Monday, December 16, 2013

Surviving the Ivory Tower

Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia edited by Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González and Angela P. Harris examines the intersecting roles of race, gender, and class in the working lives of women in academia. Through personal narratives and qualitative studies, the contributors expose the challenges they face as they navigate the often hostile terrain of higher education, including hiring, promotion, tenure, and relations with students, colleagues, and administrators. The narratives are filled with wit, wisdom, and concrete recommendations, and provide a window into the struggles of professional women in a racially stratified but increasingly multicultural America. Presumed Incompetent encourages a continued discussion of race, class, and gender by presenting the cultural and structural challenges experienced as well as concrete and constructive strategies for fostering healthier campus climates for all.

“It is important to remember that the mere admission of some women to most institutions has not mean the elimination of subtle forms of exclusion or mistreatment of them. Indeed, typically, when any form of prejudice (such as sexism or racism) is labelled as unacceptable, it does not simply vanish; rather, it tends to take increasingly subtler forms, thus protecting the prejudiced person from both social and legal accusation of prejudice.” 

This book offers big picture context and data as well as advice on practical techniques of how to handle job interviews, how to apply for promotions and tenure, etc. A final chapter gives suggestions for ways individual women, and women in groups, can work to improve the situation at their own institutions.

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