In our multicultural world, embracing and cultivating diversity is a crucial aspect of modern life. Yet that diversity is, unfortunately, lacking in higher learning institutions, where it is arguably needed the most. While colleges around the U.S. are hiring more women and minority professors than ever before, the positions are primarily adjunct, leaving little opportunity for career advancement or job security.
A 2015 study of academic physicians found myriad evidence pointing to gender inequality in academia. According to researchers, “women remain underrepresented in leadership positions, less likely to achieve promotion, and more likely to leave academic medicine.” And that gender disparity stretches into virtually every academic discipline.
As of 2013, women held just 37.6% of tenured faculty positions in the U.S., despite making up nearly half of the total number of professors. The lack of women in tenured positions is a long-standing trend that has female academics looking for alternatives. Fortunately, the skills you acquired in the lecture hall are likely to be an asset whether you aspire to a career in the political sphere, the greater community, or the business world.
Combating Gender Imbalance in Academia
If your career in academia has stalled, or you’re otherwise ready to make a job-related change, you needn’t look far to find inspiration. Various alternative career options exist for women in academia and learning, and you don’t have to wait for tenure before venturing on your new career path.
No matter if your interests lean more towards research or community stewardship, there are plenty of career options out there that will allow you to maintain your connection to academia. Consider the following alternatives in the realm of higher education.
For those who are adept at problem-solving, a career in education policy may prove lucrative and fulfilling. Education policy analysts typically work for the government or a lobbying organization, creating positive change across the entire industry, from community colleges to Ivy League institutions.
By implementing meaningful policy changes, you’ll have a lasting influence on higher learning in your community. What’s more, you gain the ability to advocate for the causes that are important to you. It’s important to note that a graduate-level degree is typically required for jobs in education policy, and you should have plenty of research experience under your belt as well.
Embarking on a career in education policy is just one way you can facilitate meaningful, lasting change in the realm of academia, however. If you’re truly looking to make a difference in the lives of those you teach, consider the benefits of a career in student services. For many students, navigating the ins and outs of college life is a daunting task, to say nothing of future considerations, post-graduation.
Your students are more likely to achieve long-term success when they have someone in their corner who’s well-versed in all aspects of academia. As a student services professional, you can advocate on behalf of your students, and help them understand everything from internships to student loan debt. Your students should be aware of how defaulting on student loans can negatively impact your credit score, for example, and how to mitigate the damage.
One of the biggest perks of work in student services is that you can remain in the employ of a higher learning institution, without having to settle for the uncertainty of adjunct teaching.
But perhaps you’re ready to leave the hustle and bustle of higher education behind for good and experience a new career vantage point. In that case, you may want to venture out on your own and bring your passion for education to the community at large. Community outreach may be research-based, or more hands-on, wherein you organize teaching activities or civic engagement events.
As an academic outreach professional, you may work independently or as part of a team to reach as many prospective students as possible. And make no mistake — outreach is integral to the higher learning experience, directly benefiting the public while also helping to build community goodwill. In recent years, academic outreach has gained even more momentum as various higher learning institutions look for ways to stand out in a virtual sea of colleges and universities.
And along with helping the community, participating in outreach may even serve to boost your teaching career. If your ultimate goal is to break through the glass ceiling and become a full-time, tenured professor, you’ll need to have real-world experience on your resume, such as academic outreach.
Teaching, especially at the collegiate level, is a storied career path that can give you long-term satisfaction. But if you’re unhappy with the opportunities for women in academia, don’t be afraid to look beyond the title of “professor.” Your teaching experience will serve you well in the community, whether your passions lean towards research or community service.
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