Women of Academe

Outsiders in the Sacred Grove


Drawing on more than sixty interviews, this book examines women's struggle to gain authority in the academic profession and to use that authority to change conventional practices. The authors argue that as women rise in academe, they are stymied at a certain level by the remaining force of the old norms which in the past barred women from professional life altogether. These norms decreed a sharp division between public and private realms, assigning men to public duties, women to private, men to intellectual pursuits, women to emotional and relational ones.

Although the strict division of roles is eroding, prejudices about women's "lesser" intellectual power still operate, subtly but effectively, through a two-tiered system of responsibility. The top tier exercises the real authority and consists almost exclusively of men. The bottom tier carries out supportive functions and consists of some men and nearly all the profession's women, who also carry the major burden of private and familial responsibilities.

Making excellent use of interviews, the authors explore in vivid detail how this two-tiered system works and the variety of ways in which academic women have responded to "the rules of the game."

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