Women's ways of collaboration: a case study in proposal development.

Author:Easterly, Debra


American universities were designed by men for men. Structures such as tenure accommodated the lifestyles of men, who usually had women at home to care for them, be it a wife, mother, sister, or housekeeper (Hamilton, 2002). A work ethic grounded in long hours of conducting research, teaching, or writing papers was the norm in the "male" university (Ostrow, 2002). The "ideal faculty worker puts in long hours and demonstrates high levels of effort and commitment to the job" (Helfat, 2002, p. 330). This "unbending nature of the American workplace, configured around a male career model established in the 19th century" is a custom that higher education still dings to today (Mason & Goulden, 2002, p. 11), as indicated by the work of several authors. Park (1996) posited that "A gendered division of labor exists within (as outside) the contemporary academy wherein research is implicitly deemed 'men's work' and is explicitly valued, whereas teaching and service are characterized as 'women's work' and explicitly devalued" (p. 4). Gunter and Stambach (2003) stated, "Historians and anthropologists point out that academic science has typically been a male-dominated field, and that it continues to be organized in ways that reflect its gendered history" (p. 24). Even research methodology has been said to follow a masculine framework (Harding & Norberg, 2005).

This model was useful when males were the only faculty and students in higher education. Although historically the structure of the university was maleoriented, women did become students and faculty members. As women earned degrees, they became qualified to hold faculty positions (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001) and slowly entered every field, some with more difficulty than others. Before 1900, many women who graduated with science-related degrees found themselves in home economics departments (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001). By 2003, across all types of institutions, women comprised 38% of full-time faculty (Forrest Cataldi, Fahimi, & Bradburn, 2005).

Throughout the twentieth century, the number of women in higher education has ebbed and flowed, increasing in the 1920s, decreasing in the 1950s as men returned from fighting in World War II, and increasing again with the women's liberation movement and associated shifts in societal norms and values in the 1960s (Nidiffer & Bashaw, 2001). More recently, over the past 30 years, there have been improvements and gains for women at all levels of education. The number of women entering higher education has risen steadily since the 1970s, increasing by 13% between 1989 and 1999. In fact, in 1999, more women than men earned associate, bachelor's and master's degrees (National Science Foundation [NSF], 2000). More women have also entered graduate school, and at a higher rate than men. For example, the number of male full-time graduate students increased by 18% from 1989 to 1999, while the number of full-time female graduate students increased by 59% (National Center for Educational Statistics [NCES], 2002).

Just as college/university gender-specific enrollment trends have evolved over time, according to reports completed by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the number of female faculty in higher education has also grown. In 1974-75, women made up 22.5% of all faculty at U.S. institutions of higher education. That percentage rose to 33.8% in 1997-98, 36% in 2000-01, and 39% in 2005-06 (AAUP, 2001; AAUP, 2006).

While the number of female faculty has and continues to increase, it is doing so more at lower level faculty ranks and institutions. In 2005-06 women made up 51% of the faculty at associate degree-granting colleges, 42% of faculty at baccalaureate and master's degree institutions, and 34% of faculty at doctorallevel institutions (AAUP, 2006). Women made up 46% of assistant professors, 38% of associate professors, 23% of full professors, and women held 51% of unranked faculty positions in universities and colleges (AAUP, 2004). Further, according to AAUP (2006), more male faculty than female faculty had tenure. Table 1 summarizes discrepancies in several areas.

As noted, there have been an ever-increasing number of women in higher education, as students and faculty, but not in the higher ranks of academia. While many reasons have been put forth to explain this, could it be that the male-focused system does not serve women as well as men? Perhaps it is not conducive to the advancement of women. Perhaps, as stated by Beaman-Smith and Placier (1996), "Women in academe are initiates who wandered into a ritual designed for men" (p. 3).

Women's Ways

Research has been conducted looking at "women's ways" of learning, communicating, and leading, among other issues. In Women's Ways of Knowing, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1986) theorized that measures of psychological development were based on male models as only males were used in many studies of the past. They studied women's communication systems and development patterns to determine "women's ways of knowing." Gilligan (1982) in her work entitled, In a Different Voice, posited that women do communicate differently from men and develop morally and emotionally in dissimilar ways.

Literature on women's ways of working reveals that women, in general, tend to work in a collaborative fashion. Dickens and Sagaria (1997) reported that "collaboration is a common practice among feminist scholars" (p. 50). Women, in their study of collaborative relationships between female faculty members, sought out close relationships in their professional lives and felt that such relationships were a support in their work. The "participants consistently described their desire to function as democratic, equal partners rather than as hierarchical team leaders" (p. 53). Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, and Uzzi (2000) wrote, "younger up-and-coming junior and newly tenured women faculty members emphasize a more relational, collaborative approach within their research groups" (p. 147). Community is important for these new female faculty members, as is emphasizing the strengths of group members. Gunter and Stambach (2003) conducted research looking at the ways women and men science faculty perceived and experienced the promotion process in higher education. Men describe this...

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