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Community Colleges and the Reproduction of Gender in the Academy: Experiences of Women STEM Faculty

Gender Transformation in the Academy

ISBN: 978-1-78441-070-4

Publication date: 6 October 2014



Community colleges are an under-recognized but vital component of higher education. Public two-year colleges provide a foundation for baccalaureate degree attainment, educate a skilled math and science workforce, and support local economic development. Our research, which examines women STEM faculty at community colleges, highlights the role of gender in reproducing advantages and disadvantages within the academy.


Data were collected by face-to-face interviews with 27 women faculty at nine community colleges in Ohio. We utilized semi-structured interviewing techniques to examine key dimensions such as decision-making leading to employment in two-year institutions, perceived advantages and disadvantages of such work, job satisfaction, and challenges to balancing career and family.


Results indicate considerable satisfaction among women faculty members, but contradict a popular stereotype that work at community colleges is easier for women with families. Despite relative parity in terms of occupational composition, pay, and tenure, community colleges are gendered in that they lack formal programs, institutionalized support, and leadership opportunities to support women.

Research limitations

Adjunct faculty play an important role in higher education but are underrepresented in our sample. Future research is needed to examine the unique situation of part-time faculty.


Community colleges are uniquely poised to contribute to improving gender equality for women in STEM. Understanding community colleges and the academic careers of women in STEM employed by these institutions is a vital step in our nation’s efforts to develop systemic approaches to increase representation and advancement of women in STEM careers.




A version of this paper was presented on August 21, 2011 at the 106th American Sociological Association meeting, Las Vegas, Nevada. The material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0930229. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


Anderson, C.D., Mattley, C., Conley, V.M. and Koonce, D.A. (2014), "Community Colleges and the Reproduction of Gender in the Academy: Experiences of Women STEM Faculty", Gender Transformation in the Academy (Advances in Gender Research, Vol. 19), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 41-62.



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