I do not necessarily recommend picking up an actual copy and hauling it around India, but in my experience, it makes not only a good seat but also an excellent mental support.

If you were to pack only one book for a long trip, what would it be?

India Rape Victim’s Death Prompts Vigils Across India, But This is Not Enough

This post originally appeared in PolicyMic

Mumbai’s vigil, in memory of the unidentified 23-year-old Delhi gang rape victim, took place on Saturday December 29, with attendees marching nearly 4 kilometers, from the Gandhi statue at Juhu beach to Kaifi Azmi Park.

protest sign

The mobilization of 1,500 people via Twitter and Facebook is admirable, but it is still not enough to halt rape across the country. Even in Mumbai, with a population of 14-20 million people (depending on the source), there should have been more people in the streets.

The rape victim died in a hospital in Singapore on December 29. The Delhi gang rape occurred on December 16, after the victim and a friend attended a movie. After boarding a bus, they were assaulted by five other passengers. On December 26, the victim was sent to Singapore for further treatment. The rape has prompted protests in Delhi and major cities throughout India.

According to Zee News, the day is being called “Black Saturday” with people all over the country protesting against the injustice.

Prompted by the tweet from actress Shabana Azmi: “Citizens of Mumbai including theatre, film personalities lead silent march at 5.30 pm today from Juhu Beach gandhi statue 2 Kaifi Azmi Park,” The Mumbai vigil maintained a somber mood. Signs ranged from “My body, my city, my rights” to “It’s not her shame it is ours” and “Girl child, boy child, our child.”

According to police, the crowd consisted of about 1,500 people. The marchers included women and men, as well as Bollywood stars such as Kailash Kher, director Satish Kaushik, and famous lyricist Javed Akhtar, in addition to others.

As Aruna Prakash, a radio jockey for 90.8 Jaaga Mumbai said, “I’m a women, I was a girl, and I am a Delhite.” Prakash was “enraged, angered and sad,” at the news. She remarked that in the past girls were safe, but now that is not the case.

Sonam Revanker a young professional in Mumbai came to the protest with her brother. As she said, “It’s time someone takes some action.” Revanker heard of the vigil through Facebook and Twitter and decided to come with her brother.

Others accidentally joined, such as Ravi Joshi, an IT professional who works in Mumbai. “We just came here to show visitors,” Joshi said. “Even I have a daughter and I have sisters too. What happened was very cruel. Like a monstrous act, not a human act.” Joshi and his family planned to march with the crowd for a short time.

As Bollywood actor Sameer Kochhar said, “I’m here to show solidarity and support. As an Indian and a Delhiite, I am saddened.” He walked in order to “show that we do care and we need a change to happen.”

Kochhar has spoken out against the Delhi rape in the past, writing for Telly Chakkar.

The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women called on the Indian government to “do everything in their power to take up radical reforms, ensure justice and reach out with robust public services to make women’s lives more safe and secure.”

Newspaper articles and opinion pieces have ranged from calling for castrating the perpetrators to calling for speedy action when it comes to rape cases. Some state governments are calling for all women teams to deal with crimes against women.

Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Aruna Broota, who is quoted in The Hindu said that to counter the rising fears among women and girls there is a need to educate boys and men. “They have to begin with some kind of workshops and therapy in schools and they must include the boys. There is an absolute need to involve the boys and men and to address the hierarchy in gender relationships.”

Today’s vigil will be followed by a protest on December 31 from Colaba to Gateway of India.