New Faculty Majorty’s Women and Contingency Project calls attention to the specific challenges women in contingent academic employment face, as well as to the challenges of organizing them. The project is jointly sponsored and administered with the NFM Foundation.
The majority of contingent or adjunct faculty are women. The data show that women make up between 51 and 61 percent of adjunct faculty nationwide. Women in contingent academic employment are most likely to be among the most politically vulnerable and economically precarious in the academy. They are also among the least educated about the need for organization and reform.
Why? Women contingent faculty are often either single heads of households with caregiving responsibilities, which makes them especially precarious. Or they have spouses or partners who subsidize their faculty work, which can insulate them from the realities of contingent employment but negatively affect them if they end up losing that support.
NFM’s Women and Contingency Project is designed to educate and empower women faculty and students about the realities of the academic workplace and the need for solidarity and reform across class and workplace sectors.
In Phase One of the project, our objective is to begin educating the public about the disproportionate impact of contingent academic employment on women.
In Phase Two, we will establish an advisory board to guide the project forward and to assist in outreach to activist women’s organizations, with the objective of forging stronger collaborations and coalitions that more effectively include the situation of women in academia in their advocacy and help women in academia to be more connected to the activism of women outside academia.
Phase one of the project
The first phase of our Women and Contingency Project, which was supported in part by the Berger-Marks Foundation, includes these elements:
- Educating the public about the statistics and specific challenges women in contingent academic employment face.
- Compiling a database of existing research on women and contingent academic employment and identifying research gaps.
- Initiating or identifying research to fill those gaps.
1. Educating the public
- NFM/F were partners with Brave New Films on the 2015 documentary short Professors in Poverty, which launched during Campus Equity Week on October 26, 2015.
- NFM has participated in sessions on women and contingency atthe National Women’s Studies Association 2104 and 2015 Annual Conferences.
- NFM participated in AAUW Ohio Equity Day and Convention in 2013 and 2014.
NFM is in the process of compiling this database in partnership with the Center for the Study of Academic Labor at Colorado State University
3. Initiating or identifying research to fill the gaps
NFM has determined that research identifying the status of contingent faculty in Women’s and Gender Studies programs and departments nationwide and the overall autonomy of program directors should be conducted.
Research on Autonomy of Directors of Women’s and Gender Studies Programs
Women’s and Gender Studies programs and departments often inhabit a volatile position in the modern university that runs alongside the powerful position they hold in advocating for women who work in the academy. During the Fall 2014 semester, the NFM Foundation conducted research to gain a better understanding of the unique challenges faced by WGS departments and programs in higher education in regard to contingent faculty employment in higher education. Reaching out to chairs and directors of these programs and departments, this research will help us to gain better insight into the competing issues faced in Women’s and Gender Studies.
Results from the survey were presented at the NWSA Annual Conference in November and shared with NWSA executive committee members in hopes of guiding future programming that will help department chairs and directors in their advocacy efforts for improving contingent faculty working conditions. In 2015, the NWSA voted to highlight contingent faculty issues in a resolution that received 97.2% votes in favor.
If you direct a Women’s and Gender Studies Program and did not receive a link to the survey, please contact Marisa Allison, Director of Research, New Faculty Majority Foundation, at firstname.lastname@example.org, and she will provide one. You may also contact her with any questions. A report on the survey is forthcoming.
Browse the database in progress. To alert us to resources that should be included, please send an email to email@example.com
We hope to announce the Advisory Board by April 2016. Please check back for more information.
Selected News Stories
- Coloradoan. Our View: CSU makes strides toward a better workplace. Sept. 19, 2014.
- Inside Higher Ed. No Country for Old Adjuncts. Sept. 24, 2014.
- Chronicle Vitae (Blog). The No-Matter-What Rule of Academic Motherhood. Oct. 6, 2014.
- Chronicle Vitae (Blog). Writing About Sexism in Academia Hurts. Oct. 9, 2014.
- “The Academic Feminist: Advocating for Contingent Faculty’s Rights with Marisa Allison.” Feministing.com. Oct. 14, 2013.
- “The Adjunct’s Moment of Truth” by Maria Maisto, President NFM. Inside Higher Ed. September 20, 2009.
- American Association of University Women (AAUW)
- Adjunct Action Conversation with Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority (NFM), who has been working for faculty equity since 2009. She discussed her work with NFM and adjunct issues.
- Adjunct Action Conversation with Sarah Kendzior, Al Jazeera America writer and adjunct activist. Sarah focused her discussion on the complicated situation of female academics and adjuncts — personally, professionally, and in the workplace.
- Adjunct Action Conversation with Rebecca Schuman, adjunct and contributor to Slate and the Chronicle of Higher Education.
- American Institutes for Research Report: “Exploring Gender Imbalance Among STEM Doctoral Degree Recipients.” Sept. 30, 2014.
- Berger-Marks Foundation
- Center for the Education of Women (CEW) at the University of Michigan
- Enos, Theresa. Gender Roles and Faculty Lives In Rhetoric and Composition. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1996. Print.
- “Gender inequity in the academy: Equity Day breakout.” AAUW Ohio, April 10, 2013.
- Productivity or Sexism, Inside Higher Ed, Aug. 18, 2014.
- Schell, Eileen. Gypsy Academics and Mother-teachers: Gender, Contingent Labor, and Writing Instruction. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook Publishers, 1998. Print.