Gender Inequality in Academia

Nick Vu | Staff Photographer

Nick Vu | Staff Photographer
Kristen Munroe is the director of the UCI Interdisciplinary Center.

You may have come a long way, baby, but the glass ceiling and 10 percent less pay on average still haunt gender inequality in higher education.

The UC Irvine Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality held a seminar on gender inequality and discrimination facing women that occurs among university faculty and staff members last Friday.

The seminar was moderated by Kristen Monroe, professor of political science and director of the UCI Interdisciplinary Center with presentations by Ph.D. candidate William Chiu and graduate student Katie Cooper of the Department of Political Science. Cooper was the first to share her analysis of a series of interviews that Monroe conducted as a part of a large grant given to UCI to investigate and improve conditions for female faculty members. In her analysis, Cooper first identified the typology of possible responses to discrimination, noting that there are two kinds of responses.

The first type of response is passive or non-confrontational, in which the victim does not actively fight against the discrimination at hand. Specific examples of these passive responses include resignation; pragmatism, withdrawal or passivity, enhanced striving and lack of perception, among others.

The second type of response to discrimination is active or confrontational, in which the victim can give a confrontational response to overt discrimination.

However, of the 100 UCI female faculty members that were interviewed, a majority associated themselves the most with passive responses. In addition, most of these women have admitted that they know about discrimination issues at the university, but claim that they have not felt the effects firsthand.

“Women play down their discrimination and don’t take action against their own discrimination,” Cooper said.

Some of the female faculty members have even gone so far as to say that other departments on campus have experienced more discrimination than theirs.

“No one wants to feel like a victim. When you are a victim, you are viewed as weak,” Monroe said. “[These women need to] find a way to conceptualize it [and] try to find a way to work around it.”

One of the attendees of the lecture, community member Irene Miller, expressed her concern regarding the passivity that some of these women have chosen.

“Women don’t like to make waves,” Miller said, “[but] unless you make waves, nothing will get done.”

Following Monroe and Cooper’s discussion of their study, Chiu presented a more factual and statistical outlook on the issue of discrimination in academia. Chiu argued that there are three main components of this gender inequality problem within the scholastic arena.

The first is something Chiu referred to as the pipeline problem, in which there is simply a smaller number of women in the workforce. According to Chiu’s research, the 53 percent of women enrolled in graduate schools outnumbered 46 percent of men.

On the other hand, there appears to be an obstacle preventing these women from obtaining degrees, as women only had a 48 percent completion rate compared to the men’s 52 percent.

“[With] more women entering grad school, they should become professors, but they aren’t,” Monroe said. “Something is stalled – the pipeline is leaking. They aren’t going to the top research communities, but rather to the two-year colleges.”

Similar to the idea of the pipeline problem is the glass-ceiling theory. In this theory, there is a sufficient amount of women in the workforce, but they are not advancing to the next level. In Chiu’s findings, he cites that there “would be less women going up the levels and the fewest [of them] at the top.”

Monroe added, “Despite a lot of interest in this question and efforts from the government to move in different directions, you do not find a commensurate amount of women cracking through the glass ceiling, and [as a result] they continually find wage differentials.”

The final component of gender inequality that Chiu touched on is female wage disparity, in which women are earning less than men.

“In general,” Chiu said, “women earn 10 percent less than men, even with the same title. With or without the pipeline, there is still a problem with pay [and] wages.”

According to Chiu, equal pay should be delegated to equal work and should be based on the quality of one’s work, not necessarily the person.

“Since a university is [based on] intellectual skills [compared to physical skills], it would seem that men and women have equal rights,” Chiu said.

In an effort to combat this gender inequality in the universities, Monroe concluded the lecture by looking forward to a future study she hopes to accomplish. The study, entitled “Gender Equality: What Works and What Does Not,” will explore the options that universities, specifically the UC system, can take to improve conditions for women in science.

The UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality is dedicated to advancing scientific research on the origins and causes of morality by conducting studies, presenting lectures and publishing professional papers, books and proceedings from public talks and organized conferences.