Saturday, October 1, 2016

Paradoxes in Transformations in Higher Education: Comparative EU-US Perspectives with Kathrin Zippel

How can global university reform help us design institutional change to promote gender equality in academia? This week’s WAPPP seminar featured a comparative EU-US study by Kathrin Zippel, Associate Professor of Sociology at Northeastern University and former WAPPP Resident Fellow for AY2016.

The “leaky pipeline” problem is a familiar one—at every level of academia, fewer and fewer women ascend the ranks. However, there have been broad transformations in academia that may plug these leaks and promote greater gender equality. In particular, Professor Zippel points to the globalization of scientific knowledge and academic neo-liberalism, characterized by global competition of knowledge economies, constellations of state-market relations, and an increase in managerialism within universities. These transformations change the way academia operates as an industry and thereby changes the conditions for gender inequality. Gender inequality is now seen as not having the luxury of excluding half the population, but we should instead be thinking of gender equality as a mechanism to make academia better.

Professor Zippel outlines four main approaches to promote gender equality in academia:

  1. Fixing women – past interventions such as FP5 in the EU and fellowships in the US
  2. Fixing institutions – current interventions, including EU FP7 structural change projects and the US NSF ADVANCE program, which provides grants to involve more women in STEM and improve the hiring, retention, and promotion of women in academia 
  3. Fixing knowledge – in the EU, FP Horizon 2020 now asks for gender dimensions in research; NIH grants in the US promote including more women in clinical trials
  4. Fixing problems – as part of Horizon 2020, the EU includes gender equality as part of “responsible research and innovation.” In the US, researchers have to explain how their findings will impact broader society, including gender equality
Interventions like NSF ADVANCE grants contain positive ingredients for change, according to Professor Zippel. The grant program encourages institutional self-reflexivity, creates statistical consciousness-raising in requiring data on women in science, and creates communities for change by building gender and diversity competences.

Common Challenges in Promoting Gender Equality in Higher Education

The increase in academic bureaucracy may be a boon for female academics. If departments exhibit gender bias or operate as “old boys' clubs,” women may find new allies in deans and provosts.

Redefining Excellence
We put a great deal of faith in “objective” measure of quality, but processes that look meritocratic can still contain bias. Even transparent evaluations are created in a social and political context – someone has to decide which journals are most prestigious and what “good” academic work looks like. We’re seeing a continuing trend of devaluing “feminine qualities.” The work that women do is either invisible or valued less in ranking systems.  Universities need to consider the “soft” and “hard” aspects that are critical to running the institution and to establish a clear link between gender equality and excellence.

Mobilizing the “Majority”
Why do we need to mobilize the majority? Because they’re the ones in power! Family policies and fair evaluations also benefit men in academia. To promote gender equality, we must think about mobilizing allies, building common ground, and demonstrating how dangerous biased metrics can be for all of us.

Involving Leadership
Gender equality shouldn’t be imposed from the outside, but instead integrated into the way academics think and evaluate each other. Instead of bringing in consultants to instruct faculty, Professor Zippel says, have senior professors instruct each other. Using their status within the institution lends credence to the value of gender equality.

Multiple Inequalities
As tenure track positions have dissipated, more and more academics have been stuck in temporary adjunct roles. These are particularly a trap for women; in an adjunct role, it can be more difficult to get enough publications and grants to establish oneself. The project to promote gender equality in universities tends to ignore these structural issues, focusing instead on how to make women more competitive with their male colleagues. However, gender is not the only inequality that academia perpetuates, and we need to be very intentional about the intersectional aspects at play. Rather than complaining about the pool of diverse candidates being too small, institutions should enact structural reforms to help create that pool.

Globalization of Academia
The increasing globalization of academia has given rise to “glass fences,” the international equivalent of glass ceilings. Women are finding it increasingly difficult to move laterally between countries because global science is also a gendered organization. However, there is a positive development in this space, which Professor Zippel refers to the “.edu bonus.” Because US science is seen as the global “gold standard,” when academics receive training in the US, that privilege travels with them. This higher status opens doors, particularly for women and other marginalized groups, and helps to overcome the glass fences problem. This is particularly important because moving laterally can help with rising vertically, given how important international collaborations are in science. These discoveries raise important questions about how we can mainstream gender into internationalization strategies and integrate global aspects into academic careers.

Promising Future Steps

How can we change university structures and cultures to allow men, women, and gender non-conforming individuals to enjoy and succeed in learning and discovery? External pressures on universities, from funding agencies, professional associations, and networks of university and research institution leaders, may help to promote gender equality. Global efforts like International Gender Summits bring together stakeholders to think about how to promote gender equality as a global movement. According to Professor Zippel, the most fruitful approach will be to combine examining gender inequalities in university structures and including a gender dimension in future research. We can embed gender in institutional logics – universities are already concerned with competition for rankings. Making gender equality a component of this competition can alter the norms of research communities and promote greater equality in academia.

Professor Zippel’s forthcoming book “Women in Global Science: Advancing Academic Careers through International Collaboration” will be available in February 2017.

No comments:

Post a Comment