How Women Can Rise In Academia
- Student Tips
Today is International Women’s Day! We’re unsure why it’s only one day on many levels. Today we’ll focus on women in the academic world.
The goal of International Women's Day is to encourage women, and men, to continue to fight for equality and gender parity in all aspects of society. You probably already know that women around the world are often paid less than their male counterparts, but education is helping to equalize the gender pay-gap. Still, even in academia, where the playing field is levelling, women face inequalities in both compensation and representation. Despite women’s outnumbering men in university enrollment and graduation rates, women on many campuses continue to make at least 20 percent less than their male counterparts, often experience discriminatory hiring practices that force them into adjunct positions as opposed from tenure-track positions, and are frequently overlooked for under-represented positions, especially in STEM fields.
So: what’s a woman in the academic world to do? Continue to be herself. Here are five strategies for women who are pushing and making cracks in that glass ceiling. How can women rise in academia?
1. Ignore Stereotypes
You’re not bossy. You’re assertive. You’re not meek. You know when to be quiet—so that you can be heard when you have something to say. You’re not obnoxious. You’re funny.
You’re not trying to act like a man. You are yourself.
Do not let others call you out on behavior that they would never even comment on in a man. In academia, a man’s bossiness is often seen as an asset—a guide. A man’s quietness is seen as wisdom. And a man’s humor—sometimes—is appropriate to the situation. You have all the same qualities. Don’t fall for men’s stereotypes about you—and sometimes other women’s stereotypes about you. Be yourself. Don’t let others dictate who you are and how you act.
2. Build Confidence: Apply to Jobs
You can’t get a job or a promotion or recognition without putting yourself out there and applying. Women need to roll up their sleeves, focus on what they want, and then go and get it—with realistic expectations. You need to be resilient and not balk at failure.
Own the decisions you make—apply frequently, take jobs you want, and do the best you can do.
No, you can’t have it all—no one can. But women: you can have more than you think. Get yourself out there. Tell yourself you can do it and do it. Give it a try.
Women need to work together and support each other. Women benefit from mentoring and networking programs. A few programs, like Journeys in World Politics, Women in International Security, Women in Conflict Studies, the Society for Women in International Political Economy, and the International Studies Association Pay It Forward program offer mentoring programs to women who want to make it in academia. Connect yourself—and put yourself out there.
4. Showcase Your Work
Studies suggest that women are less likely than men to write op-eds, blogs, Twitter posts, and use other social media. Start doing those things. Make yourself a website where people can visit and read your work. Start a blog post about your academic work. Promote your work social media like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Send out a press release when you’ve achieved something in your department. Write letters to the editor. Make yourself known.
5. Never Give Up
If at first you don’t succeed… try again and again and again. Consider the story of Robin Sakamoto, Kyorin University’s Dean of the Faculty of Foreign Studies. Sakamoto is the second foreign woman ever to earn a deanship in Japan—she’s American. One of her goals is to help improve attitudes and regulations about gender equality and work-life balance in Japan. Sakamoto, a woman in academia, pushed through boundaries—but not without falling first. She got back up, and continues to do so.
So can you.
Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.