Educating Women Students in the Academy to Confront Gender Discrimination and Contribute to Equity Afterward

Document Type


Publication Title

Forum on Public Policy







Publication Date

January 2010


We argue that (1) faculty and other academic professionals who educate undergraduate women in capabilities such as effective communication, teamwork, and leadership that are integrated with the disciplines (e.g., biology, history, fine arts) and professions (e.g., education, nursing, management) indirectly assist their students to confront gender discrimination and contribute to equity, and that (2) the educational effect transfers afterward to alumnae performance in the professional workplace. Longitudinal data were collected over ten years from students in a college for women. Prior findings from this study are re-interpreted in relation to gender equity. Five years after college (based on externally-derived models for coding performance interview events and questionnaires), a majority of women alumnae demonstrated at least one of four ability factors that challenge gender discrimination: Collaborative Organizational Thinking and Action, Balanced Self Assessment and Acting from Values, Development of Others and Perspective-Taking, and Analytical Thinking and Action. Career-level indicators validated Collaborative Organizational Thinking and Action for advancement, salary, and degree of autonomy in a traditionally female (nursing) and a traditionally male (management) profession. Analysis of forty-six performance interview events found thirteen events where alumnae dealt with system failures while interacting with males. Alumnae in nursing and management constructed their performance or lack of it as due to overt or structural gender discrimination in only two of these thirteen performance interview events. The authors suggest that alumnae in this study were effective in both traditionally female and traditionally male professional settings. Gender discrimination probably occurred in the workplace of the time, but women alumnae were effective in confronting it and were effective in their careers. Because they had developed both independent and collaborative abilities in college, they contributed to more collaborative and thus more equitable workplaces, and contributed to the effectiveness of their organizations. The authors conclude with recommendations for higher education curriculum and policy. (Contains 1 table and 5 footnotes.)