Why It’s Time for Gender Equity in Higher Ed

Updated: Oct 2

By Kerri Shadid for Amplify

Higher education is plagued by discrimination and sexual misconduct, particularly against female and LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff and students. The statistics are alarming.

A survey of 12,340 full-time and part-time students at four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. conducted last year by College Pulse found that, among all respondents, 64 percent think there is “some” or “a lot” of discrimination against gay and lesbian students on campus. Among LGBTQIA+ students themselves, 75 percent say there’s discrimination.

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) states that 23.1 percent of female undergraduate students and 8.8 percent of female graduate/professional students experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence or incapacitation. Transgender, genderqueer and nonconforming students also face an elevated risk, with 21 percent experiencing sexual assault.

We do not want to ignore the fact that men on campus also experience sexual abuse and all sexual misconduct must be stopped. However, the issue of gender inequity compounds the risk for female and LGBTQIA+ students. The percentage of female students who experience sexual misconduct on campus is over four times higher than the percentage of male students. A 2015 survey found that non-heterosexual students experienced “significantly higher rates” of sexual assault, sexual harassment and intimate partner violence than their heterosexual peers.

Female professors continue to face unequal access to tenured track positions. According to a report published by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, only 35 percent of tenure-track faculty age 55 or older are women. Although progress has been made, there is still disparity, with women filling only 45 percent of tenure-track positions among faculty under 55.

If student evaluations contribute to who receives tenure, there is already an inherent bias that disadvantages female professors. Research has found that gender bias leads female professors to be rated, on average, 0.5 points less on a 5.0 scale simply because they are women.

We need to make higher education safe and equitable for women and LGBTQIA+ faculty, staff and students. Gender equity is essential for the well-being of all individuals on campus, as well as the future of higher education. To promote a more equitable campus environment, it’s time we brought the Time’s Up movement to higher ed.

The Time’s Up movement was founded in January 2018 by more than 300 women in entertainment. They said, “Enough to sexual favors in exchange for work. Enough to being paid less than we deserve. Enough to feeling unsafe and disempowered where we work.”

Students, faculty and staff deserve a learning and working environment free from discrimination and sexual misconduct. Institutions of higher education must step up and fulfill their mission and purpose as places of enlightenment, not bastions for outdated gender stereotypes and sex-based hostility.

Time’s Up Higher Ed will provide information and serve as a forum for individuals to share their stories of gender inequity on college and university campuses. We believe in the power of education (why we are fighting to improve the higher ed landscape) and in using education as a tool to combat inequity. Raising awareness is the first step in changing the system to become safer, fairer and better for all.

We invite you to participate in the Time’s Up Higher Ed movement by sending us your story of inequity on campus. We hope you will continue to watch TimesUpHigherEd.com for more information in the coming months. 

Resources:

The College Post, “LGBTQ Students Face Discrimination on College Campuses [Survey]

The Atlantic, “LGBT Students and Campus Sexual Assault

RAINN, Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics

University Business, “Why higher ed needs to hire and promote more women faculty

Time’s Up, Our Story

proF magazine “The ‘XX’ Factor: Gender bias in course evaluations

proF magazine “Rate My Professors Loses “Chili Pepper”: Small Victory, Larger Problem

Inside Higher Ed, “Teaching Evals: Bias and Tenure

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