Proposal for Research on Women and Education by LeePenny





                                Organizer and Moderator:

                                     Theresa McCormick

                          Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University

                                   2928 Walnut Ave. SW

                                     Seattle WA 98116




                Susan Klein, Feminist Majority Foundation, sklein@feminist.or


           Julia Balenger, Steven F. Austin State University,

                 Dolores Grayson, GrayMill Consulting,

                      Teri Sosa, St. Joseph’s University,

  Carol Lacampagne, Mathematical Sciences Education Board of the National Academies of


     Phyllis Lerner, Women’s Sports Foundation,

Major Misunderstandings about Key Research Findings that Contribute to Gender Inequities:

 Insights from authors of the Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through Education

       This session addressed major misunderstandings that contribute to barriers to gender

equity inmathematics, science, engineering and technology, physical education/athletics, K-12

educational leadership, and teacher education. Symposium speakers provided highly credible

information and research drawn primarily from the Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity

through Education to refute such misinformation. They shared the findings from the 2007

Handbook as well as more current information to help refute misinformation about what most

high quality research concludes. The Handbook authors described key misinformation about

research results associated with their chapter topic and provide a brief statement on accurate and

updated research results.

   Since gender continues to be an important organizing and disempowering principle in the

school systems and the goals of obtaining gender equity have not been accomplished, this

symposium will serve as a platform to illuminate the persistent and intertwined barriers that need

to be removed to attain full equality in education and in society. In the areas of gender equity,

there are numerous well popularized misunderstandings about the value and nature of gender

equity as well as how to achieve it. Many misunderstandings are compounded by inadequate

knowledge of civil rights laws or evidence of what works or doesn’t work to advance educational

equity related to sex, race, SES, and individuals with disabilities. Two of the key areas of

misinformation relate to sex stereotyping and sex segregation where the Department of

Education (ED) has recently weakened the regulations prohibiting sex discrimination under Title

IX even though ED supported research reported in the Handbook did not justify the changes.

The presenters will address these as well as other ways definitive research syntheses such as the

Handbook chapters are needed to guide policy and action to advance gender equity in and

through education.

    Theresa McCormick, organizer and moderator of this session, gave the welcome and

introduced each panelist. Sue Klein, General Editor of the Handbook, gave the introducion to

the session and provided the following perspectives. She said many people make decisions based

on inaccurate interpretations of gender equity research results. It is very difficult for journalists,

educators and students to know what research is credible. We can see this clearly in the false

“research-based” justifications by Leonard Sax and others that boys and girls learn differently

and need to be taught differently in sex segregated environments. Handbook authors and editors

also had to be careful about sources they included in their research syntheses. To assure that we

did this correctly we had peer reviewers for the chapters.

    In addition to comprehensiveness and extensive collaboration, we think the hallmark of our

Handbook is its credibility. We need to build on this to increase sales and use of Handbook.

You can help sales and use by actively getting Handbooks to Libraries. They have budgets for

books, use to find libraries near you that have Handbook and get the rest to order

their copy. See handbook web page. You are encouraged to use the

handbook in your classes. We need to get more publicity for the Handbook such as reviews

and articles.

    Also we need help in implementing the idea for a Living Handbook Web Site. This will

enable us to add new credible research findings and solutions/ effective R&D based products; to

actively share these findings with interested educators and others so that decisions would be

based on what is known and any past conclusions of chapters updated or referenced by additional

verification. By continually calling attention to the core information in the chapters, hopefully it

will encourage more educators to get and use the Handbook. Finally, a Living Handbook Web

Site would be a way to maintain collaboration and give more visibility to credible research and

to researchers and could establish a partnership with SIG: RWE and the Feminist Majority

Foundation and hopefully get some external funding to do this well.

   Chapter authors were introduced and each discussed and refuted a number of instances of

misinformation about gender equity in their fields. Because of space limitations, only one

example of misinformation and the research-based evidence to refute it will be given here.

   Julia Ballenger, an author of Chapter 6, Increasing Gender Equity in Educational

Leadership, discussed and refuted the misinformation that there are more women with advanced

degrees in education and most are in the area of educational leadership, thus, there are now

almost as many women principals and superintendents as men. She refuted this statement by

providing numerous research-based studies, which show that both White and women of color are

substantially underrepresented in school administration. Women constitute approximately 75%

of the teaching force, the pool from which superintendents begin their career journey, but they

are disproportionately underrepresented in the top positions in schools.

   Dolores A. Grayson, Editor of Part II, Administrative Strategies for Implementing

Gender Equity, gave an overview of this section of the Handbook and the three chapters in it

(5, 6, & 7). Part II provides a justification for why policy makers, educational leaders, teachers,

students, and others should attend to gender equity, to nondiscrimination, to avoiding gender bias

and stereotyping. The evidence in this Part indicates that there is still a need for some of the

previously identified {in the 1985 Handbook} best practices, programs, professional

development, technical assistance, and equity accountability reviews, most of which are no

longer available through federal funding. These chapters emphasize that when injustice is

institutionalized, the solutions must also be institutionalized, and laws, procedures and policies

are essential first steps.

    Teri Sosa, an author of Chapter 13, Gender Equity in Science, Engineering and

Technology refuted this misinformation: As men and women are now equally represented in the

ranks of science and engineering students (Handbook, p. 257), issues of under representation in

science and engineering careers will be ameliorated once these women work their way down the

“pipeline.” She said this is a flawed statement for these reasons: according to the tabulations of

the National Science Foundation, 50.7% of those receiving science and engineering

undergraduate degrees were women. Careful inspection of these data indicates that the high

number of women biology graduates (57.3%) skews the data. In fact, in all other sub-fields,

women constitute less than 50% of the graduates. In engineering women receive only 20.1% of

undergraduate degrees. If one considers that women comprise 57.4% of all college graduates, the

50.7% combined figure means that women are less represented in sciences than they are in

undergraduate majors. Second, even if the percent of men and women receiving undergraduate

degrees in science and engineering is close to being equal, the numbers of women going on to

graduate school (in all fields but biology) is not. For example, in physics, the number of PH. D.

earned by women in 2004 was closer to 15% than 50% (Handbook, p.261).

        Carol Lacampagne, lead author of Chapter 12, Gender Equity in Mathematics,

refuted the misinformation that states: As we have come a long way toward achieving gender

equity for females in high school and college mathematics, it follows that they are doing equally

well in mathematics at the graduate level. Girls are now taking significantly more mathematics

courses in high school than they did 22 years ago, although they still lag behind boys in the

highest course taking level: Advanced Placement BC Calculus. Girls have increased their

scores on the mathematics sections of the National Assessment of Educational Progress and the

SAT and ACT tests, although small gender-related differences still exist.At the undergraduate

level, things are really looking up since 1985. 57% of entering freshmen are female, yet of

college students earning a bachelor's degree in mathematics, only 41% are female. But as women

enter graduate school in mathematics, their percentage drops to 35%, with only 30% of all recent

mathematics PhD's awarded to women -- still not equal but much better that the 18% or so that

occurred over the years. Women hold fewer professorships in mathematics, especially at top

universities, but their numbers are rising. It is at the graduate and job level that we still do not

have equity in mathematics.

   Theresa McCormick, an author of Chapter 7, The Treatment of Gender Equity in

Teacher Education, countered this misinformation: Since a high proportion of teachers are

women, there is now equity in their salaries and prestige and this is reflected in equitable

treatment of teacher education faculty. She stated that Elementary teachers (84% women) get

paid less than secondary school teachers (57% women). Women teachers at both levels get paid

less than male teachers (2003-04U.S. Dept. of Education, NCES). When the feminization of

teaching became institutionalized with lower salaries for female teachers than male teachers, the

status of the teaching profession dropped (Handbook, pp. 132, 134). Patterns of male hegemony

in universities were replicated in Teacher Education Programs. This resulted in lower salaries of

teacher educators compared to faculty in other fields and of women compared to men teachers

and Teacher Educators. Women faculty teaching education students earn only 80% of what men

teaching education students earn. For university faculty as a whole, women earn 75% of what

male faculty earn (Handbook, p. 133)

      Phyllis Lerner, an author of Chapter 18, Gender Equity in Physical Education and

Athletics, involved the participants in several activities that helped them understand the error of

this piece of misinformation: In 2004, U.S. Olympic Committee Executive Officer Jim Scherr

stated, “Regardless of gender, socioeconomic status or race, we feel there is an opportunity for

everyone to participate on our Olympic teams. We’re proud of the fact that it’s the ultimate

meritocracy”• (as quoted in A. Shipley, April 22, 2004, Washington Post, p. D01). According

to the National Federation of State High School Associations (2005), female participation has

risen from fewer than 300,000 in 1972 to over 2.9 million in the academic year 2004-2005. This

represents an 800% increase in the number of girls participating in high school sports over the

span of three decades. So, what’s the real inside story underlying the increase in participation?

The prevailing framework for gender equity in sport and physical activity, that being separate but

equal, is structurally anchored in a value system that emphasizes not only differences between

females and males but also continues to value male experience more highly (Messner,

2002). Women physical educators for over half of the 20th century, cautioned that the male

college sport model which emphasized sport for the few designed to appeal to a mass audience

and generate commercial interest would undermine the ability of educators to effectively meet

the needs of citizens overall through physical education programs (Sack & Staurowsky, 1998).

With declining fitness levels, lack of daily physical education, and obesity levels higher than

ever before, their concerns have been shown to be true (Kluger, 2005).


   Klein, Susan S. (General Editor). 2007. Handbook for Achieving Gender Equity through

Education. Second Edition. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.


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