The Status of Women in the Historical Profession, 2005
Three broad issues dominated the responses to our survey:
Work and family. Finding a way to balance work, family, and scholarship loomed as the most pressing issue facing the youngest cohort of respondents, many of whom are of child bearing age. It was also an issue that caused their older counterparts much distress, and, for some, has taken a new form in the guise of elder care. Even those employed by institutions with relatively clear and enlightened maternity and childcare policies find that managing children and producing scholarship is a difficult balancing act, which often results in exhaustion and resentment. There is much agony and despair surrounding this issue. Concern about it is not limited to women with children, or to heterosexual women, but is shared across categories. It is also of concern to many men, a fair number of whom are married to or partners of women historians.
Formal equality. Numerous respondents commented on glaring salary inequities in their departments and institutions, with many linking these to the issue of women’s generally slower progress through the professorial ranks.
Departmental climate. Respondents poured forth an enormous amount of frustration and anger on the issue of chilly or even hostile institutional climates, testifying to annoying slights on the one hand and to shattering dismissals and exclusions on the other. The everyday practices of gender in many departments are in serious need of attention. Respondents report that dealing day in and day out with seemingly minor forms of discrimination is dispiriting, and represents a huge waste of female talent. Other issues of concern that fall under this rubric of informal gender inequality include the overwhelming character of service commitments demanded of women; expectations about female personality and style; scrutiny under a higher standard than male colleagues; and recognition of gender work over other fields of expertise.
Clear and transparent policies, enlightened leadership on the part of chairs, and the establishment and enforcement of an ethos of equity and fairness would address many of the survey respondents’ concerns. Recommendations at the end of each subsection below suggest straightforward ways of working to ensure greater gender equity.Last Updated: July 10, 2008 3:08 PM