Panel Paper: Glass-Ceiling Effect at the Intersection of Race and Gender: Do Minority Female STEM Instructors in the US Education System Face a Double Jeopardy?

Saturday, April 8, 2017 : 10:15 AM
Founders Hall Room 475 (George Mason University Schar School of Policy)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Suparna Dutta, Virginia Commonwealth University
The metaphorical term “glass ceiling” refers to invisible obstacles that are so subtle that they are transparent as glass, yet so strong and impenetrable, that they pose as barriers for women to climb up the career ladder in any male-dominated field. This article, based on in-depth and systematic review of the extant social equity literature explores the “glass ceiling” effect experienced by the female faculty members teaching STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) in the US universities and reframes it to investigate (1) if the “glass-ceiling” effect varies between the high school and university systems or if it is universally faced by women instructors irrespective of the academic levels in which they are teaching, and (2) if intersectionality between the instructors’ gender and racial and ethnic identities play a significant role in moderating the glass-ceiling effect. In other words, the review attempts to find answers to questions such as: Is there a significant correlation between the two academic levels at which the STEM instruction is being imparted by the female faculty, and discrimination? Do the high school female STEM teachers face less discrimination since historically high school teaching is perceived as less intellectually demanding and pays less? Do STEM instructors at the intersection of gender and race /ethnicity face the proverbial “double jeopardy?” In sociology, “double jeopardy” refers to additional barriers faced by sub-groups with multiple disadvantages (e.g. black women). The review suggests that although, in general, most women STEM university instructors experience discrimination from their male colleagues, this systemic and institutional discrimination is worse for minority women. The STEM fields in universities are mostly dominated by white male instructors and academic leaders, whose negative perceptions about competency of female instructors in this field are results of a multitude of socio-psychological factors, and impact the latter’s career prospects. However, this review demonstrates that whether the glass- ceiling effects faced by female STEM instructors vary at different academic levels is still unexplored and indicates that further research is required to fill this knowledge gap. There are two important implications of this article. First, these findings should red-flag institutional discriminations against female instructors of STEM disciplines at the university level. This should encourage the administrative committees to develop guidelines that would eliminate glass-ceilings faced by the female STEM faculty. Second, there is a greater social equity issue here, concerning women instructors of STEM from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds, who, as the findings suggest, face challenges for being women in a male dominated field and for being minorities in a white dominated domain. This should signal the university administrative committees about the urgency to develop academic policies for the teaching staff that take into consideration racial equity issues.