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Holding Women Back in Higher Education: International Women’s Day
March 19, 2013 - 8:12pm

There were plenty of people who were quick to jump all over me when I said that I didn’t want my daughter to grow up and want to become a teacher or a professor. And there are more who criticize my tendency to discourage students from going into graduate school. My wish, as it stands, would be that my daughter goes to graduate school and becomes a professor. My wish is that plenty more people, especially women and other historically underrepresented groups, go to graduate school and get jobs as professors, shaping the lives and dreams of the next generations.

But that’s not the reality. The reality is that women of color are presumed incompetent within our supposedly progressive system of higher education. The reality is that women make up a strong majority of those working off the tenure-track. The reality is that there are plenty of services available now for women, by women, to help them try to crack that glass ceiling, but we have to pay for them ourselves and often keep quiet about them for fear of being seen as weak or less competent.

I wish that education was more universally available for girls and women, and that there didn’t still exist places where going to school means taking one’s life into her own hands.

Today, I drove a car by myself to an airport, flew in a plane, checked into a hotel, ate dinner, all alone. I wore a dress (that I selected and bought for myself) that stopped at my knees (but it was long-sleeved;it’s still cold!). I read a book that I selected for myself. I dropped my son off at an excellent childcare center while my daughter (who is the smartest person in her class) went off to learn in kindergarten. My husband (who I chose and chose to marry) is taking care of the kids (that I chose to have) while I’m away learning about technology tools (among other things).

All of these things are a part of the privilege that I enjoy as an educated white heterosexual woman living in the West. More was promised, but I’m not doing too badly. However, I’m working so that for my daughter, it’s not just a promise, it’s a reality. I work for girls all over the world, so they can choose for themselves who and what they want to be.

And I write. I share and promote the words of my friends who are working towards the same goals.  I build networks and communities, and I try to connect people and ideas for the better. It’s not a lot, but it’s something. I teach. In my classroom, I try to awaken students to the possibilities in front of them, to embrace the opportunity to learn and connect.

This post, ultimately, isn’t about me, but about all the ways that each of us work towards a brighter future for our daughters here and around the world, and for ourselves.

Morehead, Kentucky in the US.

Lee Elaine Skallerup has a Ph.D. from the University of Alberta in Comparative Literature. She has taught in two Canadian provinces and three States, and is now branching out as an edupreneur. You can visit her blog at  College Ready Writing and follow her on Twitter (@readywriting). Lee is also a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.


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