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The Pivotal Role of Women

The Pivotal Role of Women

The recent passings of leading ladies of the civil rights movement, Constance Baker Motley, Vivian Malone, C. Delores Tucker and Rosa Parks saddened me, but they also have made me marvel at and appreciate the pivotal role women had in the American civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus and subsequent jailing in 1955 inspired a movement that would transform the United States and the world. Her actions made her the symbolic mother of modern civil rights in this country. I found it especially fitting that Parks was the first woman in American history to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda. 

It’s timely that this first Careers edition of Diverse highlights how gender disparities continue to define the academy’s employment picture. The ascension of female faculty has been matched by a trend away from full-time, tenured faculty and towards adjunct and non-tenure track jobs.

Assistant editor Kendra Hamilton in “Getting Off the Burnout Track?” points out that “Women comprise 48 percent of all part-time faculty, compared with 38 percent of all full-time faculty” in American higher education. It’s not surprising that her story, which documents the rise of part-time and non-tenure faculty jobs, reveals that women are being disproportionately ensconced in this lower prestige, lower-paid segment of the faculty. 

In “The Ticking of the Biological and Tenure Clocks,” Patricia Valdata reports on Princeton University’s move to grant assistant professors, male and female, an automatic extension of tenure time when they or their spouse give birth or they adopt a child. The new policy is intended to eliminate the reservations that tenure-track professors have traditionally had about applying for tenure extensions. Says Dr. Jennifer Pitts, an assistant professor of politics at Princeton and a new mother, “I think the decision to make the tenure extension automatic was an enlightened one. I’ve spoken to colleagues at other universities with tenure extension policies that are not automatic, and there can be subtle pressures not to take the extensions, or parental leave, under those circumstances.”

Assistant editor Crystal Keels in “Flying Standby” takes a specific look at what academic life holds in store for the part-time, non-tenure track scholar. She finds that the struggles many graduate teaching assistants endure as they complete their doctorates may not end at graduation. Many Ph.D.s are finding themselves working as adjuncts and part-time professors. In “Diversity Officers – Coming To a Campus Near You?” online editor Shilpa Banerji profiles academe’s newest administrative post — the chief diversity officer. Having evolved from the traditional minority affairs and equal opportunity positions, the diversity officer is a product of the post-affirmative action environment, according to Banerji. And they are often responsible for the diversity efforts involving faculty and the curriculum.

As to be expected, the recent hirings have not come without controversy, but for the most part people seem to think having this senior-level officer will move diversity efforts up on the agenda.

Hilary Hurd Anyaso

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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics
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A New Track: Fostering Diversity and Equity in Athletics