Women in Society

The following information provides an overview of the issue of women in society.   The focus is specifically on women in America and even more specifically on women in higher education.

The Role of Women in Society

It goes without saying that gender roles have evolved over time, although how much and in what ways varies considerably, depending on culture. It is the goal, by definition, of any egalitarian society to achieve gender equality and the general movement worldwide has been in this direction, with greater success in some societies than in others.  Even though we in America tend to think of ourselves as advanced in any number of global attributes, gender equality is perhaps one area in which that assertion is inaccurate, as the following video illustrates. This is a 2013 PBS video on gender equality in America that looks at the methods used to achieve greater gender equality in other countries and touches on the general health of Americans as well.

Feminist Issues

Former President Jimmy Carter has stated that he is devoting the rest of his life to the welfare of women and addressing inequities in how women are treated, calling it the most important unaddressed problem in the world.  He has published a new book and devoted the Carter Center to this issue, featured on a  webpage called the Forum on Women’s Issues. The video below is a discussion of his book and an international forum, “Beyond Violence”, that he hosted in February of 2015. The video gives a good general overview of feminist issues in the modern world, including gender inequality issues in America.

It should be noted that both of the previous videos, the PBS report and the interview with President Carter, reported US ranking using 2013 data.  The latest data from the World Economic Forum shows that the United States has moved from 23rd place to 20th (2014).

Continuing Barriers

What are the specific barriers present in America that tend to limit gender equality, or at least demonstrate this inequity? The following are barriers that illustrate the issue with emphasis on measurable findings.

Violence Against Women

Violence against women is obviously an issue of worldwide significance. In the context of higher education, violence against women is primarily embodied in sexual assault on campus. In 2014 President Obama attempted to draw national attention to this problem, meeting with his Council on Women and Girls, who later released a report on actions taken (Calmes, 2014). According to this article, one in five college students report being raped while in college, although only 12% report the assault and assailants are rarely charged or convicted.

Part of the difficulty in addressing the problem of sexual assault on campus lies in reporting issues, from lack of consistency in the definitions used to allegations of intentional underreporting on the part of university officials.  The Clery Act, signed into law in 1990, requires higher education institutions to report a variety of crimes, including violent and non-violent sex offenses. The Department of Education (DOE) performs periodic in-person audits of the crime statistics and reporting practices of universities. These statistics and audits form the basis for a study in which reports of campus sexual assaults prior, during, and post DOE audit were used to empirically assess reporting issues (Yung, 2014).

Part of the reason for this study lies in the huge disparity in rates of sexual assault. As mentioned above, the Campus Assault Study (2007) found that 20% of women on large university campuses reported being raped while there and yet the Clery Report statistics indicate a rate of only 0.02% of students raped in a given year (Yung, 2014). Yung found that, even after accounting for 5-year college enrollment and underreporting by victims, Clery reporting seriously lagged behind rates found in other studies.  Additionally, and interestingly, it was found that rates of rape reported by universities spiked during DOE audit periods, returning to pre-audit rates the next year (Yung, 2015).  The sexual assault rates are, in fact, 44% higher during DOE audit periods while reporting rates for other crimes on campus do not show a similar spike (Yung, 2015).  Although other possible explanations for the spike were considered, the findings are consistent with the hypothesis that is it the ordinary practice of universities to under report sexual assault (Yung, 2015). Possible explanations of such behavior, consistent with other studies on societal and law enforcement behaviors and beliefs, include widespread adoption of ‘rape myths’ and exaggerated belief in false reporting by women (Yung, 2015).  Professional incentives to under report are also possible.

Efforts are underway from a variety of sources to combat the problem of campus sexual assault and raise awareness of the issue as well as provide specific suggestions for intervention. For example, the University of Kentucky (UK) has developed and is actively promoting the Green Dot Program, which focuses on preventing perpetrator behavior by providing students with skills to be proactive bystanders (Bessette, 2015). Developed by Dr. Dorothy Edwards, who was motivated by watching past campaigns fail to make a difference, the training is required of all incoming freshmen at UK.  Her work is grounded in social diffusion theory, bystander literature, perpetrator data, and marketing research and has been shown to be effective in a study of nearly 8000 college students; those who had the training had significantly lower rape myth acceptance scores and reported engaging in significantly more bystander behaviors than those who did not receive training (Coker, Cook-Craig, Williams, Fisher, Clear, Garcia & Hegge, 2011).

The following four minute video was published in 2014 by the College of Charleston, although not in conjunction with UK or its Green Dot Program.  The video illustrates the potential impact of bystander behavior.

Women in Positions of Authority

This section reviews the preparation of women for positions of authority and prestige, along with information about the actual attainment of those positions, in political, business, and higher education environments.

For a number of years now female enrollment in higher education has exceeded male enrollment among caucasians.  It appears that females of other ethnicities are also now exceeding male enrollment, according to a study by the Pew Research Center (2014). In 1994, 61% of caucasian male high school graduates enrolled in college the following fall while 66% of females did so; by 2012 the percent of caucasian males enrolling in college remained unchanged while the percent of caucasian women enrolling increased to 71% (Pew Research Center, 2014). In that same time period, among hispanics, blacks and asians in America, while male high school graduates equaled or out paced females going on to college in 1994, by 2012 the number of women going on to college exceeded the number of men in all three groups (Pew Research Center, 2014). Women also graduate from college and attend graduate school in higher numbers than men.

Graphic on educational attainment by gender
A graphic from the Council of Economic Advisors, 2014

Despite these educational achievements, women continue to hold fewer positions of authority and are paid less than men when they do. Women who are employed full-time and year-round earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in America (Council of Economic Advisors, 2014). This gap widens with increased professional achievement (see below).

Professional Pay Graphic
A graphic from the Council of Economic Advisors, 2014

As our 114th Congress starts it is with the participation of a record number of women – 104 Senators and Representatives, representing 19% of Congress (Pew Research Center, 2015). To put this in perspective, in 2008 the US, with 16% of the Senate and 16.8% of the House held by women, ranked 68th of 134 nations in national representation by women while the Nordic countries (who held the top positions) averaged over 41%  for the number of female representatives in their parliaments (IWDC, 2008).

In Fortune 500 Companies women hold 5% of the CEO positions and 17% of the positions on the boards of those same companies (Pew Research Center, 2015). This represents the 8th year in a row of no significant change in the number of women on boards while 135 of the Fortune 500 companies have zero women in executive positions and many continue with all male boards (Catalyst, 2013).

When it comes to institutions of higher learning the differences continue to be notable. As mentioned previously, women graduate from colleges and graduate schools in higher numbers than men with recent statistics showing that 57% of all college enrollments are women and 59% of all degrees are conferred on women (University of Denver, 2013).  Women also outpace men in national research grants and awards, with 56% going to women and 44% to men (University of Denver, 2013). These achievements do not translate into status, salary, or leadership positions, however. Women in academia are over represented among instructor and lecturer positions and under represented in tenured doctoral positions, where they earn on average 20% less than male faculty (University of Denver, 2013). It is noted that this is the opposite of the trend seen in other sectors where among public employees the gender pay gap is less than in the private sector.

1314903_62676029Is progress being made to reverse this trend, and from what areas can such progress be expected to come? A recent poll of Americans found that the majority see women as just as capable as men in both the boardroom and in congress; they also see women as just as intelligent and innovative as men and with greater compassion and organization (Pew Research Center, 2015). When asked why they think women are not achieving the top level in leadership positions, the top two responses were that women are held to a higher standard than men and that companies are not yet ready to put women in those positions (Pew Research Center, 2015). A majority of Americans also believe that this is not likely to change and that men will retain control of most top business positions, while 73% expect to see a female president in their lifetime (Pew Research Center, 2015). Perhaps not surprisingly, while over 65% of women believe that gender discrimination still exists in America, less than half of men do (Pew Research Center, 2015). It is the conclusion of the University of Denver study (2013) that women outperform men but do not receive the salary or title this should garner and that the evidence is that the reason for this is a bias against women in leadership positions.

Given the belief by the majority of men that gender bias does not exist, and the continued dominance of men in position to elect or appoint leaders, this situation does not seem likely to change in the near future in America, certainly not in those industries or institutions where exclusive or near-exclusive male leadership currently exists.



Bessette, L.S. (2015). How U Kentucky is trying to stop campus sexual assault. Women in Higher Education, 24(1), 6-7. Retrieved from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1002/whe.20152/asset/whe20152.pdf?v=1&t=i84jeqpa&s=0fceea2ac089517de33cd573a1ef7dd0f25494a6

Calmes, J. (2014). Obama seeks to raise awareness of rape on campus. The New York Times, A18. Retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/politics/obama-to-create-task-force-on-campus-sexual-assaults.html?_r=0

Carter, J. (2014). A call to action: Women, religion, violence, and power. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Catalyst. (2013). Census of Fortune 500: Still No Progress After Years of No Progress. Retrieved from: http://www.catalyst.org/media/catalyst-2013-census-fortune-500-still-no-progress-after-years-no-progress

Coker, A.L., Cook-Craig, P.G., Williams, C.M., Fisher, B.S., Clear, E.R., Garcia, L.S. & Hegge, L.M. (2011). Evaluation of Green Dot: An active bystander intervention to reduce sexual violence on college campuses. Violence Against Women, 17(6), 777-796. Retrieved from: http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/early/2011/06/02/1077801211410264

Council of Economic Advisors. (2014). Women’s participation in education and the workforce. Retrieved from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/1350163/women_education_workforce.pdf

International Women’s Democracy Center (IWDC). (2008). Women’s political participation: Women in parliaments. Retrieved from: http://www.iwdc.org/resources/fact_sheet.htm

Krebs, C.P., Lindquist, C.H., Warner, T.D., Fisher, B.S. & Martin, S.L. (2007). The campus sexual assault (CSA) study. Retrieved from: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/221153.pdf

Pasque, P.A. & Nicholson, S.E. (Eds.). (2011). Empowering women in higher education and student affairs: Theory, research, narratives, and practice from feminist perspectives. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Pew Research Center. (2015). Women and leadership: Public says women are equally qualified, but barriers persist. Retrieved from: http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/01/14/women-and-leadership/

Pew Research Center. (2014). Women’s college enrollment gains leave men behind.  Retrieved from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/03/06/womens-college-enrollment-gains-leave-men-behind/

University of Denver. (2013). Benchmarking women’s leadership in the United States. Retrieved from: http://www.womenscollege.du.edu/media/documents/BenchmarkingWomensLeadershipintheUS.pdf

World Economic Forum. (2014). The Global Gender Gap Report 2014. Retrieved from: http://reports.weforum.org/global-gender-gap-report-2014/rankings/

Yung, C.R. (2015). Concealing campus sexual assault: An empirical examination. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 21(1), 1-9. Retrieved from: http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/law-0000037.pdf

The History of Higher Education in America

Roots of the American University System

It is perhaps interesting to note that the oldest corporation in America is not a commercial business but Harvard College (Thelin, 2011). There are nine surviving colleges that were founded before 1781 and their heritage and prestige stem from their longevity (Thelin, 2011). These institutions include Harvard, William and Mary, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, Dartmouth, Rutgers, and Pennsylvania (Thelin, 2011). It is thought that one reason for the success of these institutions has to do with the attempt to transplant the Oxford-Cambridge ideal from Europe to the colonies; this seems to be a theory held even by the colleges themselves (Thelin, 2011). This ideal involves a merging of education, society, religion, and play to achieve an overall ‘lifestyle’ thought to be beneficial to developing young men (Thelin, 2011).

Several old books, on a shelf.

While it is true that the first colleges were intended to be based on the the European model, meaning state-funded institutions of higher learning, most of them failed and were replaced by church sponsored institutions in starting in the 1820s (Geiger, 2014). Contributing to the situation is the fact that America lacked a system of secondary education at this time (Geiger, 2014).

University Building

The mid 1800s brought two events that had a huge impact on higher education in America – the end of the civil war and the passage of the Morrill Act in 1862 (Thelin, 2011). The Morrill Act provided grants of federal land to the states for the purpose of establishing institutions of higher education (Thelin, 2011). Although the impact of this act on education was significant, it is also true that the federal government was motivated primarily by a desire to disperse land rather than promote education; the states were left to manage their institutions with little federal oversight (Thelin, 2011)

By 1880 there were few true universities in America with really only five existing at the time, but this was to change with the formation of the Association of American Universities in 1900 (Thelin, 2011). This brought about the emergence of true research institutions, where each discipline had a national society and publications that were open to qualified practitioners (Geiger, 2014). The wealth and energy of this period of growth produced rivalries and donors competing for the best universities (Thelin, 2011).  When research funding first appeared in the 1920s this competition intensified (Geiger, 2014).

universityMass higher education makes it appearance between 1920 and 1945 when enrollment in higher education increased fivefold, from 250,000 in 1920 to 1.43 million in 1945 (Thelin, 2011). This wave of campus building included stadiums and the emergence of the monumental campus (Thelin, 2011). It also ushered in the appearance of junior colleges, teachers colleges, and urban universities as the surge of new students continued to swell (Geiger, 2014). Women and minorities also appear in increasing numbers, although their acceptance by most colleges was restricted and both groups suffered significant discrimination during this period (Geiger, 2014). It was a time of intense growth and excess on campuses across the nation (Thelin, 2011).

Following World War II, from 1945 to 1970, higher education in America was in the midst of its Golden Age, a period of prosperity, prestige and popularity (Thelin, 2011). Growth in universities included not only increased enrollment, as the number of students continued to rise, but also an increase in the scope and quality of educational programs, primarily advanced academically selective programs (Thelin, 2011). Although enrollment had been at nearly 1.5 million prior to WWII, and dipped slightly during the war, it rose to 2.7 million by 1950, 3.6 million in 1960, and 7.9 million by 1970 (Thelin, 2011).

Troubling Developments in Higher Education

riotpoliceBetween 1970 and 1980 the beginning of the failure of confidence in higher education in America began, focussing initially on the lack of data to support its success and worsening with the oil embargo and falling profits margins in education (Thelin, 2011). The federal government became involved in funding higher education in the form of student financial aid during this time (Thelin, 2011). The emergence of high profile college athletics, the growth of research funding and the soaring cost of education, in addition to the social unrest of the 1970s, further contributed to more troubling times for higher education in America (Thelin, 2011).



Geiger, R.L. (2014). The history of American higher education: Learning and culture from the founding to world war II. Princeton University Press.

Thelin, J.R. (2011). A history of American higher education (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

The History of Women in Higher Education

The history of higher education itself is covered elsewhere in this blog. On this page the role of women in that history is considered.

Women’s Universities

Initially universities in America were closed to women, by statute (Thelin, 2011). Between 1800 and 1860 fourteen institutions of higher learning enrolled women and the earliest women’s colleges opened between 1840 and 1850 (Thelin, 2011). These included Knox University in Illinois, Wesleyan Female Seminary in Macon, Georgia, and Masonic University in Selma, Alabama (Thelin, 2011). Most of these early institutions were not called colleges and were intended to provide an excellent education for daughters of the wealthy along with preparation for traditional women’s roles in society such as household hostess, wife, and mother (Thelin, 2011).  It is also notable that these early institutions were controversial, viewed as extremist, and sought only by a minority of individuals (Thelin, 2011).

Wellesley College Quad
Wellesley College Quad

By the end of the civil war there was a movement for co-educational institutions and a few opened in the west and midwest, including at Cornell (Thelin, 2011). Unfortunately these institutions did not treat women as equal or even treat them well; women were segregated within the institution itself, discouraged from certain courses, and barred from all extracurricular activities (Thelin, 2011). The women, perhaps not surprisingly, ignored these restrictions and created their own extracurricular activities.  In addition, this was a period of significant growth in women’s colleges.  Between 1870 and 1890 many women’s colleges were formed including such notable institutions as Wellesley, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, and Smith, creating an intellectual environment for women such that many graduates of these programs went on to obtain advanced degrees in law, medicine, and PhD programs – it was a period of unprecedented opportunity for female students and faculty (Thelin, 2011).

Mount Holyoke
Mount Holyoke

Between 1880 and 1920 women’s colleges were hugely successful; enjoying the benefit of large endowments and patronage by the daughters of wealthy families they also shared a vision of themselves as pioneers in the dream of academic success for women (Thelin, 2011). Campus life was rich in extracurricular activities while emphasis was on preparation for graduate school as well as the social graces appropriate for women (Thelin, 2011). These institutions included the ‘Seven Sisters’ of women’s colleges along with other institutions. Coeducational facilities of the time continued to offer unequal treatment, both in the curriculum and on campus, where women were openly mocked by male students and barred from specific activities by university officials (Thelin, 2011). Other colleges, such as Harvard, set up separate female facilities rather than allow women to enroll. It was also during this time that the argument about the dangers of college for women, used in the past to discourage female enrollment and including such things as undue physical strain, ‘brain fever’, and the risk of becoming ‘unfeminine’, switched to concerns about the risk to young men of having women in class; clearly the women had demonstrated their ability to handle both the academic and physical challenges of college education (Thelin, 2011).

university2By 1940 women comprised about 40% of enrollments in college, with roughly 300,000 women in college just after World War I and nearly 600,000 on the eve of World War II (Thelin, 2011). Interestingly, although the goal remained high quality education for women, this did not include a commitment to reducing discrimination based on gender and resulted in things such a quotas for women in some colleges while the elite women’s colleges became known for creating a class of elite women who focussed little on social justice or the plight of average women (Thelin, 2011). During this period women enjoyed greater opportunities at coed colleges although they were still unlikely to hold positions of leadership; sororities and female activities likewise tended to operate as adjuncts to male organizations rather than organizations truly in their own right (Thelin, 2011). It is also notable that graduate opportunities for women were shrinking during this time and few women were admitted to law or medical school (Thelin, 2011).

The following video, created in 2013,  looks at women’s colleges in the 1960s with an eye to the pros and cons of separate education for men and women.

Title IX Policy

The biggest change in higher education for women came in the form of the Title IX legislation that was passed in 1972 (National Center for Education Statistics, 2013). This federal law protects people from gender discrimination in educational settings that receive federal financial assistance. Although this is not always understood, Title IX does not just apply to athletics but to all forms of education at institutions that receive federal funds, and does not apply just to women but to all people.  It also applies to discrimination based on parenting, pregnancy, sexual harassment, and sexual violence. There is much more about campus violence on the Women in Society page, along with a good deal more information about the current rates of college attendance and the success of women on campus.

Notable Women in Higher Education

Various sources exist for examining the notable women who have contributed to higher education. The following short video was prepared for the Michael Tilford Conference on Diversity and Multiculturalism in 2012. This is an annual conference conducted by the University of Kansas and sponsored by the The Tilford Group.  The inspirational women featured in this video offer a glimpse of the work of women who sought to positively impact higher education in America over the years.



National Center for Education Statistics. (2013). Fast facts: Title IX. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=93

Pasque, P.A. & Nicholson, S.E. (Eds.). (2011). Empowering women in higher education and student affairs: Theory, research, narratives, and practice from feminist perspectives. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Solomon, B.M. (1985). In the company of educated women. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Thelin, J.R. (2011). A history of American higher education (2nd ed. ). Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Women in Higher Education: Nursing Implications

Nurses are highly thought of by the general public. So high, in fact, that nurses are consistently ranked number one among all professions for honesty and ethics according to a Gallup (2015) poll that has been conducted annually since 1999. Yet as a primarily female profession and despite being an increasingly well-educated one, with the proliferation of advanced practice nurses and initiatives to promote doctoral education in nursing, nurses have struggled to cope with issues that women everywhere face: issues of equality, recognition, and advancement. It is the impact of these issues on the university setting, and the relationship of these issues with nursing and nursing practice, that is the focus of this post.

Rest Hour at the Columbia Teachers College, 1921
Rest Hour at the Columbia Teachers College, 1921

There are many topics to consider in this broad issue, and specific information is available elsewhere in this blog. The history of American higher education is important to understand in the context of the institutions in America, and more specifically the history of women in higher education, which provides illumination on the views about women and education in the history of America.  The topic of women in higher education is impossible to examine without specific information about the role of women in society, including an overview of American versus world issues, feminist issues, and significant barriers to women that exist in American society. You are encouraged to review these pages as a prelude to the discussion below.

The role of the nurse and the role of the nurse educator, in the context of the information presented in these pages, is the primary focus of this page.  How does the information presented on these other pages affect nursing education and nursing research?

Where Does Nursing Fit in?

In considering the topic of women in higher education and how it relates to nursing it is clear that this is a topic with multiple interrelated concerns. The education of nurses is impacted by the history of higher education and of women in higher education. Issues that become apparent in reviewing those topics include the role of women in society and the barriers that continue to impact women today. These issues impact nurses as women functioning in a university setting as well as nurses interacting with patients that are impacted by these issues.

A hospital corridor

An additional area that nurses must manage is their relationship with other health care providers, relationships which are often deeply affected by the issues impacting women in society. A study by Sirota (2007) looked at the relationship between nurses and physicians, specifically trying to identify if the historically notable tensions between the two professions continues. Unfortunately she found this to be true, and respondents to her survey identified four majors issues that they believe contribute to the problem: inappropriate or abusive behavior by physicians, dismissive attitudes towards nurses, power/gender issues, and communication/collaboration issues (Sirota, 2007). It is perhaps not a coincidence that these issues reflect the issues identified as obstacles for women in society.

Nurses as University Students and Faculty

Obviously nurses exist on college campuses and institutions of higher learning both as students as as faculty. As such, female student nurses are exposed to the potential dangers of violence towards women on campus while faculty are engaged in work in what is sometimes disparagingly referred to as one of the ‘kitchens’ in the university setting; that is, colleges dominated by women and  often viewed as less powerful and less important by university officials (Thelin, 2011). Lack of recognition for work performed, failure to be promoted at the same rate as men, and pay inequities are all issues faced by female faculty in the university setting. Awareness of these issues, and the corollary of how these issues impact our patients, is a significant concern for both nursing students and faculty.

Nurses as Holistic Health Care Providers

Nurses are taught a holistic approach to patient care, one that encompasses not only the patient and their family, but also the community, care continuity, chronic disease management, patient education, prevention and wellness care, and information management (ANA, 2010). There are few relationships as intimate as the relationship between a nurse and a patient – nurses attend their patients during births and deaths, through frightening procedures and terrifying outcomes. Nurses often bear witness to the intense suffering as well as the beauty of the authentic person encountered during times of tremendous stress and life change. The care for our patients often encompasses all aspects of their health, including how they are affected by their role in our society.

Additionally, the role of the advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) expands this to care in multiple speciality areas and as potential leaders in integrated care systems (ANA, 2010). In 2011 there were over 3.5 million nurses employed in the United States, about 4% of which were either nurse practitioners or nurse anesthetists (US Census, 2013).

Nurses are often referred to as advocates for their patients.  This is a role that is no less important in the area of women in society and women in higher education. Nurses need to be given the tools needed to address these issues both professionally and personally.

Men in Nursing

US Supreme Court
US Supreme Court

Of course not all nurses are women and the history of men in the profession has not always been a smooth one. Nursing had significant male representation through the 1800’s due to the relationship between nursing and military and religious groups (US Census, 2013).  This changed drastically in the 1900s when men were often refused admission based on gender, a practice that only ended with the finding of discrimination by the US Supreme Court in 1981 (US Census, 2013).

The number of men in nursing has increased steadily in recent years with men making up 2.7% of registered nurses in 1970 and rising to 9.6% in 2011 (US Census, 2013).  Male representation is highest among nurse anesthetists where 41% are men (US Census, 2013).  As in other professions, pay inequity is a concern, with male nurses making more than their female counterparts – this gap continues even among nurses in the same specialty areas.  Female registered nurses make 91 cents for every dollar earned by their male co-workers and female nurse practitioners make 81 cents for every dollar earned by male nurse practitioners (US Census, 2013). More detailed information about pay inequality can be found on the Women in Society page.

Male Nurse
Male Nurse

Regardless of these issues, however, male nurses face the same issues that female nurses face in terms of caring for their patients and their relationships with other healthcare professions. Male nurses have much to contribute to the profession of nursing, both in the university setting and in the practice of nursing, and the contribution they can make on the issue of women in higher education is potentially huge.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Nursing Education

Many suggestions have been identified for the education of nurses in regards to the issues covered here.  To address the issue of relationships with physicians and other health care professionals Sirota (2007) recommends empowering nurses by providing an excellent education and instilling a desire to stay current with their profession so as to increase confidence and security in their knowledge base. She also recommends that nurses maintain a professional demeanor at all times in relating with physicians and others as equals in a collegial, respectful, and problem-solving manner. These are skills and beliefs that can and should be taught at all levels of nursing education.

All students and faculty on the university or college campus should be provided with information regarding the risk of violence against women on campus and the training to be a proactive bystander. A model for this can be found on the University of Kentucky website on the Green Dot Program. That page contains an extensive list of  strategies appropriate for all people. Immersion in this type of program should be mandatory for all faculty and students.

All students and faculty should also be educated about the information provided in these pages, in the role of women in American society and the impact of that role on women in higher education, including use of many of the materials provided. The application of this information includes anticipating issues in professional life, such as negotiating for salary and position, and awareness of the behaviors required for advancement, as well as being sensitive for these issues in the patients that nurses encounter.

Photo by Odan Jaeger
Photo by Odan Jaeger

In 2011 the Institute of Medicine released its landmark work on the Future of Nursing.  One of the mandates in this work was that nurses be full partners with physicians and other health care professionals in rebuilding health care in America (IOM, 2011). To that end, and as a means of impacting on the role of nurses in the university setting as well as in the hospital setting, leadership skills should be incorporated at all levels of nursing education. Bianco, Dudkiewicz, and Linette (2014) view this as fundamentally important to the future of nursing in higher education and in health care.

Finally, the role of nurses as advocates needs to be emphasized at all levels of nursing education and expanded to include advocating for nursing itself. Nurses need to be involved socially, politically, and individually for the benefit of their patients and the profession of nursing. If we are to truly achieve an egalitarian society, we need the support and work of all professions. As a primarily female profession intimately involved in the lives of so many women, it behooves us to start with ourselves.

Nursing Research

There is a huge need for more research by nurses on the issues mentioned in this blog. This would include the following topics, in particular:

– Nurse/physician relationships in the context of interdisciplinary work and cooperative endeavors.

Photo by Odan Jaeger
Photo by Odan Jaeger

– Ways to incorporate the plethora of social sciences and theories of human behavior into nursing practice. This is for the purpose of improved patient care, improved social interactions, and more effective educational interventions.

– Factors influencing advancement, tenure, pay, and recognition for women in higher education – this is an area that is not fully understood, despite multiple theories.

– Studies on the effectiveness of interventions to prevent violence on campus and to intervene with the perpetrators as well as campus staff.

– Research into the effectiveness of methods of social reform – how can a more equal society be encouraged without loss of individual freedoms?



American Nurses Association (ANA). (2010). New care delivery models in health system reform: Opportunities for nurses & their patients. Retrieved from: http://www.nursingworld.org/MainMenuCategories/Policy-Advocacy/Positions-and-Resolutions/Issue-Briefs/Care-Delivery-Models.pdf

Bianco, C., Dudkiewicz, P.B. & Linette, D. (2014). Building nurse leader relationships. Nursing Management, 42-47.

Carter, J. (2014). A call to action: Women, religion, violence, and power. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Gallup. (2014). Honesty/ethics in professions. Retrieved from: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1654/honesty-ethics-professions.aspx?version=print 

Institute of Medicine. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington D.C.: The National Academies press.

Morris, L.V. (2011). Women in higher education: Access, success, and the future. Innovative Higher Education, 36, 145-147.

Sirota, T. (2007). Nurse/physician relationships: Improving or not? Nursing2007, 37(1), 52-55. Retrieved from: http://www.nursingcenter.com/lnc/pdfjournal?AID=686652&an=00152193-200701000-00040&Journal_ID=&Issue_ID=

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