Economic Woman

Econometrics, gender, equity and more.

Feminizing contract teaching

with one comment

This video – an interview with Michelle Masse about gender and higher education – popped up on a feminist economics mailing list, but didn’t inspire any discussion, which surprised me.

I am not, honestly, a huge defender of the humanities. I don’t think we should dismiss “rigour” as gendered and therefore not a useful goal. But quite aside from that, if it’s true that contract teaching is being feminized, I’d like to talk about the structural factors that make this happen. For example, it’s pretty hard to schedule pregnancy into an academic life. I haven’t found similar stats for all disciplines, but as an example, according to this 2003 US study, the average history professor was hired into a tenure-track position at almost 39.

If female PhDs decide not to delay childbirth until after hiring or tenure – probably a good idea, if they won’t be hired until almost 40 – they increase the chances that they will end up stuck as sessional instructors, which is a terrible waste of human capital, among other things. Research shouldn’t be incompatible with having a family.

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Written by Allison

30 November 2009 at 3:12 pm

One Response

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  1. This is interesting. Typically in the UK Higher Education (and in fact all kinds of education) are seen as much more female-friendly (i.e. child-friendly) occupations than private sector business. However this is usually to do with flexibility of working hours and availability of child care rather than promotion prospects. And having said all this compared to student ratios on undergrad courses, women are vastly underpresented at the faculty level.

    Harriet (aka geekyisgood)

    23 March 2010 at 11:49 am


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