ERIC Number: EJ848812
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-Jul-10
Reference Count: 0
Women in Science, Beyond the Research University: Overlooked and Undervalued
Karukstis, Kerry K.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n41 Jul 2009
The underrepresentation of women in almost all science and engineering fields is a well-documented statistic. The National Academies have issued four significant reports since 2001 examining the status and challenges of women in academic science and engineering and offering recommendations to broaden the participation and advancement of women in those fields. It released its most recent report, "Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty," last month following a study mandated by Congress. While those prominent studies focus attention and resources on an important issue, much of the emphasis is on those institutions described as Research I universities, using the former designations of the Carnegie classification system of institutions of higher education. Universities with less-extensive levels of research support, such as master's (comprehensive) universities and undergraduate liberal-arts colleges, are widely overlooked. The primary consideration of Research I campuses might initially appear logical. The importance of basic research science to the American economy as well as the substantial amount of federal support for research on Research I campuses are compelling reasons for gender-equity studies focused on those institutions. The large student enrollments and faculty sizes of Ph.D.-granting institutions further justify making those campuses the focal point of efforts to improve the status of female scientists and engineers. Certainly any issues associated with a given institutional type are also best dealt with through analyses that concentrate on similar populations. But overlooking other institutions of higher education is shortsighted and potentially harmful to the American scientific enterprise. Three immediate suggestions come to mind to better balance the assessment of the status of female scientists and engineers in academe. A key first step is for the programs, professional societies, and organizations that deal with aspects of academic culture and institutional structure that may affect female science and engineering professors to continue and expand their financial support. The Advance program of the National Science Foundation is an outstanding example of a vital program that seeks to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. A second suggestion is to commission separate studies of gender-equity issues for each type of postsecondary institution. Finally, as research studies, panels, conferences, and other committees of experts are assembled to examine the challenges and successes of academic women in science and engineering, organizing bodies should seek inclusion of people from all institutional types.
Descriptors: Higher Education, Research Universities, Women Scientists, Disproportionate Representation, Scientific Enterprise, Classification, Engineering Education, Science Education, Womens Education, Womens Studies
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A