Women in the Canadian Academic Tundra
|Dr. Elena Hannah
Edited by Dr. Elena Hannah
Along with two academic colleagues, Elena Hannah, Psychology, has produced a riveting, eye-opening account of women in Canadian academe. As understood from its very title, the theme of this anthology is of the struggles and myriad experiences of women who brave an oft-inhospitable world of university life in order to practice their chosen profession.
The anthology shares individual, extremely personal stories of the frustration of women academics who attempt to combine personal goals with academic, and through their individual stories creates an overall picture of the harsh reality faced by too many Canadian women in the university system. A main tenet of the anthology is that "the academic world is still quite androcentric," and that despite affirmative action and equity programs initiated across Canada, women academics still face many barriers to a truly fair, satisfying academic career.
The essays reveal the anguish faced by many women as they decide whether to leave academia to nurture their family, only to return and be "marginalized and stigmatized," or remain in the "chilly climate" of university and feel guilty about neglecting loved ones. As one essay states, such a decision is not "made in a vacuum," and women are left too often without a free choice. Some stories reveal encouraging experiences: several contributors write of positive journeys through Canadian academia, and of advantages to being a woman there.
Ms. Hannah and her co-editors, Linda Paul of the University of Regina and Swani Vethamany-Globus of the University of Waterloo, spent over four years in the preparation of Women in the Canadian Academic Tundra. After participating in 1996 in the Status of Women Conference of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, they were determined to collate and publish the stories of women who had fought and in many cases are still fighting against discrimination and unhelpful, remote academic administrations.
"Women are operating in isolation," clarified Ms. Hannah. "They might think that they're the only ones who have this problem."
She explains that as women academics shared backgrounds during the CAUT conference, they realized that many of them had very similar stories.
"There was so much anger there, so much resentment ... and that's when we decided to write the book. None of these women had an outlet, no way to tell anybody what they had gone through."
The anthology's unique collection of first-hand experiences ensures that the voices of Canadian women academics are heard, and will, the editors hope, continue to be "heard in concert with those of others working toward change."
[Image of Book Cover]