Stop the Leaking Pipeline: The Future of Female Academics
An International Women’s Day Female Faculty Networking Event
University of Twente
08 March 2011
Assimilation, Authenticity & Advancement for Women in Higher Education
Dr. Diane R. Dean
Illinois State University
Offering a comparative view from the United States, this presentation focuses on female academics’ careers as they move into senior and leadership positions. Women have made uneven gains in U.S. higher education, widely present in some disciplinary areas and career levels, but sparse in other disciplines and in senior and leadership career levels. Their presence in and participation in U.S. academe has not neutralized the masculine professional norms that continue to pose career barriers. Colleges and universities remain deeply gendered organizations where women feel compelled to assimilate in order to attain career advancement, success and legitimacy.
Many female academics do assimilate as a career advancement strategy, whether consciously or unconsciously. While assimilation offers real professional gains, it often contradicts and conflicts with women’s culturally-derived expectations of their selves, a phenomenon of gender dissonance. Six resulting costs of assimilation are explored which U.S. women often face when seeking advancement in their academic careers: work-life imbalance, inconsistent expectations, inequitable rewards, the impostor syndrome, diminished self-efficacy and feelings of inauthenticity.
For female academics, career success and advancement and the preservation of one’s identity and core values should not be incompatible aims. Taking an activist approach, the presentation explores three strategies that could alter the future outlook for women in U.S. academe by fostering more equitable environments. These include structural changes within the workplace, cognitive strategies to foster gender consonance and support an individual’s sense of self, and affective strategies to change how we think about gender differences broadly in the workplace and society.