Women told to hog the ball and go for goal

March 9, 2007

Female academics need to learn lessons from the playground if they are to achieve parity with male colleagues, an inaugural lecture audience at Goldsmiths, University of London, will hear this week.

Carrie Paechter, professor of education, will argue that female academics need to rebel against the rules where girls are expected to be "good" and "nice". She will say that the position of women in the "overwhelmingly masculine" university environment can be likened to that of girls who play football in school playgrounds.

Her research has shown that girls, when playing football with boys, seem reluctant to take and keep possession of the ball, as if they feel they don't have a right to it. "There seems to be a parallel force in operation with regard to working with academic ideas," Professor Paechter will say.

"You have to understand, at a deep level, that you have a right to have ideas, that you can chase them, own them and delight in them."

She found that girls in the playground spent their playtimes doing responsible "community service" jobs while boys constantly slipped out of their allocated tasks to play football. In the same way, female academics often find themselves being "good" and doing the university "housework", such as quality assurance audits, rather than pursuing their own research.

"There are always more students to see and courses to improve, while spending time developing one's own intellect seems, by contrast, highly selfish, akin to taking the ball down the centre of the pitch and scoring a goal oneself instead of giving everyone a kick on the way to collective glory," Professor Paechter will say.


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