Book by Barbara J. Bank
Review by Kathrine Russell
College of Biological Sciences
University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN
The topic of gender incites strong emotions. It may bring people together or be divisive. Gender & Higher Education provides historical and contemporary context for why this is, and describes how perceptions of gender have changed over time and space in various aspects of higher education. The compilation of multiple author viewpoints lends the book itself as fodder for discussion about the institutionalized nature of gender. For example, when discussing the benefits for men and women of co-education in military colleges Diamond (2011) described how the presence of women positively impacts men because “if even one woman accomplishes a difficult task, men often feel compelled to do so likewise so as not to be bettered by a woman” (p. 145). Why do men continue to feel the need to outperform a woman more so than a man?
Gender & Higher Education is designed as a reference book as opposed to a cover-to-cover read. Within sections chapters are alphabetized, which at times results in illogical ordering, but achieves the editor’s goal of the book being useful as a supplemental graduate course text. Each chapter addresses the topic of gender in a specific area of higher education: theory, institutional difference, student academic and co-curricular pursuits, the faculty experience, and policies. Although staff academic advisors may benefit from insight into the work-life of faculty, the book almost entirely ignores how gender has influenced Student Affairs and student services professionals. Another constraint of this book regards the limited scope of gender; references to gender regularly focus on the binary, and most often are concerned primarily with heterosexual males and females. Gender & Higher Education overcomes these limitations by presenting information on an extensive list of gender-related issues such as Title IX, fraternity and sorority life, and single gender institutions.
Gender & Higher Education is a great resource for advising offices. It provides insight into how gender influences the student experience for men and women and describes through a gender lens how policies with which advisors interact regularly have developed. It can also provide advisors with a greater understanding of how gender is perceived across academic disciplines and how advisors can better serve students. For example, engineering is one of few academic disciplines in which men still today maintain a numerical majority. According to Metz (2011) “current messages tend to ignore the more inspiring aspects of engineering” (p. 197). The focus on traditionally-male areas of strength, such as math and science, may unintentionally turn away women who may be very interested in the creative and team-oriented aspects of the field.
I recommend this book to academic advisors who have an interest in developing foundational knowledge about gender as related to higher education, and for those who want to best serve male and female students across academic disciplines.
Diamond, D. (2011). Military colleges and academies. In B.J. Bank (Eds.), Gender & Higher Education. (141-148). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Metz, S.S. (2011). Engineering. In B.J. Bank (Eds.), Gender & Higher Education (141-148). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
Gender & Higher Education. (2011). Book by Barbara J. Bank (Ed.). Review by Kathrine Russell. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 456 pp., $44.95, (paperback), ISBN # 978-0-8018-9782-5