Dear Mentor: Benevolent Chauvinism?

Dear Mentor,

 

I am on the job market for a faculty position and am interviewing at several Christian colleges.  I saw the report of a study of women at an evangelical college compared to those teaching at a secular university.  The term "benevolent sexism" was used for the atmosphere at the evangelical school, described as, "...cordial and warm relationships between male and female faculty while simultaneously excluding women from important information and resources."  I appreciate the good relationships, but do not want to be at a place that excludes me from information and resources.  Do you have any suggestions for questions I might ask or what I should look for in the interview process to discern this?

From Dorothy Boorse

 
For a discussion of Dorothy’s experience as a professor at a Christian college, see her blog post, Benevolent Chauvinism: A Response.
 
While experiences might vary within an institution, I think a female faculty candidate could ask the right questions to find out whether benevolent sexism is true of an institution as a whole. I certainly would hope this report would not keep qualified women from considering some of the great Christian liberal arts college opportunities. 
 
If I were to go on the job market now, here are some of the questions I would ask:
  • Do women serve on key committees?
  • Are there women in the administration?
  • Are there women department chairs?
  • Is there a difference in the rate at which women get tenure or are promoted?
  • Are women more likely to get low level service "opportunities" that are time consuming?
  • Are men required to do institutional service at the same rates?
  • Are there scholarship support groups such as workshops and are women included as much as men?
  • Do women know how the school operates?  Are there mentors for new faculty? What do women think of the mentor program?
  • Are there major awards or rewards for faculty? If so, at what rate do women and men receive these?
  • Are there programs for scholarship with students or summer funding? Do men and women both get these?
 

From Leslie Walker

 
I do not have experience as a faculty member at a Christian college, but I graduated from Wheaton College in 1990 and had several female professors. Most of my male professors were terrific, but one was directly discriminatory ("Why are you majoring in chemistry, anyway? You'll just get married and never use it.") Hopefully that wouldn't happen today, but I think it would be important to request interviews with women on the faculty at junior and senior levels, including some outside of your prospective department, and ask them to be candid about their experiences. I would also ask about promotion rates of men and women faculty members, and ask if there are women in leadership roles as deans or vice presidents. Finally, you might read Nancy Beach's Gifted to Lead: The Art of Leading as a Woman in the Church, and then read everything Carolyn Custis James has written, as an encouragement for women working with men to accomplish God's purposes on earth.
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