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A feminist manifesto for education: gender equality has a long way to go

Blog Editor, IOE Digital15 September 2016

Miriam E David. 
Violence against women and girls (VAWG) is now very much on the public agenda. It is even addressed through the BBC’s Radio 4’s Archers programme: the case about domestic violence in the Titchner family is arousing great interest in how such issues of sexual abuse are treated in the family, the law and politics.
Yet these questions are still not usually addressed in schools and are not routinely on the curriculum. Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) is still not a compulsory component of the curriculum. This week the Commons Select Committee on Women and Equalities exposed the ‘shocking’ scale of sexual harassment and sexual violence that is not being tackled effectively in English schools. The committee recommended that high quality relationships and sex education for every child should be made statutory and that schools should be judged by Ofsted on how well incidents of sexual violence and harassment are recorded, monitored and prevented. There is also currently an online feminist campaign (more…)

Jolie’s appointment does not change fundamental gender relations in universities

Blog Editor, IOE Digital27 May 2016

Miriam E David
No it’s not her latest movie role – Angelina Jolie is to become ‘professor in practice’ at the London School of Economics. And this appointment illustrates the argument of my new book Reclaiming Feminism: Challenging Everyday Misogyny perfectly.
It is clear that female [celebrity] status is now enmeshed with academia in contradictory ways. Many have dismissed Jolie’s appointment as a visiting professor at the LSE from September 2017 as marketing and branding, arguing that it has nothing to do with scholarship, research or teaching. I think it is no accident that the appointment of a high profile female celebrity is to a course about women, gender equality and sexual violence. These gender questions have become causes célèbres of neoliberalism, although they do not change fundamental gender relations.
The film star’s many roles have led to her ‘teaching a course on the impact of war on women’. This will be part of a new MSc on Women, Peace and Security and the first of its (more…)

EU-funded tools for the job: helping teachers and health workers tackle gender-related violence

Blog Editor, IOE Digital3 February 2015

Miriam David
Gender violence has been a key theme of the European Union’s Daphne programme. I have been involved with a most exciting and innovative Daphne-funded research project to develop free online training tools, which we hope will help teachers, youth workers and health professionals across Europe to tackle gender-related violence in children and young people’s lives.
Our particular approach in the GAP WORK project draws on earlier research I conducted with Dr Pam Alldred of Brunel University (where the project is based). It found that teachers, health and youth workers do not feel adequately trained to work with children and young people around sex, sexuality and relationships and showed how sex education and dealing with violence remains marginalised in school curricula. Such (more…)

Why are there so few women professors when the proportion of female students has risen so steeply?

Blog Editor, IOE Digital19 December 2013

Miriam E David
The Robbins Report on Higher Education was published 50 years ago, in October 1963, so this autumn there have been several  celebratory anniversary events – at the London School of Economics (LSE), where Sir Lionel Robbins was then a professor of economics, here at the Institute of Education, and most recently at the Centre for Higher Education and Equity Research (CHEER) at the University of Sussex.
The topics of gender and equality in higher education were absent from the first two, but this lacuna was more than amply filled by the last. In a superb analysis of what she called “the genealogy of the woman student”, Professor Carole Leathwood, director of the Institute for Policy Studies in Education (IPSE) at London Metropolitan University, examined the way women at the time were considered entirely in relation to men as sexual and social beings. She had undertaken a documentary study of Robbins, newspapers and Carol Dyhouse’s Students: A Gendered History (2005). Young women students were seen as ‘dolly birds’, available on ‘the marriage market’ rather than for the labour market.
Interestingly, the Robbins report never once considered women in the academic profession, as lecturers or researchers, nor the question of homosexuality. Carole Leathwood argued, though, that the report did raise the issue of the adult learner along with the mature woman student.
I talked about the position of female and male students then and now, contrasted with that of female academics, drawing on a pamphlet written for the anniversary by David Willetts, the Minister for Universities and Science. Willetts had had the figures re-analysed by government statisticians. These showed most clearly a changing gender balance from female students comprising 25% of the then student body of less than a quarter of a million, to about 55% of undergraduates today, when there are more than 10 times as many – well over 2 million in the UK.
Willetts acknowledges the changes but he does not comment on academia. Whilst these changing student figures mirror international studies, such as UNESCO’s Atlas of Gender Equality in Education (March 2012), they show that women in academia tend to disappear  the more they are educated. She Figures, statistics from the European Union, makes this point very strongly as do two contrasting reports of the now independent UK Equality Challenge Unit. It publishes annual statistics on staff and students in higher education across the UK in separate volumes. What I find most alarming is that gender inequality is rampant amongst staff in UK universities, with 80% of professors being white men, whilst gender equality is so normative amongst students, it is no longer worthy of comment.
Professors Valerie Hey and Louise Morley, both of CHEER, tried to imagine the university of the future, and the position of women academics in it. They envisaged an alternative to austerity, where ethical values, not economic value, are pre-eminent. But the immediate UK policy context remains constricted by an intransigent and intellectually vacuous government. The two key ministers for education – David Willetts for Higher Education and Michael Gove for Schools – vie with each other in presenting the stern and firm smack of ‘back to the future’ government, where ‘boys will be boys’ and girls don’t exist except as bystanders. David Willetts argued that ‘feminism had trumped egalitarianism’ (The Pinch 2011, p. 208) and that men should be encouraged into HE rather than middle class women, whilst Michael Gove ignores discussion of gender even with PISA and insists on a return to traditional selective education where girls and boys had separate provision and separate roles (as described in Robbins).
Professor David’s forthcoming book ‘Feminism, Gender & Universities: Politics, Passion and Pedagogies’ is to be published by Ashgate