The Status of Women in the Historical Profession, 2005
Conclusion: What Is to Be Done?
Our survey raised the question of mentoring and, not surprisingly, many respondents commented on it and its importance. Many women who lamented the lack of mentoring in their own professional careers wrote that they were committed to providing advice and, when needed, guidance for younger women scholars, displaying a remarkable generosity. A number mentioned that even in contexts characterized by neglect or discrimination, individual men had been critical in supporting them and their ambitions. "Tenure is a game for which one is supposed to 'intuit' the rules," one observed; many others argued along similar lines that simple information was often in short supply, information that men shared informally among themselves and from which they were themselves excluded. The support of key male colleagues can be even more critical; one respondent noted that "the only way a woman can get tenure at my school is if she is strongly supported by a man who will 'go to bat' for her at the time of tenure." Individual women were often named as similarly critical in providing information, support, and advice, but many respondents acknowledged how time consuming mentoring can be, and were loath to ask too much of already overburdened senior women.
Women married or partnered to male academics were among the most satisfied of all respondents to our survey. Many wrote that they had benefited enormously not only from the support their partners provided, but also from the informal access to information their alliances afforded them. Several also noted that their partners, having witnessed first hand the gender discrimination and difficulties they had endured, had taken the lessons to heart and were in consequence better colleagues and, some of them, department chairs. The flow of information can go both ways, and be of benefit to all, underscoring the importance of transparency and access to information in achieving gender equity.
We have suggested a number of concrete steps and procedures that might be
discussed and implemented in the interest of addressing gender inequities
and in the profession. Some are straightforward, othersespecially those
clustered around issues of gendered expectations and departmental climateare
more tricky, and require enlightened leadership and a measure of shared good
will for their success. As any number of respondents point out, however, the
issues broached here are not going to go away, and addressing them will redound
to the benefit of both women and men, making the university and the profession
a better work environment for all.
July 10, 2008 2:50 PM