Yale University Director Says Gender A Determining Factor in Value of Student’s Degree

Aug 18, 2017 by

‘The power of a college degree is dependent on its holder’s identities’

BY: Rachel Frommer –

A director at a Yale University institute dedicated to promoting “equitable and engaged teaching” said in a recent interview with Inside Higher Ed that gender is a determining factor in the value of a student’s college degree.

Nancy S. Niemi, head of faculty teaching initiatives at the Center for Teaching and Learning, and author of Degrees of Difference: Women, Men, and the Value of Higher Education, compared women in higher education to “the Ginger Rogers challenge of having to do everything Fred Astaire did but also do it backward and in high heels … college women excel in academic achievement in part because we know we have to.”

“The power of a college degree is dependent on its holder’s identities, and one of those is gender,” Niemi said.

She said the greater number of women than men enrolled in college, as well as minorities being “overrepresented” in graduate programs, are the result of both of these groups having to “prove” their worth in a white male-dominated society.

“By pursuing more higher education credentials, women of all races and ethnicities are responding to the cultural mandate that they have to prove their intellectual competence in ways that men do not,” she said.

“We know we need to gain higher GPAs, have more leadership positions and more and better college accomplishments just to compete with men,” said Niemi. “Women also know they need well-connected internships, fellowships, and acceptances to prestigious postgraduate placements, which open doors to further success after graduation, but at that point we are subject to still prevalent and sexist notions about who belongs in the most lucrative fields and who can handle the demands of high-status positions.”

She pointed to James Damore’s now-infamous Google memo on women in the tech world as an example of “just one of the extraordinary number of ways in which women are still told that no matter how successful they are, they’re not good enough.”

Though a number of scientists have stated that Damore diagnosed a very real biological and psychological fact of sex differences—one evolutionary psychologist said Damore made “scientifically accurate” claims about men and women that were “stated quite carefully and dispassionately”—Niemi told the Free Beacon that she rejects Damore’s statements because “they assume that biological differences lead to necessarily different behaviors and … do not take context and culture into account.”

Niemi also told the Free Beacon that men, unlike women, in the United States can simultaneously be undereducated and retain “the power—to make more money, to control reproductive choices for women, to be the subject of media (movies, tv, music). … [to] have cultural ‘permission’ to be considered dominant.”

To fix the bias, “it’s not enough” to have equal representation of men and women in the student body, the faculty, and the administration, said Niemi. “We need many more female college presidents, board of trustees members, provosts, and so on.”

Source: Yale University Director Says Gender A Determining Factor in Value of Student’s Degree

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