Gender Inequality in Higher Education

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 18
Words: 45693
Reading time:
154 min
Study level: Master


The problem of gender inequality has been a persistent and unresolved issue in social and professional life in the United States of America and globally. The implications of the problem for higher education proved to be omnipresent, including women’s underrepresentation in leadership positions, gender-based discrimination cases, sexual harassment, inequality-oriented organizational culture, and HR-practices. Despite measures implemented to prevent and eliminate gender issues, including regulatory, organizational, and community initiatives, inequality remains prevalent in higher education settings, threatening career advancement and personal accomplishment opportunities for women. Representation of women in higher education leadership positions is scarce, illustrating male dominance in science, technologies, engineering, and mathematics. This dissertation aimed to identify the causes and prevalence of gender-based discrimination and explore the most effective practices for eliminating the problem and develop a diversity training program for higher education institutions. The theoretical frameworks used for the study were the Feminist Standpoint Theory and the Neo-Positivist Theory. The research utilized a qualitative design to investigate the problem and find solutions to it. Data was collected through document review and online interviews with thirteen sampled participants representing a diverse population of higher education leaders from the USA. The data analysis method that allowed for categorizing participants’ responses was thematic analysis. Identified themes and the interviewed leaders’ recommendations were used to develop an evidence-based interactive training program for higher education staff.

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Key Words: inequality, gender, higher education, leadership, gender inequality, gender discrimination, glass ceiling, inequality in higher education, gender mainstreaming, diversity training, workplace discrimination.


Gender inequality in higher education has been persistent despite deliberate measures implemented to reduce it. It is a challenging issue across all workplace settings (Jayachandran, 2015; Thébaud, 2015). However, in higher education, it has been identified as a particularly troubling issue (Clauset, Arbesman, & Larremore, 2015; Duong, Wu, & Hoang, 2017). A prime example of gender inequality in higher education is the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles (Aiston & Yang, 2017).

The goal of this study was to investigate the perspectives of current higher education leaders, including administrators and faculty members, about gender inequality. The dissertation sought to identify examples, challenges, and ultimately best practices to tackle this issue in higher education settings. The 13 leaders who participated provided accounts of the impact of institutional policies related to gender equality. Educational leaders are likely to have insights about gender equality, based on their experiences and familiarity with the efforts aimed at reducing gender inequality in their institutions (Jayachandran, 2015; Thébaud, 2015). A qualitative approach was used to investigate these topics. Included in the study were email interviews with educational leaders, with the aim to gather relevant information that could be analyzed to uncover a better understanding of gender equality. The perspectives of both men and women were introduced.


This section of the research (Gender expression) gives an overview of the concept of gender expression. This information is provided based on the available public opinion in non-academic sites and media. It is important to note that gender expression of an emerging concept, and not much academic work has been written in this line. Thus, some of the discussions presented here are meant for illustration purposes and do not in any way qualify one’s personal idea about their understanding of their gender identity and how they express themselves in public. More research is still in progress around this concept; therefore, newer interpretations may still arise and change some of the assertions made in this section. Thus, the perspectives given here should be used for informational purposes only and not as an alternative for professional advice. In case anyone needs professional advice, they should seek psychological experts for such services. The information thus obtained is used to fulfill the purpose of the present research, which is to investigate gender equality in higher education from faculty perspectives and in no way define or assign specific attributes to a certain gender.

Gender expression

More people in different parts of the world are increasingly beginning to identify themselves as transgender or non-binary openly. Consequently, there have been increased conversations regarding gender, gender expressions, and sexuality (Ontario Human Rights Commission, n.d). In most cases, these terms are often confused or used to mean the other loosely. However, failing to understand their specific meanings can make it challenging for some individuals to understand concepts such as queerness and transness. Therefore, a short guideline is given to help understand these terms and put them in the context of this study.

Gender identity is used to describe one’s perspective of themselves regarding gender. Most babies are labeled male or female from the appearance of their genitalia, except for the intersex. However, assigning such genders to the kids does not reflect on the gender identity of the children or how they may be in the future. According to López (2020), individuals who find it challenging to identify with their assigned gender are referred to as non-binary, transgender, or sometimes both, while those who fit within the assigned gender from birth are called cisgender. Therefore, one can identify themselves as a man or woman despite having been assigned a different gender at birth.

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Gender expression refers to how an individual chooses to present their gender. According to (Smart Sex Resource, n.d.), one can show themselves to the public based on the clothes they decide to wear, their hairstyle, their interests, and any other physical forms they choose to express themselves. Gender expression does not dictate an individual’s gender identity. For example, a girl can dress and act as a boy or tend to play with boys, yet the girl knows that she is not a boy, only has the urge and the attitudes traditionally associated with boys. This idea applies to binary individuals as non-binary or transgender people (Smart Sex Resource, n.d.). For example, a woman who is transgender is still a woman even if she has a muscular body, and a transman is like any other man even if he has an unmuscular body and hips.

Even though the concept of gender has been hidden for a long by the public, recent global events have made it possible for people to appreciate gender differences.

Social Justice

Social justice is a new phenomenon, which refers to the theory of political or philosophical nature, focusing on the idea of fairness regarding an individual and their community or society and the implied equal access to various resources, opportunities, and privileges. As a new concept resulting from immigration and globalization, social justice has not been widely covered by academicians since its emergence in the 19th century during the industrial revolution (Corporate Finance Institute, 2021). Social justice mainly considered some social problems such as distributing resources such as property, land, wealth, and capital as there was prevalent economic distress, which resulted from the European social class structure. However, the concept has evolved over the years and currently covers a wide range of issues in society.

In modern days, social justice strongly deals with human rights and life improvements for marginalized communities or groups, especially those who have faced a historical record of societal discrimination. In particular, different people have been discriminated against based on their sex, age, social status, race, religion, ethnicity, color, and economic status. The main intention of instituting social justice is to help redistribute resources equally among all the people, based on the merit of allocation (Head to health, 2019). Organizations should consider principles such as equity, access to resources, equal participation, diversity, and human rights.

Providing access to resources has been considered one of the main approaches to empowering women in different sectors. It is a vital component of social justice, referring to the extent to which various categories with the social and economic realms interact to give and receive the benefits of even distributed ability for everyone to start life. Women also need equity in different areas of life, including in institutions of learning and workplaces. Equity is the quality of giving individuals the tools that they need to some or all their specific needs and fulfilling their desire to reach and maintain some socioeconomic status. Social equity has existed since the early 1960s, though it was used in the context of public administration (Corporate Finance Institute, 2021). Consequently, equity can be addressed through policy formulations, which should address social problems and provide support frameworks to help overcome existing systemic barriers to achieving it.

Participation is crucial as it allows women to have a voice and the opportunity to talk about their concerns and opinions regarding any issues in society. Women can help address some of the problems existing within their communities and globally when they are given a platform to speak. According to Corporate Finance Institute (2021), participation has given women the opportunities to contribute immensely in different aspects such as academics, professionalism, and governance. Diversity is also essential as it helps in including people derived from a range of various social and ethnic backgrounds, different in sexual orientation, gender, religion, or opinions. Women from diverse backgrounds should be involved in social solutions in the corporate, education, and professional lines. Lastly, human rights are some of the most crucial social justice principles that form its foundation in most cases. Women’s rights can be violated from different aspects, including the right to life, self-expression, and equal chances in society. Moreover, these rights also include freedoms, such as expression and speech. Therefore, it is essential to understand that violating a woman’s rights affects all other principles of social justice.

Statement of the Problem

Historically, the differences in the status of men and women have resulted from economic, social, and cultural causes (Clauset, Arbesman, & Larremore, 2015; Duong, Wu, & Hoang, 2017). The segregation of labor, according to which women are supposed to maintain the household while men are expected to work outside of it, has been a significant factor for many centuries. To this day, it is more common for women to be housewives than it is for men to be househusbands (Hurst, 2015; Winslow & Davis, 2016). Given that household chores are not typically paid labor, this arrangement results in an imbalance of power and resources. This arrangement has been a part of what are commonly called “gender roles;” which are gender-related expectations that in many societies, including the US, involved viewing men as the dominant gender (Hurst, 2015). As a result of such gendered stereotypes, women can be perceived as less competitive, less competent, and unfit for leadership to this day (Beaumont, 2016; Hurst, 2015). Thus, a complex intersection of socioeconomic and cultural factors has resulted in gender inequality in the US.

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The mentioned causes are also pertinent to the context of educational institutions. Research suggests that hiring may be subject to implicit bias (Clauset et al., 2015), which could explain the gender disparity in leadership positions. Furthermore, men and women are differently represented in various fields of education, which, coincidentally, correspond to the stereotypes about “male” and “female” fields of expertise (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Naturally, if any of these fields experiences a decline, one of the genders will be affected to a greater extent. It should also be noted that the economic aspect is not inapplicable to the settings: women are still expected to be more engaged in childrearing and household chores, which limits the time that they can spend on their work (Hurst, 2015). This factor may explain the prevalence of women in part-time jobs, as well as a certain element of the hiring bias (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Presently there is data which suggest that these causes of gender inequality are present in higher education (Aiston & Yang, 2017).

Gender inequality can be described as the unequal treatment of genders (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Historically, women were directly and legally discriminated against in the workplace and elsewhere based on their gender. For example, women did not have the right to vote in the United States until 1920, when the corresponding amendment was added to the US Constitution (U.S. Const. amend. XIX). Later, other steps towards achieving legal equality were taken to protect the rights of US women to work (Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and earn (the Equal Pay Act of 1963) (Beaumont, 2016; Evans, 2016). After the legal safeguards were instituted, additional measures to improve women’s employment opportunities were developed, including gender equality policies, education, and affirmative action (Klein, 2016). Despite that history of reform, gender equality has not yet been achieved for women in the US.

While it is illegal to discriminate under US law, research indicates that it still occurs. For example, women are still underrepresented in positions of power (Beaumont, 2016; Clauset et al., 2015). An inference can be made that this is not a coincidence, or a representation of a lesser skill set. Furthermore, certain methods of achieving gender equality are not effective; for example, Affirmative Action was described as problematic because it could be interpreted as the result of viewing women as deficient and unable to succeed on their own (Klein, 2016). Today, the research on the topic is more extensive than it was a few decades ago, and the history of efforts aimed at reducing inequality can be used to inform future decisions (Aiston & Yang, 2017; Bank, 2011; Barnes, 2020; De Lange, 2006; Kezar, 2014).

The urgency of the problem at hand is validated by the abundance of adverse outcomes of gender inequality if we do nothing, especially for the security status of women. If the problem is not tackled and effective solutions are not found and applied in a timely manner, the persistent negative effects of gender inequality will prevail. In particular, the lack of equal pay and segregation in the allocation of leadership positions depending on gender leads to women’s higher risk of poverty (Renzulli et al., 2013). Lower wages and diminished opportunities to be promoted to higher-rank positions in the workplace economically burden women who are breadwinners for their children. Moreover, the lack of female representation in leadership positions hinders their opportunities to influence decision-making that ultimately causes disproportionate gender-biased organizational management and triggers a vicious circle. Another significant concern that validates the urgency of the problem of gender inequality in educational leadership is health issues, which directly derive from harmful workplace culture and employee relations characterized by discrimination and harassment (Homan, 2017). Thus, the problem must be addressed urgently to eliminate gender inequality as a risk factor for women’s persistent social, economic, and health outcomes.

Purpose of the Study

It is apparent that higher education saw some improvements in the past years regarding gender inequality. In the US, the number of women in leadership positions keeps growing, which is partially attributed to legislative and policy-related improvements (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Similarly, various types of diversity management approaches appear to have a positive impact (Klein, 2016). In the modern age, people have a better understanding of gender stereotypes and their harmful implications, and the development of digital communications assists in spreading this information (Grosser & Moon, 2005).

However, some negative consequences are also present, and they affect most people involved in higher education. Women are denied important advancement opportunities (Winslow & Davis, 2016), students lack necessary role models (Klein, 2016), and faculty and administration are deprived of potentially valuable members (Winslow & Davis, 2016). The general climate of gender inequality, especially if it is pronounced, may harm any woman that has to study or work in it. To summarize, gender inequality is a problem that requires investigation and solutions.

Leadership in Higher Education and Gender Inequality

There is an apparent connection between gender inequality and a lack of representation by women in the leadership of higher education institutions (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). Women remain underrepresented. Currently, about two-thirds of the US higher education leadership positions are taken by men (Winslow & Davis, 2016), and the disparity tends to increase for the most prominent posts such as chancellor or president (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). As a result, this study’s approach in choosing leaders as the source of information on gender inequality in education was justified. Participants who were leaders were able to share personal experiences of being promoted, and many of them were able to make comments from the perspective of a person who is involved in hiring others. Aside from hiring, though, participants were likely to be familiar with their institutions’ gender equality efforts, which also made their contribution valuable.

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In addition, the perspectives of educational leaders and faculty in higher education represented the least studied group of actors in this arena. There are many studies on gender shifts or disparities among students (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016) but few based on leadership perspectives. Since leaders are charged with implementing gender equality programs, their insights were critical.

Theoretical Framework

Feminist Standpoint Theory (FST) guided this study. It was characterized as the second major wave of feminism in the United States that was founded in the 1980s (Mosedale, 2014). FST does not have one particular author or founder. It was developed through years and contributed to by several strong feminist theorists, including Smith (1997), Collins (2002), and Harding (2004). The list of people involved in the development of this theory is not full, and it is necessary to admit that some contributors did not even know each other. This theory was introduced as a feminist epistemology, and it was used to explain the cases of oppression of people based on their gender. FST does not reject objectivity, but it highlights the fact that knowledge is socially constructed and situated (Mosedale, 2014). In other words, according to the supporters of FST, society is the root of knowledge.

According to Hekman (2013), another strong aspect of FST is its attempt to understand the nature of oppression experienced by women. Social reality is complex, and it is important to recognize a feminist standpoint regarding the experiences of women in different fields. To be heard and recognized, women must develop their standpoints and protect their positions (Hekman, 2013). It is a political achievement that has a social nature. Some women are ready to take steps and protect their opinions, and some women are in need of motivation and promotion (Hekman, 2013).

Regarding the nature of FST and the participation of several theorists in its development, a number of concepts can be identified in a study. Smith (1997) is one of the developers of the FST, and her field of interest is sociology. As a result, she added the idea of the relationships between people of both genders to her feminist theory (Hekman, 2013). In a similar way, Harding (2004) supports the importance of sustainability that may be observed in cultures, human needs, and scientific discrimination. Finally, the work of Collins (2002) helps to identify the role of stereotypes in the discussions of gender inequality.

The dissertation used FST as its conceptual theory, adopting a few of its critical terms, including “gender inequality,” “feminism,” “stereotype,” “social relationships,” and “sustainability” (Mosedale, 2014). It was based on the idea that gender equality in higher education and leadership presupposed the participation of all gender expressions in higher education leadership, and the differences in the genders’ representation is viewed as a symptom of inequality, which is a common approach to framing the two terms (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). From this perspective, feminist theories assist in identifying such concepts as marginalization, domination, and stereotyping (Hekman, 2013). They also incorporate the idea of the importance of offering women with diverse perspectives an opportunity to voice their thoughts and concerns based on their personal standpoints and understandings of what they have to do and what they want to do (Hekman, 2013; Mosedale, 2014). From the perspective of this dissertation, such an approach to valuing individual voices can be used to justify the methodology used in this research (via email interviews).

To summarize, the study used FST to consider the concept of gender inequality in higher education and cover the related gap in research. Even though there are recent articles and books about gender inequality as such, which can cover the US and education (Dunn et al., 2014; Evans, 2016; Hadjar & Gross, 2016; Mosedale, 2014), there are not many recent studies dedicated to gender equality in higher education leadership in the US. The dissertation contributed more information on the topic, helping to cover the mentioned gap. From this perspective, FST was used to define and frame the key concepts and terms of the dissertation, and it also provides justification for its methodology, which will be discussed in the next section.

Research Questions

The research questions addressed in this study were:

  1. How do educational leaders perceive the issue of gender inequality in higher education settings?
  2. How do educational leaders perceive the challenges of gender inequality in higher education settings?
  3. What are educational leaders’ best practices to address gender inequality in higher education settings?
  4. What are the possibilities of conducting training aimed at enhancing gender equality awareness and adoption of appropriate practice?

Significance of the Study

Gender inequality still exists that affect people employed in higher education administration, which impact important facets of university life, such as cooperation with students, educational leadership, and academic management (Jayachandran, 2015; Thébaud, 2015). For this study, educational leaders were the focus, but it is difficult to deny that gender inequality is a complex problem which affects everyone in the field. As a result, the topic is frequently discussed by researchers worldwide (Clauset et al., 2015; Hadjar & Gross, 2016; Loots & Walker, 2015). Some of the key issues that are currently cited as evidence of gender inequality include the unequal representation of women in positions of power, in addition to the fact that women are more likely to take part-time jobs and lower-paying positions in higher education (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016).

In the past, solutions to address gender equality have been proposed. The efforts that are commonly employed to reduce inequality include legislation, policies, affirmative action, diversity management, and diversity training (Klein, 2016; O’Connor, Carvalho, Vabø, & Cardoso, 2015; Spain, 2016). Legislation like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 can be used to illustrate the former category (Beaumont, 2016; Evans, 2016). Laws were specifically designed for educational institutions, such as Title IX of the Educational Amendments, which establishes that no gender-based discrimination in education should occur (Spain, 2016). However, legislation was complemented by other approaches, including but not limited to Affirmative Action.

Affirmative Action is not a new concept; it has been applied to other characteristics, such as race and ethnicity (Horowitz et al., 2017). Regarding an attempt to abate gender discrimination against women, it has been a different-level policy since the 1980s. In higher education, it consisted of establishing bodies that developed programs meant for supporting women (Klein, 2016; Potvin, Burdfield-Steel, Potvin, & Heap, 2018; Spain, 2016). Klein (2016) points out that Affirmative Action has been criticized for targeting only women, resulting in what could be described as preferential treatment. From this perspective, women could be viewed as incapable or needing special assistance to come up to standard, or incapable of succeeding without somebody’s help, which would promote stereotypes rather than challenge them. As a result, the effectiveness of this approach was called into question (Klein, 2016).

However, Affirmative Action programs were not dismissed as useless. Rather, they have been expanded and complemented by other programs that support several diverse groups in higher education, becoming a form of diversity management (Klein, 2016; O’Connor et al., 2015; Potvin et al., 2018). In addition, Klein (2016) comments on the implementation of training programs that are aimed at dismantling bias by educating people on the matters of inequality and diversity. In summary, various efforts aimed at reducing inequality and promoting equality in higher education have a history of a few decades, during which both effective and ineffective measures have been proposed and tested.

The numerous attempts at combating gender discrimination have already improved the systems of education in different countries (Hadjar & Gross, 2016). For instance, in the US, as well as the European Union, the number of female enrollees in educational institutions exceeds that of men, and there has been an increase in the number of women in educational leadership since the 1990s (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). However, inequality persists within higher education settings. The different representation of genders in various fields of education and the fact that women still account for one-third of the faculty (while women are more than half the students) are the prime examples (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Moreover, for women, it takes longer to get promoted to professor or to top administrative positions, which are mostly occupied by men while women are relegated to part-time and temporary positions (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). The latter factor also contributes to the wage gap (Winslow & Davis, 2016), with men earning significantly more than women in general in higher education.

The reasons for the persistence of these symptoms may be numerous. First, not all efforts that are aimed at improving diversity are effective (Klein, 2016). They may fail because of their inherent flaws (as, for example, may be the case with Affirmative Action) or because they are not implemented well. The latter outcome may be a result of the persistence of gender bias, which does not have to be conscious (Beaumont, 2016). While legislative and policy-related methods of combating inequality are important, the understanding of barriers to their effective use is also required, especially since it can suggest more effective solutions.

Finding solutions for inequality is important for several reasons. First, gender inequality is a challenge for the personal and professional development of everyone involved in higher education (Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2014). Educational leaders have an impact on students and staff alike (Klein, 2016). Both male and female leaders become role models for their students, as well as the community, which is why the equal representation of genders in educational leadership is important. The existing trends, in which women are less likely to hold significant positions than men, also indicate the unequal distribution of power and resources between genders (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). Without gender equality, these trends will persist. Students, graduates, staff, and administrators will be denied promotion opportunities based on their gender, which, in turn, will proceed to impact their wages (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Furthermore, students will not be exposed to female role models as often as they will encounter male role models, which may contribute to the implicit bias towards women and perpetuate negative stereotypes (Beaumont, 2016). These facts highlight the importance of combating gender inequality.

Definition of Key Terms

Definitions of key terms, which are most frequently used in the paper and are significant for research, are presented below:

  • Gender – The attitudes, behaviors, norms, and roles that a society or culture associates with an individual’s sex, thus the social differences between female and male; the meanings attached to being feminine or masculine (Bell, 2013).
  • Gender Inequality – The social process by which men and women are not treated as equal representatives of population (Renzulli et al., 2013).
  • Educational leaders – A collaborate process that unites the talents and forces of teachers, administrative and other employees in the efforts to achieve organizational excellence (Campbell, 2018).
  • Quotas in the workplace – A requirement to hire a set number of employees of a particular race or gender (Maggian et al., 2020).
  • Glass ceiling – An artificial, unseen, and often unacknowledged discriminatory barrier that prevents otherwise qualified people such as women and minorities from rising to positions of leadership and power, particularly within a corporation (Bell, 2013).
  • Sticky floor – A term which refers to low-paying, low-prestige, and low-mobility jobs typically held by women. (Bell, 2013).
  • Gender biases – A form of unconscious bias, or implicit bias, which occurs when one individual unconsciously attributes certain attitudes and stereotypes to another person or group of people. These ascribed behaviors affect how the individual understands and engages with others (Reiners, 2019, para. 3).
  • Gender discrimination – a situation in which someone is treated less well because of their sex, usually when a woman is treated less well than a man (Cambridge University Press, n. d.).
  • Gender Policy – A policy aimed to contribute to better services for both women and men, through policies and programs which give more attention to gender considerations and promote equity and equality between women and men (Cambridge University Press, n. d.).
  • Organizational diversity -The term refers to equality of opportunity and employment without any bias because of these traits. According to the concept, “anyone who has the talent and passion to make it big in the professional world ought to get an opportunity to showcase his/her talent. Organizations eventually benefit from the innovate ideas of all individuals when pooled together” (Juneja, 2015, para. 6).


The purpose of this study was to examine the role of gender in higher education and its impact on educational leadership with a focus on gender inequality, its consequences, and possible solutions to it. The problem that the research considered was gender inequality in private for-profit and nonprofit educational administrations. The main phenomena that were discussed are in higher education as presented by educational leaders. They were able to report on their understanding of the issue, as well as the challenges and the best practices that they knew. Through the investigation of these perspectives, the study was able to achieve its goal: it did contribute some data that may assist in improving the understanding of gender inequality in higher education.

To sum up, gender inequality is an issue that causes problems for higher education in many countries, including the USA. Its persistence indicates that there are barriers to reducing inequality, the reasons for which are important to investigate. Currently, research on the topic is expanding, with others examining the existing experience and using findings to inform future decisions. The present study contributed to this trend.

Literature Review

This chapter is comprised of an extensive review of literature addressing the issues related to gender inequality in the workplace in general and the higher educational setting, in particular. The review of relevant literature provided a thorough theoretical and evidentiary background for problem investigation and solution search. The history of women in higher education leadership, legal implications of equality in the workplace, the challenges of inequality, and best practices addressing these challenges, are broadly discussed in this chapter.

Introduction to the Problem

The world’s leading countries have entered the information age, which is characterized by the transition to the intellectualization of production and continuous innovation processes in most industries (Potvin, et al., 2018). Given such a shift, interminable education in intellectual professions objectively increases the role of science and higher education, as well as the role of scientific and pedagogical workers in the development of society. The problem is related to the contradiction between the need to increase the presence of women among highly qualified specialists and the preservation of various kinds of barriers limiting their career growth and upward social mobility (Beaumont, 2016; Hurst, 2015).

Even if the representation of women in higher education and science is large enough, they are still discriminated against and are subject to stereotypes and bias on the basis of gender affiliation. Gender stratification leads to an unequal distribution of social valuable resources between men and women in society, reflecting different positions in the social hierarchy (Geist et al., 2017). The existence of gender stereotypes in the labor market leads to vertical segregation, or a “glass ceiling” in the appointment of women to leadership positions. Experts associate the concept of a “glass ceiling” with the phenomenon of a “sticky floor” – the lack of opportunities for women to start their career quickly and restraining their careers at an early stage (Bank, 2011). Gender asymmetry also manifests itself in informal scientific communication, when, following the interests of the dominant gender group in the scientific community, a woman must make special efforts to achieve recognition (De Welde & Stepnick, 2015). Thus, the prevailing stereotypes discourage young women scientists from participating in scientific research, which complicates their career and creative growth in the further professional educational sphere.

Difficulties arise even at the stage of employment when during an interview, women are assessed according to a larger number of criteria. According to the empirical studies, men are commonly assessed only by professional skills, while women are subject to demonstrating benevolence and morality in addition to professionalism (Renzulli et al., 2013). Those female candidates who demonstrate the lack or inadequate development of these two additional traits, are excluded (Renzulli et al., 2013). That is, women must “have everything” in order to get a chance to get the desired job at the university. However, at the same time, if a woman is of childbearing age, even meeting the above criteria does not always help to be hired. In addition, women’s work is viewed with more prejudice, and managers tend to attribute the achievements of women, especially in science, to their efforts rather than their abilities.

Gender stereotypes are formed through family education, school education system, the media, and established cultural traditions. On the one hand, gender stereotypes create a solid system of worldview and allow members of society to interpret social phenomena and processes in accordance with established views and principles of behavior. On the other hand, the presence of gender stereotypes in society is the cause of several barriers in the consciousness and behavior of people, which determine unequal relations between men and women. This is because traditional behavioral gender roles remain in the public consciousness. Gender roles shape certain types of thinking and behavior of men and women depending on their gender in different social situations (Gartzia & van Knippenberg, 2016).

Like any stereotypes, gender stereotypes are subject to changes over time, namely conservation, modification, and transformation. The persistence of gender stereotypes over time is associated with the concept of gender order. Stereotypes are constantly reproduced in the process of gender role interaction practices. Factors influencing the modification of gender stereotyping are age, social status, educational level, and worldview (Seierstad, Gabaldon, & Mensi-Klarbach, 2017). Accordingly, with the change in social ideas and norms, social status and other components, gender stereotypes also change. The attitude of men towards women and women towards themselves in the conditions of the existence of society has changed greatly in recent years. Images reflecting the traditional perception of gender standards today successfully coexist with changed ideas about gender-based social roles and expectations.

Mainstreaming a gender perspective in education and the media can be the main way to overcome gender stereotypes. The topic of equality (in historical, sociological, and political contexts) should be included in educational programs at all levels (Archibong et al., 2018; Shannon et al., 2019). It needs to be discussed and broadcast through the media. An important condition is the formation of views on equal inclusion in the scientific community of both men and women. In addition, a professional approach to public discussion of gender equality issues during outreach activities is required, since changes in curricula and the education system should be carried out in parallel with changes in the system of social norms and attitudes among universities staff. In this context, it seems appropriate to systematically consider the problem of gender inequality in education, including in a historical retrospective.

History of Women in Higher Education

Parker (2015) states that the desire of women to attend higher education institutions in 1830s and 1840s in the United States triggered a significant debate. In the debate that lasted for a century, the conservatives held that the role of women including homemakers, wives and mothers would not require college education. On the other hand, liberals claimed that higher education would assist the women in playing their roles better even if it is at the household level. By 1875, there were about seven women colleagues including Barnard, Smith, Mount Holyoke, Vassar, Bryn Mawr, Wellesley, and Radcliffe, all aimed at meeting the demand for college education for women (Parker, 2015). The first generation of women graduates demonstrated their determination to play active role by seeking position in their colleges as alumni. The colleges started realizing the advantages of having women in various leadership and administration roles leading to increasing number of women professors, deans, and administrators at the institutions.

The number of women students had increased significantly, which led to the increased number of female faculty, advisors, and counselors to cater for the female students. In 1892, the first dean of women, Alice Palmer, was appointed the position for the first time at the University of Chicago. By the 1940s, the dean of women and women in other leadership positions had established themselves strongly in higher education institutions. In the 1950s, years after the World War II, women in different leadership and employment, and in higher education declined significantly. The restoration of the values of “natural” mission, lost during the period of active involvement of women in military production, became part of the conservative policy of the 1950s. The concept of “republican motherhood” began to take the leading place in gender propaganda (Solomon, 1986). A large pool of women settled for domestic roles as wives, housekeepers, and mothers.

The United States of America clearly demonstrates a desire to use internal reserves for the development of society, creating opportunities for the full realization of the potential of the country’s female population, seeing in this a powerful source of its own progress. It is no coincidence that Ambassador Ellen Sowerbray, who led the United States delegation to the United Nations Commission in March 2005 when the status of women was summed up and International Women’s Day was celebrated, emphasized that the United States has committed substantial financial and human resources to progress and efforts to end violence against women. These efforts included actions aimed at eliminating trafficking in women and children; expanding access to health care, education, and economic opportunity; ensuring the rights of women in conflict situations; providing protection and assistance to refugee women and internally displaced persons; increasing the political activity of women; ensuring equality and non-discrimination in law and in practice. Sowerbray focused on it as the Commission on the Status of Women reaffirmed the goals and standards set out in 1995 at the United Nations World Women’s Conference in Beijing (Shabliy et al., 2020).

Playing the role of a leader and defender of democratic values in the international arena, the United States continues facing certain problems related to the realization of citizens’ rights in their entirety and scope. These problems are particularly related to the lack of equality between men and women and the consequential gender justice. Even today, the salary of women in the scientific and educational settings is 25% lower than that of men. In some scientific areas, the gap is not so noticeable and decreases to 4% (Shabliy et al., 2020). However, the overall picture demonstrates that this is lower than the average in the economy, but nevertheless the gap is significant.

Women continuously regained their active role in higher education in the 1960s and 1970s when equality against discrimination was highly advocated in the US. However, males continue to hold majority of presidents, vice-presidents, deans, and other prestigious administrative position in higher education institutions. For instance, in 2012, about 86% of presidents, provosts, and chancellors in universities and 75% of professors were males. Female professors are also considered to be taking longer than male counterparts in moving up the career ladder. The issue of gender inequality in higher education than therefore not been fully addressed.

Gender Stereotypes Predetermining Gender Inequality

Stereotypical and overall biased attitudes toward women in society the ‘destiny’ (mission) of a woman is seen as the executive and service nature of labor, while the field of activity of a man is creative, constructive, leading work. The identified stereotypes not only characterize interpersonal communication between men and women, but also determine the traditions of socialization, and, consequently, the nature of relations in the main institutions of society, including the institute of education. Although the institute of education and science should reduce gender inequality and destroy false stereotypes; asymmetry exists and continues to be reproduced in the implementation of women’s and men’s educational strategies. The difference in the implementation of male and female educational strategies is that the opportunities for the implementation of male educational strategies are practically unlimited, while educational strategies for women have certain limitations (Evans, 2016). These restrictions can be divided into two groups: objective and subjective. Objective limitations include the historical traditions that exist in society in the education of men and women. Subjective restrictions include gender stereotypes and norms of life that exist in society.

Results of social research show that the following are among the main gender stereotypes reproduced by society (Santamaria & Santamaria, 2015):

  1. The stereotype of “masculinity” and “femininity,” according to which a man should be active and a woman passive in public life.
  2. The stereotype of behavior in the family, according to which the man is the breadwinner, the head of the family, and the woman plays the role of “keeper of the hearth.” The field of activity of a successful woman is family, while the field of activity of a successful man is professional realization.
  3. The stereotype of the “choice of profession,” according to which certain types of professional activity are “assigned” to men and women.

The Masculinity and Femininity Stereotype

It is a common stereotyped belief that women represent predominantly feminine features while men express masculine qualities, which predetermine their social roles and functional capabilities. The predispositions to performing actively in various spheres of life are aligned accordingly, where women do not have ambitious goals and men play a leading role. Research investigating the manifestations of masculinity and femininity stereotypical beliefs provides an explanation of how these stereotypes deteriorate developmental opportunities for women and limit self-representation options for both genders (Kachel et al., 2016; Liu et al., 2018; Preece & Bullingham, 2020). These social values and expectations from a particular gender derive from a social context and “are experienced differently by males and females and with varying intensities” (Preece & Bullingham, 2020, p. 1). Therefore, social context enhances and reinforces stereotypes associated with gender hindering the opportunities for positive change.

In particular, men are associated with traditional masculinity that encompasses possessing character traits, appearance, professional inclinations, and other features perceived as exclusively male. Lie et al. (2018) state that “masculinity has been associated with an instrumental orientation, a cognitive focus on getting the job done” (p.21). Thus, in different settings, men are expected to act decisively, with more determination and capability to use resources to complete tasks approaching them from a practical perspective. On the other hand, “femininity has been associated with an expressive orientation, an affective concern for the welfare of others,” which illustrates a more passive social role (Liu et al., 2018, p. 21). Indeed, within the traditional femininity perspective, women are more reactive than proactive, with emotional values dominating their social roles.

This binary opposition of femininity and masculinity has been taken as the basis for research conducted by Kachel et al. (2016), where scholars used the Gender Stereotype Theory to measure the two features using the Traditional Masculinity-Femininity scale. The researchers indicate that both male and female self-assessment on the basis of feminine and masculine features are generalized and particularly impacted by the traditional, or conventionally perceived, attributes (Kachel et al., 2016). Moreover, the stereotypes and expectations based on gender have been groped into descriptive and prescriptive components (Koeing, 2018). Descriptive gender stereotype components include beliefs about what men and women typically do and are derived from the observation of conventional social behaviors.

Prescriptive gender stereotype components, on the other hand, incorporate expectations of how each gender representative should behave. In particular, negative or discouraging prescriptive stereotypes “often involve characteristics that are undesirable in either sex, but are permitted in one sex, while being proscribed for the other” (Koeing, 2018, p. 1). According to such stereotypical expectations, women are “supposed to be communal (warm, sensitive, cooperative) and avoid dominance (e.g., aggressive, intimidating, arrogant), and men are supposed to be agentic (assertive, competitive, independent;) and avoid weakness (e.g., weak, insecure, emotional)” (Koeing, 2018, p. 1). Thus, the asserted characteristics of femininity and masculinity traditionally expected from women and men respectively impose limitations on both genders and result in inequality in various spheres of life.

The Stereotype of Behavior in the Family

The second kind of gender stereotypes is the group of stereotypes associated with the beliefs and expectations of particular genders to perform in a family setting. Similar to the femininity and masculinity perception of women and men, respectively, certain roles are asserted to women and men in the family. Multiple research studies have been designed to address the various manifestations of family-related sex roles (Ellemers, 2018; Endendijk et al., 2018; Marks et al., 2018; Vogel et al., 2003). It has been emphasized that the foundation of behavior stereotyping is inherent in gender categorizations, which derive from the traditional allocation of particular features to one gender or another. According to Ellemers (2018), such gender categorizations “are immediately detected, are chronically salient, seem relatively fixed, and are easily polarized,” contributing to the “formation and persistence of gender stereotypes and reinforces perceptions of differences between men and women” (p. 276). In such a manner, men and women are strongly associated with different but strictly fixed roles in the family.

Indeed, when performing family roles, women and men are believed and expected to act differently and acquire different responsibilities that are traditionally associated with males and females. Marks et al. (2018) refer to the findings of a survey that examined attitudes to women’s and men’s roles in the family in nationally representative samples of United States couples. The research identified that “husbands hold more traditional gender role attitudes than their wives,” which was explained by the “concepts of male privilege and dominance that are inherent in traditional views of gender roles” (Marks et al., 2018, p. 222). Therefore, women are perceived as inferior to men; men are breadwinners, and women are responsible for household work and children. Performing chores is traditionally and stereotypically viewed as the primary responsibility of women in the family, which is why women often bear the burden of combining professional and housework (Ellemers, 2018). Consequently, unequal distribution of family-related tasks and responsibilities becomes a burden that causes gender issues.

The persistence of the stereotype of behavior in the family has more significant relevance in a long-term perspective since children observe and inherit gender roles from their families and are likely to reinforce the same patterns in their future families. According to Endendijk et al. (2018), “boys are more likely to express externalizing emotions and behaviors (e.g., aggression), whereas girls are more likely to show internalizing emotions and behaviors (e.g., depression)” (p. 877). Thus, gender differences are seen at the early stages of human development and derive from the family environment.

However, the differences between genders are socially predetermined. Indeed, Vogel et al. (2003) apply the social role theory to explain gender stereotypes in general and the stereotypes related to family behavior in particular. This theory has been applied to demonstrate how women and men behave in response to social roles and expectations, thus confirming the stereotypes with their actions. The researchers state that “one reason women and men confirm gender stereotypes is because they act in accordance with their social roles, which are often segregated along gender lines” (Voget et al., 2003, p. 520). In other words, women perform as household caregivers, and men act as breadwinners, not because of their internal motivations of personal preferences but because they are expected to do so due to the commonly observed gendered behavior patterns and stereotypical social expectations.

Indeed, men and women are expected to have different skills and face different expectations. An example of such persistent categorization of gender family roles is that “because women are caregivers for children and aging parents more often than are men, they more frequently exhibit traditionally feminine behaviors such as nurturance and a concern over personal relationships” (Vogel et al., 2003, p. 520). However, this assumption is true for both genders because men are also subject to stereotyping of family roles. Indeed, since male individuals “are more likely to work outside of the home, they more frequently exhibit traditionally masculine behaviors such as assertiveness and leadership qualities” (Vogel et al., 2003, p. 520). Consequently, both men and women reinforce stereotypes about family roles because there is a significant burden of socially imposed expectations and traditional beliefs, to which they are forced to abide.

The Stereotype of the Choice of Profession

The stereotype of professional choice is based on perceived gender differences in skills and abilities to perform particular jobs. Overall, such gender stereotypes commonly reflect the judgment of men based on the importance of task performance as their primary capability, while social relationships are traditionally attached when considering women (Ellemers, 2018). Such biased attitudes are particularly influential in people’s life choices and the likelihood of pursuing careers. However, the influence of stereotypes might be harmful since the choice of a career is a pivotal step in one’s life that predetermines professional development, personal growth, economic independence, and overall satisfaction with life (Kazi & Akhlaq, 2017). Moreover, the process of career choice is a complex issue since people decide what profession to pursue on the basis of stereotypical expectations of society in general and the particularities of the workplace atmosphere where they will work. According to Kaze and Akhlaq (2017), if people are misfits in their working environment, they are less productive and are unable to accomplish their goals. Given the prejudiced attitudes toward women based on their femininity, many professions are unlikely to be pursued by female applicants to avoid being misfits.

Gender-specific stereotypical judgments are at the basis of the categorization of men’s and women’s jobs. As Ellemers (2018) emphasizes, “assertiveness and performance are seen as indicators of greater agency in men, and warmth and care for others are viewed as signs of greater communality in women” (p. 277). Indeed, these stereotypes are reinforced and observed in the “differences in the emphasis placed on agency versus care are” as they reflect men’s and women’s behavior and life choices (Ellemers, 2018, p. 277). Even in everyday life, male individuals who tend to prioritize action and overconfidence are more often involved in risky behaviors, such as substance abuse, driving, gambling, aggressive demeanor, and others. Women, on the contrary, demonstrate more caution and do not engage in risky activities to the same extent (Ellemers, 2018). Such labels placed on people due to their gender characteristics have significant long-term implications.

As a result of the segregation depending on gender-related behavior and skills segregation, men and women are likely to choose different occupations. Stereotypical classifications of occupations and fields of work are more applicable to females’ due to the deterioration in learning opportunities and the limitation in women’s chances to fulfill their potential (Ertl et al., 2017; Serenko & Turel, 2021). Indeed, research demonstrates that “across 30 industrialized countries, there is a clear segregation according to gender in occupational roles: Certain occupations (such as policing) are dominated by men, whereas other occupations (such as nursing) are dominated by women” (Ellemers, 2018, p. 277). Moreover, women are alarmingly underrepresented in science, engineering, mathematics, and technological fields on a global scale. As identified by Ertl et al. (2017), “the past decades have seen the proportion of females in these fields remain constant at approximately 25% in the EU, and even lower in Germany with approximately 18%” (p. 2). Therefore, stereotypes of the choice of profession are omnipresent and disproportionately affect women around the world.

Gender Differences as the Result of Stereotypical Thinking

Nonetheless, the differences between genders imposed by stereotypes are irrelevant with the objective observations validated by research. The influence of popular culture has disrupted the understanding of the actual extent to which men and women are similar and caused multiple stereotypes that encourage people to act as they think they have to act (Ramaci et al., 2017; Vogel et al., 2003). However, the scientific literature is aimed at identifying the causes of these stereotypes to help people deal with the differences while preserving gender equality. Indeed, due to the persistence of bias on the basis of large differences between men and women, the evidence suggests the opposite. As Vogel et al. (2003) state, “meta-analyses indicate that women and men behave similarly much of the time,” demonstrating a level of 98% of similarity (pp. 519-520). Moreover, research indicates that even “when women and men do behave differently, the magnitude of those differences are relatively small in terms of effect sizes” (p. 520). Thus, although the differences are mostly the result of prejudice, they might be appropriately addressed to eliminate stereotypes and ensure social acceptance of both genders equally.

Another important validation of the problematic outcomes and the non-realistic assumptions associated with gender stereotypes is their inconsistence with evidence. Indeed, the social categorization of genders and allocation of particular features, skills, and predispositions to men and women separately changes under different circumstances. As studies demonstrate, “the impact of such social categorization on the assignment of traits and features to members of particular groups can be quite fluid depending on the situation and the contrast with relevant comparison groups that seems most salient” (Ellemers, 2018, p. 277). Moreover, the exceptions from stereotypical segregation when women express traditional male features and men demonstrate common female qualities reveal the overemphasized differences between two genders that do not reflect the reality (Vogel et al., 2003). Thus, since stereotypes are so fluid, it is important to promote gender equality based on evident similarities between genders.

The Legal Perspective and Implications

Given the scope of problematic issues associated with gender stereotypes and the discrimination of women within the framework of gender inequality, social movements contributed to some decisive governmental efforts to address gender disparities (Mosedale, 2014). During several recent decades, the United States legislature has significantly developed in its tendency to recognize gender inequality at a national level. Since 1963, several acts have been passed to eliminate the manifestations of women’s discrimination at the workplace and in social life. The legislative efforts have significant positive outcomes on the ways gender is perceived in contemporary United States society. Moreover, they provide a solid basis for other initiatives to occur throughout all domains of human life to ensure and promote gender equality.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963

The problem of gender inequality in higher education in the United States has highly been addressed through the legal reforms over the years. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was the first legal act in American history to restrict discrimination on the basis of gender by employers. According to the Act, the employer is obliged to pay equally for the work of men and women when they fulfill their responsibilities and are performing work in equal working conditions (Pasque & Nicholson, 2011). This bill, which has been in Congress since pre-war times, was implemented largely under the influence of the activities and recommendations of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women.

The 1963 law provided for the use of the executive branch to implement anti-discrimination employment policies. To this end, a special Commission on Equal Employment Opportunities was formed, which had the authority not only to monitor the implementation of laws, but also to serve as a third judge in the pre-trial resolution and conflict resolution of employees and employers. Already in the second half of the 1960s, the Commission was inundated with tens of thousands of complaints about illegal employment practices. The Commission has developed guidelines defining gender discrimination in more detail and facilitating the procedure for bringing claims to court. The Commission’s regulations stated that refusal to employ women on the basis of gender, based on stereotypical practices of preference and proposals for comparative characteristics of the sexes, is considered discriminatory. In addition, it is illegal to divide work into “male” and “female” in hiring, advertise the availability of vacancies “only men” or “only women,” and deprive of the opportunity to get a job due to pregnancy or childbirth.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964

The most prominent Acts include the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Education Amendments of 1972. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provides that no one should be discriminated based on their background in terms of race, color, religion, sex and or nationality (Hayter, 2018). The Act prohibits discrimination in the hiring, promoting, and firing, as well as accessing federally (public) funded programs including in education (Stephens, 2016). The implication of the Act is that women in higher education are protected against discriminations and should be given a chance to undertake their roles and climb the career ladder based on their capabilities. The Act has provided women with legislative power to protect their rights and claim equality with men.

The importance of Title VII was very significant due to the changes it brought to the lives of women across the nation. Scholars state that it “transformed the lives of women at work” by providing means for class litigation (Coleman & Porter, 2017, p. 905). Indeed, with the advancement of feminist movements and with the tools for legislative power for fighting discrimination, women’s rights were actively pursued through a class action. In particular, these achievements “are reflected in the expansion, and the subsequent contraction, in the effective use of class actions in Title VII sex discrimination cases” (Coleman & Porter, 2017, p. 905). Most importantly, this legislative document became a qualitatively new change in United States politics because it helped to eliminate the obstacles women faced when accessing structural and institutional power, leadership positions, and other opportunities (Robnett, 2021). Thus, Title VII was a prominent contribution to women’s rights promotion and protection in the United States of America, which has provided a positive influence on the consecutive legislative changes pertaining to gender equality.

The Education Amendments of 1972

The Education Amendments of 1972 is also known as Title IX, it strongly prohibits discrimination in education institutions based on gender (Liu, Macgill & Vora, 2016). It provides that no person should be discriminated in terms of admission in vocational education, professional education, and graduate higher education institutions. To boost the access, the law provides that all students joining or in progress in higher education programs are entitled to federal financial assistance. It is required that such assistance should be channeled directly to the students rather than through the financial institutions (Yanus & O’Connor, 2016). The implication of the Act is that women intending to pursue higher education can access it, while those in employment position and with prerequisite qualifications should be given equal chances as the male counterparts in employment and leadership positions.

During the 1970s, as gender equality practices were adopted in universities, feminists made amendments to strengthen the legal framework for eliminating discrimination. A 1976 amendment to the Vocational Education Act obliged states that received education reform funding to devote a portion of their funds to special programs to eliminate discrimination caused by sexist prejudice and stereotyping (Laird, 2006). In recent years, there has been a clear trend of legislative quotas for the presence of women in top management.

Researchers note that gender parity in both corporate directorships and higher education institutions provides several visible benefits. They include a multilateral view of governance, reducing risks, minimization of “group thinking,” increasing company efficiency and sustainable development, and attracting investors’ interest (Longman, 2018). Nevertheless, government-determined quotas for women are considered by some experts to be the last resort to be taken (Grau et al., 2020). Instead, it is more beneficial for organizations to take care of the promotion of women in top management by themselves. Such an approach will help to monitor a fair selection process for candidates for leadership positions, organize educational programs and trainings, and open private nurseries. Many large European companies follow this path. This is not about political correctness at all, but about ensuring equal chances for the best talent – no matter what gender.

In general, affirmative actions were created in order to overcome divisions. In terms of encouraging a greater presence of women in higher education, this policy has been successful. However, from the point of view of classical liberalism, it violates the basic principle of individual equality; belonging to a group that provides institutional advantages (Fisher & Massey, 2007). The disputes around affirmative action have been going on for almost 50 years, during which Democrats have been supporting them while Republicans criticizing these actions (Horowitz et al., 2017). In European countries with their traditions of social reformism, a gender-sensitive policy of “equality with regard to differences” organically fit into the legitimate discourse of the “welfare state.” Within this discourse, gender equality meant that differences (dissimilarity) between men and women should not lead to a difference in their socio-economic status. Therefore, the policy of “equal rights” must be supplemented with special state programs to improve the status of women and meet their specific needs (Fitzgerald, 2013).

In the United States, due to the lack of social democratic traditions, on the one hand, and the traditional rejection of government intervention, on the other, there are many more opponents of social policy. They insisted that any “difference” in the treatment of women leads to the reinforcement of their social marginality and psychological inferiority complex (Mullen, 2012). Public debate over the relevant legislation is still rather fierce.

Regulators cannot directly order to private universities; however, if the federal government strives to enforce, it can set special conditions for receiving federal money. For employers, it is namely the case: affirmative action is mandatory for those who have government contracts. Positive discrimination places the rights of a particular racial, ethnic, or, in this study, gender group above the rights of the individual. Opponents often point out that affirmative action contradicts Martin Luther King’s well-known premise, which is to judge persons by their individual qualities, not by their skin color (Museus, 2015). Built into the administrative-political system of the state, it contributes not to unification, but to the separation of people, indirectly encouraging mistrust and envy on racial, ethnic, or gender grounds.

Research has shown that many African American and Hispanic students who are admitted to elite universities with notoriously low rates of admission fail, and, therefore, dropout rates are high. This poses a different problem: how to keep them within the walls of the educational institution, since for reporting, for the University it is necessary to have good indicators on graduates from minorities (Museus, 2015). In other words, due to the artificial policy of quotas, people appeared not on their ‘place.’ Obviously, this also applies to university scientific and pedagogical personnel, when women who did not strive for these positions and did not have the necessary leadership qualities and skills find themselves in leading or highly expert positions. In states where racial preference has been prohibited, universities have found other ways to expand diversity, and these alternatives are better because they take social status into account (Smith, 2015). Equally, naturally, this should also apply to gender diversity.

Affirmative action primarily for African Americans, Hispanics, and women in education, employment and business contracts was originally conceived in the 1960s as a temporary measure. However, after 50 years, this policy has exhausted its possibilities, has overgrown with a network of bureaucratic institutions, and as often happens, turned into an ideological goal. This goal is to provide administratively proportional representation of racial and gender groups ‘from above.’

Intellectual Capital and Gender Equality

The theory of social capital organically entered the system of sociological concepts and made it possible to expand the understanding of the mechanisms of social relations. It turned out that the possession of social capital opens the way to a higher socio-economic status, expanding influence on other people, awareness, financial well-being, career, and contributes to life satisfaction, health, and life expectancy. However, these and many other properties of social capital are actualized in the context of gender asymmetry and, therefore, are increasingly recognized as significant in the discourse of gender studies (O’Neill, 2013). Gender theory contains considerable potential for analyzing social capital, since the division of society into two social classes – men and women – presupposes the existence of a common social experience within these classes and, thus, grounds for solidarity and tolerance. One of the main areas of gender mainstreaming in the acquisition and use of social capital is the sphere of institutional relations.

The higher the position, the fewer women are represented in the leadership of higher education institutions. The situation in higher education reflects the gender stratification of society, demonstrating by its example the unequal status of women and men. Although more women are employed in education, positions in management are predominantly occupied by men. Among universities, the position of rector is most often held by men and less often by women (84 and 16%, respectively) (Kezar, 2014). The positions of deans of faculties and heads of departments are also dominated by men. Professorships held by men are twice as common as those held by women.

In contrast, lower positions (such as associate professor, senior lecturer, teacher, assistant) are mostly held by women. In the latter two categories, the ratio of men to women differs significantly towards the prevalence of women (Berg, 2019). These data eloquently indicate that there is a clear gender asymmetry in the higher education system. To solve this problem, it is necessary to create equal conditions for men and women in all positions, including top management ones. These conditions should provide for the possibility of occupying a particular position solely based on the professional qualities of the candidates, which directly determine the effectiveness of their future activities.

In education and science, women are concentrated primarily in the humanities. Sociological studies show that women pursuing academic and administrative careers in the “male” sectors of employment in the education system and “male” sciences face significant difficulties (Schnackenberg & Simard, 2018). When it comes to women’s participation in research in general, in the United States, as in many other countries, a “leaking pipeline” phenomenon can be observed (Kezar & Posselt, 2019). Women are actively pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees and even outperform men by this criterion, since the proportion of women among graduates is 53%, but at the doctoral level it drops sharply, and the proportion of men (57%) exceeds the proportion of women (Schnackenberg & Simard, 2018). The differences are amplified at the level of researchers in scientific units of the universities. Thus, a high proportion of women in higher education does not necessarily translate into a high proportion of women in scientific workers.

In the works on the analysis of intellectual capital, the authors highlight a classification that can characterize members of senior management (O’Neill, 2013):

  • Insider – a director who is the founder of the organization, has family ties with the founder or holds any managerial position in the company.
  • Specialist – a director who is a professional manager, civil servant, or has another very clear specialization.
  • Business manager – a director who is a top manager or manager of a company.
  • Interacting with society (Influential) – a director with experience in a university, non-profit organization, hospital, or charitable organization.

The analysis based on the classification described above, presented in the literature, allows concluding that a feature of the human capital of women – members of senior management is that they are much more likely to perform the function of “interacting with society,” while men are business managers (Kouzes & Posner, 2019). Another characteristic of the human capital of women leaders and managers is that they are less likely to have a basic mathematical or technical education, they have fewer connections in the entrepreneurial environment, business incubators and start-ups.

In sociological studies devoted to the problem of gender inequality in universities, on average, more than half of the research participants (54%) do not share the traditional ideas about the purpose of women, based on gender stereotypes (stating the main thing for a woman is family, motherhood, caring for others) (Pasque & Nicholson, 2011). A non-working woman, as noted by 72% of respondents, cannot fully satisfy the needs for personal growth and self-realization (Pasque & Nicholson, 2011). At the same time, 82% of respondents agree that men have an obvious advantage over women when hiring, two-thirds of respondents believe that women, compared to men, have more restrictions on promotion and scientific careers (Pasque & Nicholson, 2011). Thus, research demonstrates significant discrepancies between the perception of women’s role in educational settings and the opportunities for achieving developmental goals.

When studying the question of what requirements for professional activity prevail in men and women, it was found that they are more gender typed. For male teachers, these requirements are associated with opportunities for advancement, career growth (63%), high wages (52%), and the ability to independently make decisions in the labor process (39%). For the female part of the sample, the ability to communicate with people (50%), working conditions (41%), satisfaction of the need to be useful to people (26%), and the creative nature of work (24%) are decisive in professional activity (Berg, 2019). In this regard, the study of social-status relations, value orientations, ways of adaptation of men and women who are scientists and university teachers, the definition of their specific problems in the process of self-realization, the identification of specific problems of professional growth in the context of the transformation of modern society requires special study.

Society largely determines the gender culture of an individual. However, the gender culture of a society is not just the sum of the behaviors of individuals. This is a characteristic of the state of society as a system, including the specifics of gender perception by subsystems of different levels (Airton, 2018; Sutton,2018). Since the development prospects of any state are largely related to the activities of its educational institutions, it is legitimate to talk about the special function of higher education in the development of the gender culture of society; no less important than such as research and training of highly qualified personnel (Silander et al., 2013). University gender culture can be viewed as a set of characteristics inherent in certain groups of the university environment – faculty, administration and students.

Gender education at the university is implemented through disciplines of the relevant subject, which are read in various versions for students, as a rule, in socio-humanitarian areas of training. Gender is one of the basic categories in the cycles of sociology and psychology. In addition, specialized disciplines are being developed and introduced: Genderology and Feminology, Sociology of Gender, and others (Risman et al., 2018). However, teaching these disciplines can hardly give the expected results if, in fact, the practice of gender inequality among the teaching staff persists in universities.

Meanwhile, already today, the intellectual capital of universities, including knowledge, competencies, professional experience of employees, reputation indicators, and client component, begins to play the most significant role in their advanced and sustainable development. For effective management of the intellectual capital of the university, it is necessary to determine the goals of the organization’s development (Silander et al., 2013). These goals include improving the quality of the educational process, increasing the target audience, consolidation of competitive positions in the labor market, increasing sources of income, and others. Indeed, as stated by scholars, new models for gender equality achievement in higher education setting and psychological research efforts are initiated in order to bridge the gap in women’s representation and eliminate discrimination (Rutherford, 2020; Silander et al., 2013). To achieve the set goals, it is necessary to determine which type of asset in the structure of intellectual capital most affects the solution of the set goal and what transaction costs are typical for this type of asset, and then develop measures to reduce them.

The concept of intellectual capital is also closely related to the management of organizational diversity – an interdisciplinary area of scientific knowledge, the concept and strategy of personnel management of an organization, aimed at recognizing and respecting differences in the organization. It implies educating personnel in the spirit of tolerance, as well as identifying, disclosing and using professional and personal potential of employees belonging to various social groups as a resource and factor in the development of the organization and the achievement of its competitive advantages (Campbell, 2018). The subject of diversity management is the concept, strategies, and technologies of diversity management, aimed at identifying and disclosing the professional and personal potential of employees, considering their individual characteristics (Tulshyan, 2018). In the academic and business literature, diversity management and the very concept of organizational diversity are usually viewed in a cross-cultural context. However, gender diversity has not received adequate attention – it is believed that the legal observance of quotas is sufficient. This is especially true of educational institutions, since in the business environment, leaders are still concerned about the impact of diversity on organizational performance.

Gender Equality and Sustainable Development

The introduction of sustainable development principles into the global higher education system began about 30 years ago, and now it is one of the global trends. The accumulated international experience is quite extensive and can be in demand when developing a national concept for sustainable development of higher education in any country, including the United States. Currently, most universities in Europe and North America are involved in green initiatives through environmental policy, development of action plans for the transition to principles of sustainability, rethinking curricula and research programs (Poeck et al., 2019). According to several estimates, more than 1000 academic institutions have already joined the international framework declarations on the implementation of the principles of sustainable development in higher education, including the development of educational programs (Shephard, 2015). At the same time, the latter include both sustainability courses, in which the main focus is on sustainability and/or the study of one or more main issues of sustainability, and courses that include sustainability, focused on other topics, but including separate modules on sustainability issues (Shephard, 2015).

Sustainable development programs for universities vary depending on the specifics of national law, the role of the university in various communities and in the region in general, university traditions, the specifics of campus placement and planning, management system, etc. At the same time, it is generally accepted that sustainability should be assessed in three dimensions: social, economic, and environmental (Poeck et al., 2019). Therefore, programs for sustainable development of universities, as a rule, include the following: a sustainable or “green” campus, transformation of the management system, changes in the educational process and research topics, intensification of interaction with the external environment (local communities and public organizations, government bodies and business). However, without gender equality, these initiatives are inconsistent and of little use, since there is no change at the conceptual level, but only for show and with an intention to demonstrate efforts to the general public and earn respectful image.

It is known that in the system of sustainable development, the economic direction is associated with the creation of consumer value by the organization and the strengthening of the financial performance of its activities. The social direction includes effective management of social and national diversity, equal rights of gender, social and national groups and social justice, and the environmental direction is traditionally associated with waste disposal and preservation of the so-called natural capital. An imbalance in at least one element, in accordance with the theory of systems, negatively affects the entire system, triggering entropy processes.

The Challenges of Gender Inequality in Higher Education Settings

According to Barone & Assirelli (2020), gender-based discrimination is a complicated problem with significant implications on other sectors. The problem is considered a key factor behind the persistent gender inequality in the labor market. Women have historically remained dominant in fields of study such as social sciences and humanities, and relatively less in fields above average such as engineering and ICT. Jacobs (1996) states that women are better placed in terms of access to higher education, which explains the reason why they are slightly more than the male counterparts in higher learning institutions. However, they (women) are not doing well in terms of experience and schooling outcomes, which is associated with the contexts in which women continue to lag behind men.

At the same time, it should be noted that the often-low level of activity of women in the field of professional careers and their representation in the system of higher education management is mainly due to two reasons. First, it is the conscious self-elimination of a significant part of women themselves from professional careers in universities, the origins of which should be sought in the stability of gender stereotypes regarding the distribution of social roles in public and private life in their minds. Indeed, as identified by Cronin and Roger (1999), women are exposed to the pressure of socially assigned norms and expectations, which is why even when a large number of female individuals applies to STEM educational institutions, only an insignificant percentage of that population continues education and proceeds to work in the higher education environment. A universal problem of working women, including teachers, is the need to combine professional and family responsibilities, especially in terms of caring for dependent family members, namely children, elderly relatives.

Even though the specifics of teaching work (a relatively flexible schedule, the ability to do part of the work at home, long summer vacations, etc.) create additional opportunities for achieving a work-family balance. In comparison with male teachers, women experience difficulties due to which their productivity often decreases, job growth slows down, and incomes fall (Aiston & Yang, 2017; Ghouralal, 2019). Considering the family and the upbringing of children as the main area of application of their efforts, they prefer the positions of a kind of line or middle manager rather than an administrative employee position at the university, which require presence at the workplace throughout the working day. Women prefer teaching positions associated with less work time and the absence of the need to be at the workplace during the whole day (Seierstad et al., 2017). At the same time, a woman generally devotes all her free time from work to family concerns.

Second, currently, administrative positions in universities (president, provost, dean, head of the department, etc.) often represent an especially important way for men to express power aspirations, a sphere of application of organizational, intellectual abilities, an opportunity for self-affirmation, image enhancement etc. Therefore, the desire for a successful career in this area is accompanied not so much by a competition of equal abilities and real merits of applicants for high positions, but by processes that are completely different in their content. Thus, the objective needs of the higher education system, the quality of research and pedagogical work, and democratic principles of selection occupy far from the very first place (Manning, 2017). Under these conditions, the occupation of these administrative positions by women as a result of participation in competition on equal terms with men is very problematic. In this case, the cause of gender inequality in this area is no longer gender stereotypes about the division of labor, but a specific social order, as well as corporate, group or purely selfish interests, the desire to redistribute, monopolize, or consolidate administrative resources, and other reasons.

In fact, the tool of gender expertise is not used in the process of developing educational standards, educational-methodological complexes in the vocational education system. Increasing the gender competence of vocational education teachers is not mandatory and systematic, which in turn does not guarantee that they will not avoid discriminatory practices and the reproduction of gender bias and stereotypes in their work (Madsen, 2012). At the same time, there is an obvious lack of human resources and methodological support for advanced training courses on gender issues. Interestingly, the data show that even in European countries, where this issue is paid significant attention, many initiatives to implement the achievement of gender models are lacking (De Welde & Stepnick, 2015). This may be because causality is complex as several factors affect achievement.

General Outcomes of Gender Inequality

Shannon et al. (2019) argue that persistent gender inequality in multiple spheres of the contemporary social life have vast negative outcomes that undermine safety and longevity of the population. In particular, the scholars identify that gender disparities translate into inequality in science, medicine, and global health. Indeed, the logics of the interrelation between gender issues and social and health outcomes are validated by the “discriminatory values, norms, beliefs, and practices” that further result in diminished quality of life (Shannon et al., 2019, p. 561). Similarly, Stoet and Geary (2019) emphasize that gender inequality experienced by both men and women is a significant determinant of life satisfaction, developmental opportunities, and healthy lifespan. When referring to health outcomes, “gender inequalities contribute to increased levels of stress and anxiety: among women through their socially prescribed role as caregivers,8 among men through their socially prescribed role as breadwinners” (Shannon et al., 2019, p. 561). Therefore, disparities and pressure associated with unjust attitudes and stereotyped expectations from individuals based on their gender have direct implications for health outcomes.

Moreover, gender inequality predetermines intersectionality in viewing the outcomes of this issue for the lives of individuals in contemporary societies. As claimed by Riegle-Crumb (2019), the relationship between gender and educational experiences is intertwined with socioeconomic status, race, religious affiliation, and other factors that predetermine one’s social opportunities. In a similar manner, Blake et al. (2018) discusses the economic outcomes of gender inequality, which is manifested through diminished career opportunities and failure to obtain equal payment for the same job. Moreover, a deeper level oppression is experienced by women as a result of gender inequality in terms of females’ sexualization on the grounds of men’s superiority due to their more stable economic status (Blake et al. (2018). Therefore, while both men and women are subject to adverse outcomes of gender inequality, including social and health threats, women are more likely to suffer from the disparities due to a larger scope of negative implications, namely economic, social, developmental, health, and educational.

Gender Minority Implications

Szewczok & Parslow (2018) focus on the research to investigate the experience of gender minority in their respective academic disciplines particularly in the segregated fields such as nursing, STEM and o family studies. The findings revealed that being in the gender minority group presented significant challenges and obstacles. Lack of adequate mentorships, oppression and segregation against the majority gender are key hindrance to the excelling of the individuals. In the higher education, having women as the minority in the leadership and administrative positions therefore puts the women students and low ranted staff in both the teaching and non-teaching areas at disadvantage (Schnackenberg & Simard, 2018). It is therefore implying that the issue of gender inequality continues to be experienced as the women do not get the equal chances to excel in both higher graduate studies in career advancement.

The prevalent minority status of women in the workplace in higher education leads to the oppression of opportunities and professional advancement of female workers. Consequently, it is more difficult for women to move along the career ladder and pursue leadership positions. According to Yadav and Lata (2018), the omnipresence of “male-centric leadership models and norms have served to limit women’s aspirations regarding leadership, as well as their access to leadership roles” (p. 89). However, the research identifies that women are equal to men in terms of capacity, intellectual skills, and overall capabilities of being successful in leading positions. Nonetheless, although they have a “potential to be effective and transformative leaders, their administrative talent and leadership capabilities remain underutilized” (p. 89). Thus, gender minority issues related to women as an underrepresented class in comparison to men lead to the disproportionate representation of genders in higher education leadership.

Sexual Assaults and Workplace Harassment

The problem of sexual assaults at the workplace has been an ongoing issue in academia, as well as other domains where women participate professionally. The persistence of gender stereotypes emphasizing female sexuality and bodily images coupled with the underrepresentation of female individuals and men’s dominance has significantly contributed to the occurrence of workplace harassment cases against women. Early studies on sexual assaults have been conducted with no previously acquired data for comparison or findings’ validation. Indeed, as stated by Fitzgerald et al. (1988), “although now recognized as an important barrier to women’s career development, sexual harassment has proven difficult to study due to the lack of a commonly accepted definition and any standardized instrumentation that could provide comparable results across studies” (p. 152). Therefore, the importance of recognizing workplace harassment as an important social problem that requires adequate addressing by organizational administrations, governmental authorities, and the general public. However, at present, the notion of sexual assault in the workplace is widely recognized, prevented, and researched to ensure gender equality and women’s protection.

According to Cruz (2020) one of the key issues leading to the escalation of gender inequality in higher education is the sexual assaults. The spirit and intention of Title IX aimed at addressing such issues to ensure that the gender minority or disadvantaged would get a chance to excel and advance their opportunities. However, Cruz (2020) found that the intended outcomes from the application of the law in higher education is far from been achieved due to the poor implement by the leadership and administrators in the institutions. The symbolic implementation Title IX has led to institutional betrayal due to actions and inaction exacerbating traumatic experiences. The institutional leadership and Title IX implementing administrators are largely focused on protecting liabilities and reputation of their institutions.

Workplace harassment in general and sexual assaults have multiple negative effects on victimized individuals. Henning et al. (2017) undertook a systematic review to assess the extent of workplace harassment in higher education. The workplace harassments lead to adverse effects on the productivity of the workers and health effects to the victims. The review revealed that there is high prevalence of workplace harassment in higher education institutions in the form of gender harassment and workplace bullying. Women are particularly more prone to both forms of harassments, which particularly contribute to gender inequality in higher education. The gender harassment may include aspect such as discrimination in the distribution of the opportunities for promotion into the higher leadership and administrative positions. It therefore implies that even women with the potential faced significant hindrance to rise to the leadership positions such as presidents, chancellors, vice-chancellors, and deans among others in higher learning institutions.

Indeed, when considering women as primary victims, their career opportunities, professional accomplishments, and work satisfaction are significantly hindered. Moreover, the prevalence of sexual assault cases against women reaches alarming levels attracting more attention from the public with an aim to eliminate and prevent this problem. According to the data provided by researchers, “approximately 50% of women will experience sexual harassment at some point during their working lives” (Harned et al., 2002, p. 174). These statistics indicate that the issue is inherent in society and stereotypical attitudes toward women in general. Furthermore, research on the prevalence of sexual assault, including attempted and completed rape, found that lifetime occurrence “rates of sexual assault among women range from 14% to 25%” (Harned et al., 2002, p. 174). These numbers alert the scholarly, administrative, academic, and legislative circles and should be used as triggers of consecutive change by means of systematic policy implementation to eliminate gender inequality as manifested through workplace harassment, sexual assaults, and other discriminatory actions.

Gender Stratification and Segregation

Stratification and segregation are the terms that are inherent in inequality and refer to classification into different groups and separation of a group on the basis of superiority or inferiority, respectively. Overall, social stratification is an omnipresent issue in the higher education setting. According to Kwiek (2019), academia in general and science in particular “has always been unequal” with the characteristics of “essential, built‐in undemocracy” where individual achievements play a lesser role than the social status or qualities external to the field of professional performance (p. 59). However, gender stratification and segregation are of particular concern to academia since this field commonly faces women’s underrepresentation. For example, studies found that across the United States higher education institutions, women “earn 60 percent of baccalaureate degrees and 46 percent of doctoral degrees in research fields;” nonetheless, “higher education in the United States remains deeply segregated by gender” (Weeden et al., 2017, p. 123). Thus, there are positive shifts toward women’s inclusion into the scientific and academic fields, but many obstacles remain relevant.

Similarly, Barone & Assirelli (2020) states that gender segregation, which is rampant in higher education is the key factor for the persistence of gender inequality in the labor market. The problem continues to exist despite the elimination of gender gap in educational accomplishment. The relevance of the gender segregation issues cannot be overestimated since it has long-term persistent outcomes. As stated by Kriesi and Imdorf (2019), gender segregation in higher education leads to the labor market and social inequality, thus reinforcing the problem of gender inequality on a global scale. Research demonstrates that in higher education, women are overrepresented in entry-level faculty roles and underrepresented at such leadership positions as dean, associate professor, full professor, or president (Chisholm-Burns et al., 2017). This education-based gender inequality has continuous implications that result in employment opportunities. Gender inequality has continuously led to a situation where women continue to dominate the fields that are of low regards such as humanities and social sciences, and significantly low presence in areas such as engineering and ICT.

Glass Ceiling

The stereotypes applied to women’s social roles and family behavior expose the female workforce to an additional burden of complying with social expectations. In such a manner, women perform as caregivers and wives accomplishing their household responsibilities while trying to pursue professional goals. The commonly accepted term to define this gender inequality issue is the glass ceiling. This concept refers to “the invisible barrier that many women face as they advance through the ranks of their chosen professions but are able to progress only so far before being stymied in their efforts to reach the upper echelons” (Chisholm-Burns et al., 2017, p. 312). Regardless of social movements, legislation, and research in this field, the issue remains evident in higher education among other spheres.

Winslow & Davis (2016) concurs with the findings by Henning et al. (2017) stating that despite the structural changes in the institution of higher learning, gender inequality persists due to persistence reinforcement of masculine ideal worker standards. The situation brings about meritocratic discourse indicating that the performance of women in various positions in higher learning are underrated, and hence does not reflect their potential. It implies that for a woman to rise the lander and have the same career trajectories as a male counterpart, it is necessary to sacrifice a lot and work extra-hard. Gender inequality is therefore intensified by the fact that women faculty members face extra challenges due to the family responsibilities and the heavy workplace demands (Göktürk & Tülübaş, 2020).

Discriminatory HR Attitudes and Practices

Special mention should be made of explicitly or latently harmful gender-discriminatory HR practices that are directly related to the formation of the social capital of universities. Traditionally, specialists in the field of HR management share an opinion that although the organizational behavior of women and men in any kind of activity is quite identical in their external parameters, the quality of their performance is far from unambiguous (Longman, 2014). In this regard, it is expedient to always use a gender factor in HR management.

Traditional gender roles almost always impose significant barriers in the personal development of an individual, in other words, objectively contribute to the formation of a certain level of personal inequality. Experts cite standard stereotypes of external assessment of the impact of women on work efficiency (Kezar, 2014). Firstly, women are perceived as overly attentive to colleagues and partners, kind-hearted and excessively dependent on other people’s opinions, while similar qualities in most people brought up in a highly competitive society are associated with the figure of a weak, ineffective leader and manager. Secondly, they can have less influence on the growth of the efficiency of development and functioning of the organization. Thirdly, it is stereotypically considered that women are less creative and mostly prone to routine activities. Fourthly, women are believed to be less able than men to effectively manage personnel. Fifthly, in almost any social system, there is a persistent prejudice that it is more expedient to form top management mainly from men. Finally, it is assumed that the traditional family responsibilities of a woman, the periodic interruption of professional activity in childcare interferes with her successful work and professional development (Kezar, 2014).

However, the very attitudes of women contribute to the persistence of gender inequality in education. In one of the studies, for male respondents, the three main criteria that motivate them to choose a career path for their development were, in decreasing order of importance, the following: prospects for high wages (28.6%), demand in the labor market (24.5%) and the social prestige of the profession (16.7%). For female respondents, the main criteria turned out to be somewhat different: prospects for high wages (19.6%), relaxed (flexible) working hours (19.2%) and job security (17.1%) (Kouzes & Posner, 2019). It is rather evident that in the presence of such a system of values, it will be extremely difficult to achieve a remedy for the situation, and affirmative action can further exacerbate the existing problems.

Salary Inequality

Some studies show that in many sectors of economy salaries of women are evidently less than in men. In particular, the Wall Street Journal study of wages across 446 occupations found that women in many prestigious occupations earn significantly less than their male counterparts (Evans, 2016). The largest gap is with doctors, compensation managers, and personal financial advisors (Evans, 2016). At the same time, if the law obliges employers to disclose wage data, nothing will change, says Harvard University economics professor Claudia Goldin, one of the main experts on gender pay differentials. A study she published in 2010 found that women graduates of the University of Chicago with MBA degrees receive approximately equal salaries with men, but after 10 years their earnings are only 57% of the salaries of men. Women become mothers, take a break from their careers, and give up extra hours of work that generate higher pay; these professions are not lenient with maternity leave, says Goldin (Goldin as cited in Evans, 2016).

The highest paid white-collar workers are those with the most hours and frequent job changes, so women raising children are relatively few in this group of the highest paid workers. Undoubtedly, these factors must be considered when developing any policies to reduce gender inequality in higher education, since the above conclusions can equally be attributed to the situation in science and management in higher education.

The peculiarity of the representation of women in the system of intra-university management is that, as a rule, they occupy the ‘second-order’ managerial positions in universities (deans, associated deans/chairs of departments, etc.), take on the burden of responsibility for managing the internal life of the university. This can sometimes be as difficult as managing external relations (Fitch & van Brunt, 2016). The ongoing reforms in higher education do not consider institutional gender disparities and socio-economic consequences of the devaluation of women’s human potential. Solving the problem of the formation and development of an individual professional career, taking into account gender characteristics, requires special knowledge and scientific approaches. Although studies of gender issues of management in higher education represent a rather noticeable thematic cross-section in modern socio-economic sciences, the issues of systemic formation, implementation, and development of the managerial potential of women leaders in higher education have not received deep scientific and practical study.

Practices to Address Gender Inequality in Higher Education Settings

Buitendijk, Curry and Maes (2019) states that enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion in higher education brings about a range of advantages. The realization of this ideal situation requires efforts to ensure that under-represented groups are brought on board, the creation of a diverse community among the students and staff and having in place an all-inclusive curriculum. The leadership and administrators have a greater role to ensure that diversity is highly upheld in the higher learning institutions. Buitendijk, Curry and Maes (2019) investigated the best practice upheld by leading universities across the world in upholding equality, diversity and inclusion, and hence eliminating gender inequality to a great extent.

The top leadership of the higher learning institutions should first familiarize themselves with the situation of inequality and subsequently acknowledge the existence of structural biases and gender inequality. The realization of this requirement is that the leadership should undertake both the internal and external research to understand the existing issues. The accumulation of the knowledge in this regard would be a pivot step towards the evidence-based changes to address the problem. The leadership should subsequently and in collaboration with all stakeholders analyses the situation, identify the potential strategies or interventions. The potential impact of the identified strategies and programs should measure both qualitatively and quantitatively. The importance of the measure is to ensure that the programs with the best outcomes would be selected.

The other important practice that the topic leadership should uphold in the attempt to end the gender-based inequality in higher education is the communication to other players in the institution acknowledging the existence of the problem and the commitment required for the intended outcomes to be realized. The communication offers opportunity to discussion with the other parties showing them empathy and convincing them of the need to accept changes required, for gender and other forms of inequality to be addressed (Timmers, Willemsen & Tijdens, 2010). Subsequently, the leadership need to lead by example and in collaboration with the rest of the institutional leadership to rollout the interventions throughout the institution. The realization of the best outcomes would particularly require that the leadership embark on training on gender inequality identified, their impact and the programs to be pursued. The training to those in various leadership positions would likely to be enlightening enabling them to support the efforts put in place.

At the same time, initiatives on gender equality are not and should not be fixed or unified. They must be adapted to the culture in which they exist. For example, this idea might be implemented at the level of the northern and southern states, which are characterized by different historical and cultural contexts. Initiatives need to be culturally responsive and adapted based on ongoing assessments of performance characteristics and gender patterns, especially given the rate of change in gender relations in recent times (Phillips, 2010).

Peterson (2011) advocated for a formal gender mix policy in higher education as an effective approach to facilitate the realization of gender equality. the aim of the policy is to ensure that both men and women are included in positions, groups, teams, and committees in different levels of higher education institutions. Subsequently, more women would be given the opportunity to rise into the management and administrative positions, with same been applied down into lower ranks. According to UNESCO (2010) such a policy should be formalized and closely monitored to ensure that it provides for non-negotiable or enabling guidelines on gender equality.

Roos et al. (2020) opines that the institutions adopt such a policy, or any other strategy should have time bound measures defining expected outcomes within specified timelines. Through their systematic review, the authors identified a range of strategies that are likely to assist in addressing gender inequality. The first fold of the intervention is the focus mentoring and training programs for individuals and groups with the objective of equipping women to effectively play their roles and gain the required momentum for career progression. The initiatives would prepare the women to be prepared for tasks and gain confidence to occupy even top leadership positions in the higher learning institutions. Benschop and van Brink (2014) managing diversity strategies through the revaluation of existing programs identifying gaps in tackling unconscious gender biases, while doing away with the intervention that are redundant. Structural transformational strategies through transformation of organizational processes and routines are also the other approach identified for addressing gender inequality. Structural inclusion strategies such as positive discrimination, affirmative actions and quotas can be deliberate and targeted approach to assist in addressing gender inequality in higher education (Roos et al. 2020).

Gender Quotas

When approaching the problem of gender inequality from the perspective of solution finding, scholars and policymakers tend to find ways to equalize gender representation and promote diversity in the workplace. According to Engeli and Mazur (2018), the process of analyzing the problem and its solution “must go beyond the policy-formation stage to the processes following adoption – implementation, evaluation and impact” (p. 112). One of the approaches that have been implemented to bridge the gap in gender representation is gender quotas for the workforce. These initiatives are aimed at controlling the number of male and female individuals in leadership positions by deliberate allocation of positions to the representatives of the underrepresented gender. According to Maggian et al. (2020), gender quota policies are designed to change the situation when women “are overrepresented in mid-skill occupations” and underrepresented in leadership roles in scientific and academic communities (p. 3). Therefore, the allocation of a particular percentage of workforce positions to women helps to provide the underrepresented class with access to higher range positions.

Quotas have been used by different countries, for different institutions, with an aim to bridge social disproportions in the workforce. Interestingly, the introduction of quotas has been used as a means for gender gap bridging at different stages of recruitment and promotion to yield the required results. For example, “quotas introduced at early stages of a career are invoked in male-dominated sectors,” such as scientific, engineering, and technological professions (Maggian et al., 2020, p. 4). As for the higher education sector, Swedish universities granted by the government to implement voluntary quotas used appropriate interventions at senior levels when hiring full professors. In such a manner, each university can analyze its own needs and address them through quota interventions, as necessary. Another example of gender quota policy is the cascade model used by German higher education institutions. It is applied at all “levels of academic careers in order to ultimately increase the number of women at the highest level” (Maggian et al., 2020, p. 4). Thus, the variety of methods for quota policy implementation demonstrate the potential of this approach to contribute to gender equality.

Despite active implementation and overall popularity of gender quotas as a method for bridging the gender gap in institutions, there are considerations concerning the long-term effectiveness of such measures. Indeed, in terms of the numeric indicators of women’s presence in the leading positions, the policies of quota application provide positive results, demonstrating an increase in numbers (Barnes & Holman, 2020). However, scholars and organizational authorities continuously engage in a debate discussing “whether quotas change how institutions operate or merely select representatives with similar backgrounds to those elected via traditional mechanisms” (Barnes & Holman, 2020, p. 1271). However, as the study by Maggian et al. (2020) shows, gender quotas are generally effective. Nonetheless, the implementation stage plays a decisive role in the endurance of positive effects. Indeed, the study found that “policies limiting their intervention at the entry level of careers might be ineffective” because they “discourage women from competing in the subsequent stages, undermining their self-confidence in their ability to successfully climb the career ladder” (Maggian et al., 2020, p. 11). Thus, such a method provides beneficial results when applied using evidence and organizational analysis.

Affirmative Action

Unlike quotas that might be introduced at a particular level of organizational performance and help achieve goals immediately by increasing the number of previously underrepresented individuals, affirmative action is a long-term process. As a policy designed to stop inequality of any kind, affirmative action provides a solid basis for bridging the gender gap in higher education as well. According to De Lange (2006), women are considered to be “primary beneficiaries of affirmative action in employment” (p. 315). This policy allows for attracting women to higher range positions by providing them with easier access due to their underrepresented status.

While such measures are aimed at eliminating implicit bias, they are often considered irrelevant in a meritocratic setting. Indeed, the supporters of employment and promotion on the basis of merit and accomplishment oppose affirmative action arguing that it violates merit (Foley & Williamson, 2019). Moreover, affirmative action is characterized by multiple drawbacks due to its prioritization of social justice over performance quality and organizational goal achievement. As identified by Morgenroth and Ryan (2018), the disadvantages of affirmative action as a gender quality approach include “unfair advantages to minority groups,” diminished organizational performance, and “stigmatization of those benefitting from such policy” (p. 3). Thus, instead of improving the situation with gender discrimination, this approach deteriorates the misunderstanding and opposition between genders. Thus, more long-term oriented and fair methods of addressing gender inequality in the workplace are required.

Gender Mainstreaming

One of the most effective and promising methods of bridging the gender gap in higher education is gender mainstreaming. Grosser and Moon (2005) define this term as “the (re)organization, improvement, development, and evaluation of policy processes, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated in all policies at all levels at all stages, by the actors normally involved in policy making” (p. 329). In essence, such an approach incorporates a multitude of policies, interventions, and guidelines to promote the respect to and recognition of gender issues at all levels of performance. In the business setting, gender mainstreaming has become an immediate constituent of corporate responsibility (Grosser & Moon, 2005). Nonetheless, its positive implications for academia are also notable since the promotion of gender equality helps women to succeed across the career ladder by eliminating the persistent gender stereotypes.

While the theoretical articulation of the principles of gender mainstreaming promises positive outcomes, the practical implementation of these policies is ambiguous. According to Minto and Mergaert (2018), there is a significant gap between the theory and practice of gender mainstreaming. The scholars state that there are two domains in which gender mainstreaming practices are manifested, namely formal and informal. Formal practices and institutions related to gender mainstreaming include constitutions, laws, rules, and codes of conduct, which are controlled, monitored, and overall systematically implemented (Minto & Mergaert, 2018). On the other hand, informal aspects of gender mainstreaming include customs, norms, traditions, and unwritten rules or implied beliefs (Minto & Mergaert, 2018). The latter aspects are more difficult to pursue, control, and monitor, which is why the whole process of gender mainstreaming is complex and time-consuming. Nonetheless, it is essential to use the principles of gender mainstreaming to identify the barriers to gender quality, remove them in a timely manner, address consequences, and make effort to prevent discrimination from happening again.

Best Gender Equality Practices in Higher Education

Among other ways of addressing gender inequality in the higher education setting, there are particular approaches that are based on larger policies and legislature but are more goal-oriented and practically applicable. Firstly, mentorship has proven to be an important asset in promoting women’s confidence when pursuing a career in leadership positions. According to Ghouralal (2019), mentorship as a process of exchange of experience and knowledge between a more advanced professional and a beginner is vastly utilized in higher education. Indeed, in universities, “mentoring relationships often involve the roles of networking, power, and status,” which provides more opportunities for women’s professional growth and career accomplishment (Ghouralal, 2019, para. 4). Thus, women are able to obtain support from mentors when moving across the organizational hierarchy.

Another important concern that mentorship is capable of addressing is the burden of mixed responsibilities women face when combining their teaching and research duties. As stated by Brabazon and Schulz (2020), female academics are particularly exposed to burnout and are likely to avoid promotion due to an overload of duties. Moreover, female individuals in higher education “who are promoted to leadership and decision-making roles within this context occupy a position that is ambivalent and emotionally exhausting given the need to navigate considerable organizational pressure” (Brabazon & Schulz, 2020, p. 880). Therefore, mentorship is a method of helping women to cope with the pressure, prioritize occupational advancement, and increase female presence in leadership positions. Since men who are predominantly overrepresented in leadership roles tend to mentor younger male applicants, gender inequality persists, placing women in a disadvantageous position (Ghouralal, 2019). Therefore, university-based mentorship for female employees is a valuable method for promoting positive role models for younger generations of female leaders.

In addition, the research addresses organizational culture change and inclusive leadership as promising approaches to promoting gender equality in higher education and other job settings. Coe et al. (2019) suggest that achieving a positive shift in organizational culture toward gender equality might be particularly difficult for science and academic settings since individuals employed in such institutions are commonly objective thinkers who oppose radical change. Therefore, it is relevant to view this change as a journey and not a destination achievement (Coe et al., 2019). To achieve the goal of organizational culture reforming, institutions should implement inclusive leadership practices. They are aimed at ensuring that the burden of organizational change is not placed on the underrepresented group, which commonly includes women. Since minorities are expected to over-perform in order to demonstrate their presence in the workplace, it is important to “recognize and remove the minority tax,” which is a “measure of inclusive leadership” (Coe et al., 2019). Thus, the implementation of inclusive leadership allows for enhancing organizational change and promoting women’s representation at high-rank positions.

Moreover, diversity training targeting gender inequality elimination practices is a pivotal element of policies against gender-based discrimination in the workplace. Ferguson (2018) introduces such terms as gender training, gender-sensitive training, and non-discrimination training to identify the process of practices aimed at promoting gender awareness in staff. In essence, the process of gender training involves multiple stages, including analysis and planning, evaluation and design, and implementation. At each stage, the particularities of an organization where the training sessions are planned are considered to target the materials and interventions accordingly. Commonly, gender-sensitive training incorporates several themes addressing different aspects of gender inequality. Ferguson (2018) identifies “awareness raising and consciousness building, knowledge enhancement, skills training, change in attitudes and behaviors, and mobilization for social transformation” (p. 4). All these themes are essential for successful training and consecutive achievement of gender mainstreaming goals. Furthermore, the utilization of interactive and highly informative techniques for training purposes allows for enhancing the effectiveness of such interventions.


The purpose of the study was to investigate the issues related to gender inequality in higher education in the US and related solutions. The literature review provided the insights from secondary sources on the issue implying that it has attracted the attention of other researchers. It can be noted that academia reflects the gender stratification of society and culture as a whole, demonstrating the unequal status of women and men, gender inequality in the teaching profession, gender asymmetry of teaching staff and students. Despite a sufficiently large number of women in higher education faculty, the presence of gender asymmetry manifested through the underrepresentation of women in leadership and high-status positions, such as professors, deans, and heads of departments, remains relevant. This can be explained by the patriarchal traditions, the glass ceiling concept, and gender stereotypes that are persistent and recurrent in contemporary society as a whole and the higher education setting in particular.

In recap, even though women have increasingly gained access to higher education and the enactment of different Acts and policies, they (women) remain the minority in the leadership on the institutions. The aspect led to the issue of gender inequality. Issues such as segregated field in which women are dominant in term field such as social science, while male dominate in the STEM was a concern raised. Issues of sexual assaults, and the hindrance faced by women such as the high demands for family care and workplace expectations reduced their chances to rise into leadership and administrative positions in higher educations. The commitment of leadership in various higher learning institutions to instigate, evaluate and communicate the strategies to reduce gender inequality is fundamentally required. Mentoring and training the stakeholders, managing diversity strategies, and structural transformational strategies were identified as key tools for the addressing of the gender inequality in higher learning institutions.

Methodology and Findings

This chapter aimed to cover the methodology used during the research process and the data analysis results in accordance with the research questions generated for the dissertation. The chapter specifically addressed and validated the choice of participant recruitment and sampling approaches, research setting identification, and data collection methods. Online means for communication with the participants within the qualitative research perspective were validated by multiple benefits. A data analysis approach using thematic analysis was employed; themes identified in the respondents’ interviews conducted during the study were presented in detail.


Due to objective and subjective reasons for the determination of social structures throughout the entire existence of mankind, it is relevant to turn to dependencies and patterns that affect society as a whole and the social order. Halfpenny (2016) explains that at each new stage of the ascent of historical being, a person, as a basic element of the social structure, must measure their needs, abilities, and desires not only with their ontological status, but also with other factors. Modern civilization has plunged social worlds into a circle of dependencies that grow exponentially and has led to a mismatch between natural biological and spiritual essences, which requires a modern understanding of the dependence of historical existence on certain patterns (Halfpenny, 2016). Social institutions and natural elements are deliberately directed by a person beyond the real boundaries of their own capabilities, which leads to the desire to form a new way of thinking, called metaphysics in philosophical science (Halfpenny, 2016).

Supporters of positivism saw the acquisition of objective knowledge in the purification of science from metaphysics, which was reflected in the basic postulates of the positivist approach, which in relation to the study of social reality can be formulated as follows (Halfpenny, 2016). Social phenomena obey social laws, just as nature obeys physical laws (the law of determinism, social determinism) (Halfpenny, 2016). These laws are causal statements, that is, describing the causal relationship between events. A good explanation in the natural and social sciences corresponds to three normative-logical evaluation criteria: what is to be explained can be logically deduced from explanatory statements; explanatory statements include a plausible general law, from which what is subject to explanation is deduced from logical necessity; what is to be explained must satisfy the criterion of empirical testability (Halfpenny, 2016).

The fundamental difference between the neo-positivist research paradigm is the recognition of the free will of the acting subject as an integral part of social reality. Namely the free will of the acting subject, according to the neopositivists, is the reason that in the social world the causal laws of social reality are not deterministic, as in the natural world, but probabilistic (Halfpenny, 2016). That is, in the physical world, the same initial conditions cause the same consequences. In the social world, the same conditions can lead to different consequences (people who grew up in the same socio-economic conditions can relate differently to the reality around them), and the task of sociological research is not only to determine the possible variants of consequences, but also to determine the probability each of them. In connection with the above, for the purposes of this study, a neo-positivistic philosophy has been chosen as a secondary theoretical framework, which helps to explain the objective reasons for the phenomenon under consideration based on not only secondary, but also empirical research, and at the same time eliminating the potential influence of personal views and beliefs of the researcher.

While feminist theory provides the basis for conceptualizing gender inequality for the purposes of the study, the secondary theoretical framework, neo-positivist theory, allows for explaining its social implications and finding effective solutions based on the proper identification of behavioral patterns and social triggers. Social institutions and natural elements are deliberately directed by a person beyond the real boundaries of their own capabilities, which leads to the desire to form a new way of thinking, called metaphysics in philosophical science (Halfpenny, 2016).

Supporters of positivism saw the acquisition of objective knowledge in the purification of science from metaphysics, which was reflected in the basic postulates of the positivist approach, which in relation to the study of social reality can be formulated as follows (Halfpenny, 2016). Social phenomena obey social laws, just as nature obeys physical laws (the law of determinism, social determinism) (Halfpenny, 2016). These laws are causal statements, that is, describing the causal relationship between events. A good explanation in the natural and social sciences corresponds to three normative-logical evaluation criteria: what is to be explained can be logically deduced from explanatory statements; explanatory statements include a plausible general law, from which what is subject to explanation is deduced from logical necessity; and what is to be explained must satisfy the criterion of empirical testability (Halfpenny, 2016).

The research employed a qualitative approach using email interviews. Qualitative research is typically employed to explore a phenomenon and gain insights on the topic (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). In addition to that, the use of qualitative methods was in line with FST, which highlighted the importance of providing women with an opportunity to voice their experiences (Hekman, 2013). From the perspective of the study, it meant that gender inequality could be described by qualitative methods.

Research Design

The project employed the elements of a narrative study. Creswell and Creswell (2017) explain narrative research as a type of work where a researcher must communicate with people, gather their stories, and combine different points of view to answer the main research question. An interview is a method to gather qualitative information in this kind of research (Maxwell, 2009). The study employed email interviews. The topic of email interviews required extensive consideration to ensure that its choice was justified because the method is emerging.

Email Interviews

Internet-based communication methods are being adapted for research purposes. The reason for the development is that the Internet is being used increasingly by people all over the world (Iacono, Symonds, & Brown, 2016; Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Additionally, the Internet has the major advantage of establishing communication between people from different parts of the world, which makes it less time- and resource-consuming (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Various technologies have been used for interviews in the modern day; they incorporate messengers, including voice-based ones like Skype, platforms like Facebook, and emails (Iacono et al., 2016). This research used email interviews because this approach was particularly well-suited for its aims.

The quality of the data provided by email interviews is generally comparable to that offered by other, more traditional methods (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). Furthermore, email interviews have important advantages. Participants have a very high level of control over the process of interviewing in the case of emails (Mason & Ide, 2014). Consequently, participants can feel empowered by the procedure (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). This factor is particularly important for ethically appropriate research since any power imbalance can be problematic to voluntary participation and information disclosure (Brooks, Riele, & Maguire, 2014; Råheim et al., 2016). Also, power imbalances can result in reduced quality of gathered evidence in case participants attempt to provide the answers that they believe the researcher wishes to receive. In other words, the opportunity to empower participants and provide them with some control is important, may be improved by using email communication, which can also be a good choice for a shy participant (Iacono et al., 2016). The people who are comfortable with technology may also find its use during email interviews to be convenient and engaging (Mason & Ide, 2014). In addition, according to Mason and Ide (2014), email interviews can make it easier for participants to quit participation if they are uncomfortable, which is a particularly important participant right.

Email interviews can be completed at any time. In other words, they are asynchronous, which further empowers the participants, makes this form of communication more convenient, and allows both the participant and researcher to think through their responses (Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). The latter factor is particularly important since it results in more structured and explicit responses, which affects the quality of the data in a positive way (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Additionally, email interviews do not need transcription (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015), which reduces the possibility of transcription errors, as well as the time spent by the investigator on the process.

One of the major advantages of email communication was maintaining confidentiality. Indeed, the participants were recruited from the Facebook group and contacted the researcher with the help of their emails; the researcher used Respondent/Participant and number when referring to the interviewees and did not provide any personal information (including emails) of the participants to anyone. As a result, the participation was completely confidential since nobody from the group (as well as no people from other groups) could learn who decided to take part in the research. Given the fact that the topic of gender inequality can be sensitive, assuring confidentiality is an important factor (Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Also, the confidential potential of the approach is greater than that of other Internet options (like Facebook or Skype), and it became the main argument which prompted the choice of the method.

However, it should also be noted that email interviews have their specifics, some of which can be described as barriers or limitations. The use of email interviews may be associated with difficulties in building rapport (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015), even though the accounts of online communication suggest that it does not have to be so (Iacono et al., 2016; Mason & Ide, 2014). One of the solutions noted by Iacono et al. (2016) consists of sending several emails specifically to build trust. Such emails can be used to establish the rules of communication, including, for instance, confidentiality concerns, the expected time of responses, the appropriate form of reminders, and so on (Mason & Ide, 2014). This way, the problem can be resolved.

Informed consent procedures are specific for email interviews, but this issue can be settled as well. A common approach consists of sending the informed consent form as an attachment so that it can be printed, signed, and sent back (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Also, email communication does not allow the researcher to note the changes in the participants’ behavior (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). The lack of non-verbal cues, which can convey important information, increases the opportunity for miscommunication (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). Ratislavová and Ratislav (2014) state that the questions, therefore, need to be noticeably clear and unambiguous, which means that this problem can also be resolved.

The confidentiality requirements and the distance could also be associated with a problem; it could be difficult to ensure that the interviewees responded only once without using another email address to participate again. Similarly, the participants might be able to lie about some of their experiences or demographics, and it will be impossible to check their honesty (Iacono et al., 2016). It was discouraged to the participants from doing so; also, the researcher informed them about the importance of being honest and providing the responses that reflected their experience.

Using this methodology also highlights the potential for the digital divide to impact who self-selects to join the participant pool. Potential participants without email or Internet access may be passively excluded from studies of this kind, as may be younger or older potential participants who do not live within a culture where electronic communication is the norm (Iacono et al., 2016). For this study in particular, membership on Facebook (so as to see the invitations to participate posted in a particular Facebook group) also may have excluded certain potential participants who are not members of that social media platform.

In summary, there could have been some challenges related to the method, including rapport building, informed consent, identity verification, challenges to inclusion, and other issues, but there were reliable solutions to them, which were described by the literature on the topic. At the same time, email interviews had major advantages, including convenience for everyone involved, empowerment of the participants, and confidentiality assurance. Given that the study recruited participants from a Facebook group, email interviews were particularly applicable. Therefore, the choice of the method was justified.

Regarding the content of the email interview protocol, their questions can be found in Appendix E. As can be seen from Appendix E, the participants were asked about their job roles, the impact of status at the workplace, and the presence or absence of gender issues in education. The email interviews aimed to prompt the participants to share their personal experience.

Research Questions

The research questions addressed in this study were:

  1. How do educational leaders perceive the issue of gender inequality in higher education settings?
  2. How do educational leaders perceive the challenges of gender inequality in higher education settings?
  3. What are educational leaders’ best practices to address gender inequality in higher education settings?
  4. What are the possibilities of conducting training aimed at enhancing gender equality awareness and adoption of appropriate practice?


A population is a group of people who participate in the study, answer questions, and provide a researcher with the necessary information (Singh, 2007). In this project, an academic population was used. A very diverse Facebook group with over 12,000 members was used as the pool for potential participants. This group is comprised of educators, administrators, and leaders who work in higher education settings across the United States, with the specific focus of securing or sustaining online employment. The specificity of this population justified the application of the email interviewing method used to reach out to them. Regarding the topic of the study, the population included both male and female participants who shared their experiences and knowledge about the existing challenges caused by gender inequality.

Other main characteristics of the population was the age of the participants (in universities, the age ranges of employees vary from 28 to 55 or even older) and their occupation (the specific positions taken by them in the faculty or administration) varied. The age of the population was an integral factor because of the changes that have been observed in the broader system of higher education. For example, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 influenced the positions of women in different academic fields. Educators, administrators, and leaders should understand the outcomes of such legislation and compare past and present working conditions.

Communication with the participants of both genders was used to clarify the leading positions that may be available to women, the qualities that women must develop, and the relationships that must be developed to promote effective leadership in different fields. Faculty members’ and administrators’ opinions were crucial for this study. Their knowledge, as well as personal experience, assisted in discovering some new aspects of the work in profit and non-profit organizations. The representatives of multiple universities or colleges created a solid basis for the discussion of inequality female leaders may face in all higher educational facilities.


Sampling is the second step in research methodology in terms of which subjects should be selected from a population (Miller & Salkind, 2002). The goal of this stage was to understand which group of people was the most appropriate choice for the study and what interests and characteristics played a crucial role. The goal of sampling is to achieve data saturation, which will enable the interview to fulfill its own aim: provide the participants with the opportunity to describe their lived experiences (Fusch & Ness, 2015). In other words, the sampling attempted to reach a point at which new data was not provided. It was planned to gather data from between 10 to 15 participants, but the data saturation and participation response were expected to change the number.

Non-probability sampling was used because probability approaches are not entirely feasible for a dissertation that recruits its participants from a Facebook group. Therefore, the purposive approach was required in this work (Coe, Waring, Hedges, & Arthur, 2017). Regarding the specific types of sampling that were used, the approach chosen for this research corresponds to the definitions of voluntary and quota sampling. They can be defined as follows.

The combination of the abovementioned four sampling methods allowed for choosing the most suitable group of participants who complied with the goals of the study. Non-probability sampling was applicable to the study goals and conditions due to the inability to provide all members with equal opportunity to participate. Furthermore, the purposive approach to sampling, which is one of the types of non-probability sampling, was applied to allow for the researcher’s subjective judgment when choosing participants from the population of the Facebook group who met the criteria of the study. Thus, given the problem, target population, topic, goals, and research questions of the study, the researcher purposefully selected participants who seemed to comply with the demographic and professional criteria.

Upon the application of purposive non-probability sampling where the researcher’s judgment prevailed, voluntary response sampling was used to ensure the members’ participation on the basis of free will and informed consent. This sampling method helps to ensure ethical considerations in research allowing the participants to make an independent decision whether to enroll in the study. However, it might have negative implications for research findings due to the inability of the researcher to adjust the participants intentionally. Finally, after the participants selected on the basis of voluntary enrollment were selected, a quota sampling technique was applied to adjust the number of the enrolled participants to the requirements of the study with regard to their characteristics matching the target sample of the study.

The study involved a post in the Facebook group (see Appendix G) with information about the dissertation and an invitation to contact the researcher, following a grant of permission from the owner/administrator of the Facebook group and approval by the Trident University International Institutional Review Board. In other words, it involved a call for volunteers, which is the definition of voluntary sampling (Remler & Ryzin, 2015). However, the researcher was not able to invite every eligible participant because of the time- and resource-related constraints. Furthermore, it was planned to engage people from several specific characteristic groups. As a result, quotas were used to make the sample diverse, which means that quota sampling was also employed by the study (Remler & Ryzin, 2015). It was intended to include ten men and ten women, if possible, as well as at least five people aged 30-40, five people aged 40-50, and five people older than 50. Ethnicity was also of interest to the study, which is why people of different races and ethnicities were recruited; to regulate this aspect of the sample, it was planned to recruit no more than 10 Non-Hispanic White people. This approach is defined as quota sampling (Creswell & Creswell, 2017), and it was used to ensure that the sample of the study corresponds to its requirements.

The process of sampling was aligned with the equity and inclusion criteria to ensure that the sample includes the representatives of both genders, different age groups, and diverse ethnicities and races. The recruited participants’ ethnicity/race expressions were analyzed, and participants were categorized accordingly to ensure that White Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanic American representatives of higher education faculty were included in the study if they entered the participant pool. However, other ethnic groups were not represented due to the insufficient diversity of respondents who gave consent to participate. Thus, the ethnic and racial diversity of the sample was representative of the population of individuals who agreed to participate in the study but cannot be categorized broadly as representative of online faculty and administrators.

It can also be mentioned that the use of a Facebook group that is dedicated to teaching online can technically be viewed as a convenience sampling. Indeed, this approach presupposes employing a setting that is likely to include the representatives of the population of interest (Creswell & Creswell, 2017), and the named Facebook group fits this description. Furthermore, given the specifics of Facebook, the researcher encouraged the group members to share the post and, therefore, inform more people about the research. This approach is the definition of snowball sampling in online settings (Creswell & Creswell, 2017; Creswell & Poth, 2016). Since the research setting, Facebook, provided a rich environment from which to recruit potential participants who were on point in terms of characteristics sought, it was a good fit. However, it was not clear if this method would yield any results. As a result, the focus of this dissertation was on effectively incorporating voluntary and quota sampling methods.

In summary, the study involved creating a recruitment post in a Facebook group that included the people who would qualify for participation and encouraging the readers to spread the message while employing quotas to diversify the sample. This strategy was explained by the needs of the research and provided it with a sample that was able to produce the required information. The sample was drawn from a higher education Facebook group titled Make a Living Teaching Online. It was necessary to describe the group since it can be viewed as the settings of the study. The group was created by the Babb Academy on September 25th, in 2009, and it is an active group which is currently run by the same organization. As of 2019, the group has just over 12,000 members who are online educators, although no extensive information about the demographics of the group has been provided. On average, ten posts appear in the group every day. The principal investigator has been an active member of the group since January 17, 2018; each participant’s Facebook profile was used to participate in the study.

The administrators and moderators were easily accessible; they were contacted to obtain the permission to use their group for a research recruitment post (see Appendices A and B). The Babb Academy (n.d.) describes itself as an “education solution provider” (para. 1), and the group itself is dedicated to supporting online educators. Among other things, the posts are devoted to the events, changes, and issues of the industry, and the participants are encouraged to “share daily musings” and “ask questions” (para. 3). Job posts are also a part of the group. Overall, the group has many participants who were likely to be interested in the research and capable of providing the necessary information.

The main inclusion criterion was the participants’ current occupation in higher education; the study looked for male and female employees who took different leadership positions in universities. The second major inclusion criterion is participants’ working experience, which should be more than one year at the same institution. Furthermore, it was intended to limit the age of the potential participants to over 30 years. It was anticipated that people who are older than 30 are more likely to take up leadership positions and have some experience. All participants were English-speaking people and participants were informed that completion of the email interview would take approximately one hour. The final requirement was the openness of potential participants to talk about their professional and personal issues, working experience, and inequality problems if any occurred in the workplace; only voluntary participation were accepted (see Appendix C).

People belonging to any race or ethnicity were accepted; an attempt was made to include the people of different races and ethnicities. Also, it was expected to work with the academic staff of different United States universities because of the specifics of recruitment (the usage of a Facebook group). Admittedly, the situation with gender equality can be different across the USA and individual institutions, but the present research did not intend to focus on a specific state; rather, it attempted to review the problems with gender equality that manifest themselves in educational settings in general. The only exclusion criteria that might have prevented participants from being engaged in the study were those that make them vulnerable (such as those who are non-fluent English; however the Facebook group is conducted in English).


An email interview protocol (see Appendix E) was the instrument that was used in the research (Olsen, 2012). The email interview questions served as one of the main and most credible sources of information because of direct communication with people who are involved in the chosen field of work. The email interview guide can be found in Appendix E. It was a tool that was specifically developed for this research. The process of selecting questions was based on the topics identified in research questions; it also aimed to cover the key themes of the research. As can be seen from Appendix E, the email interview protocol was solely based on the research questions. The first block focuses on the demographics to ensure that the participants had the expertise on the topic and to help diversify the sample. The second set of questions detailed the respondents’ experience with inequality, as well as its consequences, responding to the first and second research questions. The third and fourth sets are related to the third research question, which is concerned with best practices in the area.

The anticipated duration of online communication with the participants did not exceed an hour. It involved one-on-one communication because this approach allowed gaining information about the personal experiences and perspectives of the participants, which was the aim of the study. Moreover, it was easier to ensure the confidentiality of the participants in one-on-one communication. Finally, one-on-one communication helped the participants be more open about their ideas and experiences, and it did not allow the participants to influence each other’s responses. Therefore, the approach was justified.

Data Collection and Storage

According to the current information from Facebook Help Community (2014), it was possible to use Facebook for research solicitation, and the only direct requirements for such posts consisted of abiding by the rules of Facebook and requesting the permission for the post from the administrators of the group. The permission from the Facebook Group was obtained (Appendix B). The following plan was proposed for the next steps in recruitment. The data collection procedures started following approval from Trident University International (TUI).

First, the invitation to participate was posted in the Facebook community group of interest (see Appendix G). Second, the participants who contacted the researcher were provided with detailed information about the research (see Appendix C). The researcher discussed standardized rules of communication with the participants who agreed to participate, specifying the deadline for responses and inquiring about the appropriate methods and timing of reminders (see Appendix H for the standardized rules). This step helped to establish rapport with the participants. After that, the participants were provided with the email interview questions (see Appendix E) and instructions (see Appendix I). Due to the specifics of the approach to interviewing, its settings can be described as online settings; specifically, emails were used. Physically, the participants could be present anywhere, which is a major benefit of this approach to data collection. Additionally, the emails did not need to be transcribed; they were collected and analyzed as submitted. If the participants took longer than planned to respond to the questions, a reminder was sent to them once (see Appendix J).

The analysis of the email interview data started immediately during its collection to track data saturation. It was planned to recruit about 10 to 15 participants; the number was adjusted depending on data saturation. In addition, it was planned to make the sample diverse; specifically, the study involved both men and women, and an effort was made to recruit people of different ages to check if the situation with gender inequality has changed in their institutions over time. It was helpful to investigate the intersections of gender-based discrimination and those pertaining to age or ethnicity as well. Ultimately, the number of participants included in the sample was 13 individuals. Such a relatively small sample was validated by the limited number of individuals who volunteered to participate and were eligible to be recruited based on the recruitment criteria designed for this study. While a small sample might be considered a limitation, the qualitative nature of the research justifies that the sample size was sufficient for the inquiry purposes since the interviews were detailed and respondents provided enough information to understand the manifestations of the problem and answered the research questions.

Regarding the protection of the participants, the chosen methods were particularly helpful in this regard since they allow confidentiality. The email addresses of participants were not disclosed by the researcher in any case, and only the researcher had access to them during the study. No identifying information was collected beyond name and email address (as well as membership in the Facebook group from which participants were sourced). If any potentially identifying information was mentioned by a participant, it was removed by the investigator. The participants were provided with an informed consent document; they printed it, signed, and sent it back electronically (see Appendix D). The need for the informed consent was explained by the fact that the study may involve some sensitive topics, which is why the participants were informed about the minimal risks beforehand.

The data was kept in a secure location, which was under the principal investigator’s sole control. A password-protected computer was used as a storage device. All the communication with the participants was carried out with the help of the same computer. The participants’ names or email addresses were not used; instead, each participant was assigned a number that was allocated to the obtained responses depending on the order of the conducted interview on the list. Also, a USB drive had backup data, which was kept in a safe at the principal investigator’s place. All the data will be destroyed (erased from all devices) after three years (as per the university policy) of storage.

Data Analysis

Thematic analysis was employed for the study, which implies the need for coding. The interviews used emails, which is why no transcripts were required. The steps for theme identification were identical to the ones proposed by Clarke and Braun (2014). There are other approaches to the process as well, for instance, that by Vaismoradi, et al. (2016). However, the methods are largely similar, and their main differences consist of the terms used. Overall, it was necessary to become familiar with the data, start developing the codes, and search for themes. Themes then needed to be reviewed and refined, and their eventual version were established. The results of the analysis are presented in the form of a table that describes the themes and the frequency of their appearance.

It was not planned to employ software; manual coding was used. As for validity, it was ensured by triangulation (Cohen et al., 2017). The researcher reviewed the information from the Facebook group and the policies and training materials of the universities where participants work (where available), and the data analysis assisted in contextualizing the data from the email interviews. The document review approach was used to analyze the materials available about the participants using accessible sources. Document review in conjunction with triangulation allows for obtaining more reliable results of data collection. In particular, according to Bowen (2009), “by examining information collected through different methods, the researcher can corroborate findings across data sets and thus reduce the impact of potential biases that can exist in a single study” (p. 27). Thus, triangulation was used to incorporate different data into one comprehensive set of information pertaining to the investigated problem. In addition to the information collected via email interviews, the researcher reviewed and analyzed information from university policies, gender training materials, and employee relations information from the organizations where the participants are employed. Regarding the demographic data, they were analyzed with the help of descriptive statistics; MS Excel was used since its capabilities are sufficient for the task. The results of this part of the analysis are presented in the form of tables and graphs produced by MS Excel. (See tables 1 and 2 and figures 1 and 2).

Trustworthiness and Credibility

Using the qualitative terms of “transferability, credibility, dependability, and confirmability,” which define a study’s trustworthiness (Given & Saumure, 2008, p. 896), the following analysis of the project was proposed. With respect to transferability, the study was only applied to the United States higher education; other countries or other levels of education were not considered. This limitation was explicitly stated in the results section, but it stemmed from the project’s aims, which is why it was not a problem; rather, it was a specific feature of the dissertation. Regarding credibility and confirmability, the accurate representation of the collected data and its appropriate interpretations was ensured through triangulation. As for dependability, the study presented its methodology in detail, including the data collection tools. To summarize, the trustworthiness concerns were considered when developing this dissertation’s design.


The limitations of the dissertation were determined and justified by its methodology. First, the study gathered the personal perspectives of participants, which is why they were likely to be subjective and reflect personal bias (Cohen et al., 2017). However, bias in research is generally difficult (if not impossible) to avoid (Walliman, 2018). Therefore, this issue is unavoidable, but it was controlled. Also, it should be noted that the investigation of the instances of gender inequality, its consequences, and solutions to it needed to consider the personal experiences and perspectives of the people who are affected by it or witness it. Therefore, the introduction of personal, subjective views was required and benefitted this study, which focused on the plurality of opinions.

Secondly, the sampling of the study could result in limitations. First, voluntary sampling led to the recruitment of the people with specific experiences and perspectives, which could have resulted in self-selection bias (Callegaro et al., 2015). Similarly, the problem of non-coverage can be mentioned (Callegaro et al., 2015): the study used online means of recruitment (a specific Facebook group), which automatically excluded the people who do not have Facebook accounts and the Internet access. These issues must be mentioned when presenting the results. The sample was relatively small (13 people) (Walliman, 2018). However, the study did not intend to be generalizable; it planned to present varied opinions and aims to investigate the phenomenon of gender inequality and solutions to it. Also, the research did not target particular locations or institutions, which is why it is likely not to be representative of any of them. However, the investigation of particular locations or institutions is not the goal of the dissertation, which is why this limitation is not problematic.

Furthermore, the email interview method is noteworthy. The specifics of the approach make it difficult to verify the participants’ responses; also, it was not possible to prevent them from participating twice. However, this potential issue was highly unlikely. The study also prompted the participants to avoid dishonesty. The problems that were associated with email interviews were outweighed by their benefits; this method was particularly well-suited for the research due to its sampling strategy (which used a Facebook group). To summarize, many of this study’s limitations could be explained by the specifics of the dissertation, and the methods that were associated with them had multiple benefits and were suited for this research. The limitations were considered when the results were presented.

The Impact of COVID-19 on the Research Process

The breakout and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic during 2020 and into 2021 have negatively influenced multiple spheres of life on a global scale. The high level of contamination and fast speed of spreading of the disease coupled with high mortality and comorbidity rates necessitated lockdowns, social distancing, disruption of public systems (including higher education) and the elimination of contact to avoid mass case occurrence. According to Donthu and Gustafsson (2020), businesses and other organizations are struggling to perform to the best of their capacities while preserving the pandemic control and prevention measures. Education in general, and research are fields where people are most likely to gather in large groups and interact, have been substantially modified to meet the requirements of health care organizations and protect students and faculty from health hazards.

Conventional processes have been substituted by remote and online alternatives to ensure minimized interpersonal contact, which has altered the learning outcomes and attitudes. Much of the research efforts in sociological and educational settings have been hindered and projects rescheduled due to the impossibility to conduct studies under lockdown constraints (Donthu & Gustafsson, 2020). Regardless of the scope of impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on research in general, this study was not influenced by the social distancing measures due to its development as an online interaction only, and the sourcing of its participants from a group whose membership asserts an affiliation with online higher education.

Starting from the onset of the project planning, exclusively online procedures were planned for the dissertation. The process of the literature search was conducted via online scholarly databases without a necessity to visit physical libraries. Hence, the limited access to educational facilities has not had a significant constraining impact on the research process. Moreover, the procedures of participant recruitment were initially planned to be carried out through online means, which had not presupposed face-to-face contact with the individuals participating in the study. Similarly, the chosen data collection method of e-mail interviews was planned regardless of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why there were no limitations associated with the disease breakout and the outcomes of the present study.

Finally, although the investigated issues and concepts related to gender inequality in the higher education setting are associated with organizational decision-making, the influence of COVID-19 on the matter under investigation was not considered due to the relatively short term of the pandemic and its on-going status, including the inability to estimate when normal societal operations and practices would return, if ever. Overall, since the general perspective on the problem of gender inequality in higher education was prioritized throughout the research, the influence of pandemic on the issue was not taken into consideration. As for the interest in participating in the study, the individuals’ decisions to take part in the interviews were not dependent on the COVID-19 pandemic since no face-to-face interaction was mentioned. Moreover, the information on the study at the stage of participant recruiting and sampling clearly identified online e-mail interviews as the means for data collection. Thus, the sample chosen for the study was not predetermined by the pandemic constraints, which is why study results and findings have not been hindered by COVID-19.

One aspect of potential COVID-19 impact that was not addressed is the toll the ongoing pandemic may have taken on participants, both professionally and personally. Even though they may have already been teaching online, their students and institutions were likely impacted by the turmoil and uncertainty of the pandemic as it spread nationally and globally. It was not investigated, and is not yet known, if the impact of COVID-19 influenced any participant’s interest in joining the study, and if it influenced their perceptions of gender inequality in higher education settings. That would be an interesting topic for future study once the pandemic is deemed to be over.


The present study investigated the issues related to gender inequality in higher education in the USA and related solutions. It used expert opinions and experiences; in particular, it recruited educational leaders who work in the United States and engaged them in email interviews. The chosen methods had some limitations, which were considered, but they also had notable benefits, and they responded to the required research questions.

The investigation was significant because the goal of gender equality has not been achieved yet. Additionally, there was not much recent research on the topic of gender equality in higher education as related to leadership in the field. The primary goal of the study was to find the information about the solutions to the problem of gender inequality. Apart from providing important insights, the data was used to develop training interventions for educational leaders.

Findings and Analysis

The data collection technique was applied as described in the methodology. The interview data from 13 participants were considered reliable for the analysis and for the formulation of the conclusion. The findings section provides the details of the background information of the participants and their views on gender inequality and their outcomes, diversity training and its effects, and other solutions to gender inequality.

Background Information of the Participants


Nine of the 13 participants were females, while four were male (female participants were 69%, while male counterparts were 31%) (see figure 1 below).

Gender Composition of the Participants
Figure 1: Gender Composition of the Participants


Table 1: Ages of Respondents

Respondent 1 43
Respondent 2 40
Respondent 3 54
Respondent 4 31
Respondent 5 48
Respondent 6 35
Respondent 7 39
Respondent 8 52
Respondent 9 30
Respondent 10 38
Respondent 11 45
Respondent 12 49
Respondent 13 48
Ages of respondents
Figure 2: Ages of respondents

Racial/ethnic identity, Academic attainment, Position in the university, Years of services

The respondents were drawn from different racial and ethnic backgrounds including Caucasian white, White American, Hispanic American, and African American. Eleven out of thirteen of the participants are PhD holders in different fields, and hold different positions where ten are professors, and three assistance professors. The participants hold other positions such as being an academic council member, deans of department, and other administrative roles. The data in this case is essential because it implies that the participants are likely to provide valuable information on which the current research problem is addressed.

Table 2: Racial/ethnic identity, Academic attainment, Position in the university, Years of service

Race/Ethnic Identity Educational Certificates Position in University Years in The Position
Respondent 1 Caucasian white PhD in Mathematics Professor, Academic Council member 8
Respondent 2 Caucasian white PhD in Political Science Professor, Academic Council member 5
Respondent 3 White American PhD in Psychology Professor, Dean of the social sciences department 7
Respondent 4 African American Master of Business Administration Assistant professor and Scientific Secretary 3
Respondent 5 Hispanic American PhD of Business Analytics Assistant professor, with administrative issues 3
Respondent 6 American, white PhD of Business Administration Professor, Dean of a Department 3
Respondent 7 African American PhD in International Business Professor, Dean of Social Sciences department 2
Respondent 8 Hispanic American PhD in Mathematics Professor, Dean of the Department 11
Respondent 9 African American Master of Psychology Assistant professor, Academic Council member 1
Respondent 10 White American PhD of Political Economy Professor, Member of Administrative staff 5
Respondent 11 White American PhD of Sociology Professor, Dean of Social Sciences department 13
Respondent 12 White American PhD of Mathematics Professor, Academic Council member 19
Respondent 13 White American PhD of Sociology Professor, Academic Council member 12

Themes Related to Gender Inequality in Higher Education

Theme 1: Disproportionate Gender-Based Discrimination against Women

The research findings reveal that there is high prevalence of Iin the higher learning institutions, which are predominantly applicable to female staff. Notable, male participants denied having experienced gender-based discrimination at all. Participant 3, a male, answered the question of whether he had ever experienced gender discrimination in the following way: “I never experienced it, I am male…” Similarly, Participant 7, also a male, stated, “I did not. Maybe, this is because such discrimination still is faced mainly by women.” Respondent 8 admitted that his “gender has never been a reason for discrimination” because “this is a problem that women are likely to face.” In the same regard, a male Participant 12 opined that “Gender inequality seems to be mostly experienced by females, especially in STEM.”

Participant 1 revealed that she has both experienced and witnessed gender-based discrimination. The respondent stated the following: “I constantly see blatantly disrespectful attitudes of male instructors and even some professors towards female coordinators and laboratory assistants.” Respondent 11 indicated that men are commonly condescending in communicating with women. She stated that “mansplaining and sexist approaches, especially faced by young female employees” are commonly witnessed in her institution. In fact, all the participants confirmed having witnessed gender discrimination against women in their workplaces.

Participant 10 shared her experience, stating: “as a woman I am often stereotypically perceived as not intelligent and incapable of performing responsible tasks.” Participant 2 revealed that she had not personally experienced gender-based discrimination. However, she revealed to have witnessed discrimination “manifested towards females from junior staff,” which is sometimes grossly inappropriate treatment. Participants 4, 5, and 6 all emphasized that they have been disproportionately treated with gender bias from the first day of employment at their respective higher education institutions. Participants 5 and 6 concur in stating that they have experienced the discrimination and feel that they have been treated with lower regard by their male colleagues. Participant 7 had a similar response as participant 3, stating that he has not experienced the discrimination but has witnessed it at their institutions. Participant 13 stated that “promotions are given to male candidates more often… Also, women are judged based on their looks rather than qualifications or knowledge.” Thus, these participants clearly observed women’s disproportionate exposure to discrimination in comparison to their male counterparts. This is the kind of inequality that could negatively impact career progress.

Theme 2: Stereotypical Perception of Women as Inferior to Men

Female staff members in the study revealed that they are addressed as unequal to men, stating that the male staff at their institutions treat women in subordinate and unequal positions with disrespect, effacing an attitude of being dominant. Participant 1, a female, stated that being a Ph.D. in Mathematics caused her to be treated differently by the male dominant colleagues, who think that she is out of place in her role. Despite being given the same workload and salary, she gains no respect or credit for being a member of the university’s Council. In her own words, “it is manifested only in a kind of latent form – you know, like latent racism in our society… I am a mathematician and I feel many of my male colleagues think I am not in my place. You know, like [B]lack women in NASA in 60s.”

Similarly, Participant 13 stated that the rules for gender equality in her institution do “not work as it is supposed to since women still experience inferiority compared to men.” According to Respondent 9, “there are more men in higher positions, such as professors, deans, etc. than women in our institution,” which implies female underrepresentation in academia leadership.

Participant 2 reported that in her work environment, “male employees allow themselves pretty obscene jokes in relation to female staff – I mean assistants, etc. They treat these girls as if they are stupid dolls.” Respondent 4 stated that, unlike male postgraduates, female postgraduates “are not treated seriously, as future scientists.” Participant 10 indicated that “the most significant barrier is stereotypes that women are weak, unintelligent, emotional, and should not perform outside home. This bias hinders women’s opportunity to build career in education.” The barriers addressed by Respondent 11 were related to other women’s roles; “You are likely to be asked a lot of additional family-related questions when promoted or hired if you are a woman.”

Respondent 5 admitted having been constantly exposed to stereotypical dominant treatment from men at the beginning of her career. She stated that: “male colleagues treated me as a competitor, at the same time trying to assault my dignity, implicitly stressing that I am a woman and, therefore, according to their perverted logic, I am more stupid then they are.” As stated by Respondent 8, “Once a young female colleague joins the faculty, she is perceived as less competent than her male colleagues of the same age or credentials.” The same tendency has been identified by Participant 6, who claimed that “women are perceived by men colleagues in a kind of a condescending manner.” Thus, these participants demonstrated experience with men exhibiting superiority when interacting with female colleagues. As with the prior theme, these experiences could negatively impact a woman’s academic career.

Theme 3: Women’s Age as a Factor of Exposure to Discrimination

The issue of age as a determinant of women’s exposure to gender discrimination has been mentioned. Participant 6 noted that “older women (above 50), if they have scientific credentials, are not subjected to gender-based discrimination.” A similar comment has been retrieved from Respondent 3, who said a woman can “face humiliating comments about her sexual relations that helped her to get the position (sure, I am talking about physically attractive and rather young women). The exclusion of this ‘rule’ are women of older age, above 50. If she shows the highest performance in work, has a lot of publications, made contribution to science, barriers related to gender inequality do not exist for her.” According to Respondent 13, “female leaders sometimes experience stereotypes, especially if they are young and attractive.” Therefore, these participants observed younger women being more exposed to discrimination than their older counterparts. Though older women may no longer experience the kinds of overt unequal treatment the participants spoke of younger women still do, which could negatively impact their academic careers.

Theme 4: Women’s Credentials and Position as a Factor of Discrimination

The findings revealed that, in many instances, there is a relationship between women’s high position in the organizational hierarchy and the decreased level of their exposure to gender discrimination. Indeed, Participant 7 stated that the likelihood for women’s discrimination “depends on the position. If it is top leadership, unlikely there is discrimination. However, if it is informal leadership, or lower positions, yes, a woman can face it, unfortunately.” According to Respondent 11, “as far as I experienced and witnessed it in my career, only women in non-leadership position are disproportionately exposed to gender bias.” Similarly, Participant 1 stated that “discrimination unlikely will be present if you are a rector [a senior leader]. There is a kind of threshold after which a woman already is not perceived as a woman, just like a professional.”

Respondent 8 confidently stated that “women in leadership positions in education are treated equally with no discrimination observed.” Respondent 2 admitted that “those who are at high position, do not face discrimination.” Respondent 13 mentioned that “women in higher positions are facing less discrimination than they do in lower positions.” In the same manner, Participant 3 mentioned that “if we talk about top management, women there are not discriminated [against].” Thus, based on the participants’ observations and experience, women at lower positions and with less credentials are more likely to be discriminated against, while females at top leadership positions are not commonly subject to gender bias. In addition, when asked if female leaders in higher education face discrimination, Participant 9 answered: “No, since they have become leaders under such circumstances, it means that they fought gender discrimination to some degree.” While it may seem like progress that, once women ascend to leadership, they are no longer discriminated against, it undermines the momentum of women’s professional progress if they never get to those leadership positions. If not, they would appear to remain targets for discrimination.

Theme 5: Gender-Based Barriers for Women’s Career Promotion

As the analysis of respondents’ answers demonstrated, women face multiple barriers when entering the higher education workplace and when pursuing career promotion. The concept of the glass ceiling has been mentioned by Respondents 2, 5, and 6, all stating that this issue limits women’s opportunities for professional growth and chances for being promoted and noticed by management. Female candidates are treated with prejudice due to the presumption that they have significant family responsibilities, which appears to be considered in the hiring and promotion processes (and in contravention to current U.S. law, namely the Equal Pay Act of 1963) (Beaumont, 2016). Participant 4 identified gender discrimination against her during the interview when applying for the position: “I was asked if I am married and have children.” Similarly, Respondent 6 stated the following: “From the very beginning, I was asked about marital status and children. When I told them I am not married, I was asked if I plan to.” Participant 13 stated that she, while she was judged based on her experience, getting into a higher education leadership position “is much more difficult for women. They have to juggle family and work, which limits their opportunities to achieve as much as men do during the same time.”

Moreover, Participant 1 stated that while starting a career in education is less impacted by discrimination against women, it becomes more prominent when female individuals attempt to pursue career promotion. According to the respondent, “there are no entry barriers but later, in the process of work, a woman will face the barriers to move further on the career ladder.” Participant 2 stated that stereotypes are a significant barrier: “A specific stereotype exists about men’s greater suitability for leadership positions.” As Respondent 8 stated, women “need to fight with the old stereotype and, in addition to performing professionally, have to put additional effort to prove they are worthy.”

Another significant barrier is the intersection of racial and gender minority status. As mentioned by Participant 5, “for woman, it is more difficult, and barriers are gender prejudices. Furthermore, as I am Hispanic, for me, those barriers were “complemented” by racial biases also. They see in me a Chicano, not a scientist…” Similar barriers were experienced by African American females, as represented by Participant 9. She stated the following: “I constantly hear sexist opinions regarding my professionalism. Harassment and unconscious bias are frequent attributes of corporate culture that I encounter every day.” Therefore, the glass ceiling, gender bias, stereotypical attitudes toward women, and the intersection of gender and race contribute to participants’ perceptions that there are significant barriers for women when they pursue careers in higher education.

Theme 6: Implications of Gender-Based Discrimination

The findings reveal that gender-based discrimination and inequality have significant implications. Participant 1 identified that “it deteriorates teamwork, corporate culture and in general atmosphere in the university,” as well as stating that this creates a negative role model for students. Participant 2 revealed that the issue “negatively affects general culture at the University and [has an] educational effect on students. It deprives many talented women of the possibility to realize their potential, with benefit for themselves, their university, and society.” Participant 3 mentioned that gender discrimination “reduces performance potential of the University, due to impaired communication and, accordingly, weakened cooperation and team work.”

As stated by Respondent 11, “both students and faculty are facing obstacles when completing their degrees and working in scientific and academic settings. They often stop pursing their dreams because they are treated with bias.” Importantly, according to Participant 12, “STEM lacks female professionals as a result of discrimination experienced by women at individual and organization levels. Such a state of affairs sets a negative example for the girls who seek career paths, since they do not have role models to follow. That is why the problem of gender inequality might persist for decades.”

According to Participant 4, “It reduces women striving for achievements in teaching and science and, in general, naturally reduces University’s potential, sustainability, and competitive advantage.” The issue of universities losing competitive advantage was also mentioned by Participant 6. Respondent 5 mentioned the loss of talented staff due to discrimination, stating that “Many leave for business companies precisely because of this.” Participant 13 emphasized that gender inequality “has a psychological burden that has a negative effect on the workplace atmosphere and women’s professional accomplishment.” Similarly, Respondent 9 stated that “women here are much more likely to experience burnout since it is psychologically difficult to cope with the continuous stress of dealing with sexist attitudes, harassment, and stereotypes.” Since most of the participants had similar views, it seems clear that their experiences document the pervasiveness of gender inequality in higher education, as well as its negative impact on women’s academic careers, as well as for students and the overall institutional culture. Based on their experiences and knowledge of the prevalence of the problem, all the participants agreed that it is important that some interventions are put into place to address the problem.

Theme 7: Diversity Training and Its Effects

Diversity training was one of the highly focused areas in the study. The participants provided significant information on the implementation of diversity training and its impact on their institutions. Participant 1 strongly stated that she believes that diversity awareness training is “the only thing that can help” in addressing the problem of gender inequality in higher education institutions. However, she stated that these kinds of trainings have not been implemented at her institution. The participant suggests that awareness building programs should include a “gender-diverse team building practices, role plays.” Respondent 10 emphasized the effectiveness of training programs because “information is a powerful tool in addressing social issues.” Similarly, Participant 2 was also highly supportive of the use of diversity awareness training as a tool for addressing the problem. Again, she said that the strategy has not yet been adopted in her institution and hence the problem has not been widely discussed or key solutions developed. However, her suggestions are that “[it] should be explained what is diversity in practice and what are its benefits. There should be understanding that gender stereotypes are harmful for all.”

Similarly, Respondent 8 suggested that “the problem should be defined through awareness-raising efforts. Some training would be beneficial to teach staff how to recognize and respond to it.” The training should also place an emphasis on the adverse effect of stereotypes against all women, and to higher education institutions at large. Indeed, according to Participant 8, “specific examples of how discrimination impacts individuals and organizational outcomes should be illustrated to demonstrate why [addressing] it is important.” Respondent 9 emphasized that “women should be given an opportunity to share their experience with colleagues, especially males.” An important point of view was shared by Respondent 12, who stated that “gender-sensitive training must be obligatory for men since their attitudes cause the problem.”

Participant 3 supports the implementation of training to create the awareness of the problem at hand. However, he emphasizes that it should “not be third party training.” He also regrettably stated that, at his institution, diversity awareness training has not been applied to internal management and operations. As a solution, the respondent suggested “open and sincere discussion of gender inequality in science and education, and in society as a whole.” Participant 4 also held the opinion that diversity awareness training is a good idea to assist in awakening awareness of the existence and impact of the problem. She also acknowledged that the approach has not been adopted in the institution where she works and suggests that it was noble for such initiatives to be implemented. As a solution, “real stories of female employees should be included, it is crucial for any start of such training. All female staff should be engaged in it, not only teachers.” Participant 13 suggested that diversity training “will educate staff members and explain the problem to those who do not acknowledge it.”

Similarly, Participant 5 thought that diversity training can “help to recognize the problem.” Nevertheless, she reveals that the training is not applied in her institution. She recommends that “the historical facts starting from the 19th century should be included.” Participant 6 also supports the adoption of the awareness training and suggests that “it should be interactive training, with a lot of discussion and case analysis.” Participant 7 mirrors the concerns to the Participant 6‘s insights and stated that the training should be purely picture-based, formal, and obligatory. However, the two (Participant 7 and Participant 6) also reveal that the training is not implemented in their institutions. Participant 7 believes that such training will be successful if “open discussion and constant feedback and interaction are implied.” Thus, as participants stated, higher educational institutions do not provide training for awareness about gender biases. Beyond the pro forma versions of diversity training some have experienced, they see a clear need for more effective versions.

Theme 8: Other Solutions to Gender Inequality

Beyond awareness training, there are other solutions which can assist in addressing gender inequality in higher education settings. Participant 1 revealed that an aspect of gender inequality is captured in the employment contract, but they only address the problem partially. The gaps in addressing the problem “undermine the culture of engagement, reduce motivation and do other serious harm in the HR area in the University.” In her suggestion, Participant 1 calls for creating “cultures of diversity” through the recognition of the value of diversity itself, and readiness for cultural transformation. The management have been urged to strive for the creation and strengthening of a culture that inspires existence and respect of gender differences. According to Respondent 9, alternative solutions to address gender inequality might include “research projects, offices for diversity and inclusion, and others [to] make leadership and administration aware of the severity of the problem and empower women with support.”

Other participants also raised their concerns about the weakness of the efforts put in place to assist in addressing the problem. It emerges that women are given equal or even better chances during recruitment for lower and middle level positions in the participants’ institutions. However, they face a lot of challenges in their work and particularly when pursuing career progression, which lead to the inequality. Participant 2 states that “top leadership tries to observe the legislation and not to apply evident discriminatory practices in hiring.” Participant 5 states that “there are a lot of useful reports, books, and other materials and definitely they should be used in our University to educate employees.” The implication of this is that it suggests that the use of an evidence-based approach may help to address inequality in higher education institutions.

Participant 6 reveals that one “cannot fix the picture with quotas. Moreover, a policy of artificial balance will definitely lead to perturbations in the effectiveness of the university.” As stated by Respondent 10, “We must develop an inclusive approach where people are treated with respect and provided equal opportunity regardless of their gender, race, etc.” Institutional heads are called upon to initiate open discussion, without hypocrisy and double standards, to enhance awareness and development of appropriate solutions at the institution level. Participant 7 states that there are no effective efforts put in place so far to address the gender inequality at their higher education institution. The respondent stated the following: “I don’t consider it effective as they are simply absent.” He suggested the development and application of a well thought out “talent management system.”

Thus, as it is evident from respondents’ answers that additional strategies could be employed beyond the creation of trainings to build awareness about gender inequality among faculty on campus. With concerns expressed about ‘double standards and ineffective approaches that have been tried, it would appear that this study’s participants are calling for a new approach to addressing gender inequality. If left to persist as is, this phenomenon may harm human capital and ultimately reduce performance of both students and faculty, and perhaps the university as a whole. Participants emphasized that this is an issue that must be addressed by top management, who should intensify their efforts and change their vector in addressing gender inequality issues.


The purpose of this study was to investigate the perspectives of current educational leaders, including administrators and faculty members, about gender inequality in higher education settings. The research was effectively guided iby the research objectives, including 1) How do educational leaders perceive the issue of gender inequality in higher education settings? 2) How do educational leaders perceive the challenges of gender inequality in higher education settings? and 3) what are educational leaders’ best practices to address gender inequality in higher education settings? 4) What are the possibilities of conducting training aimed at enhancing gender equality awareness and adoption of appropriate practice? The discussion focuses on the details of how the objectives have been realized.

Perceptions of Leaders on the Issue of Gender Inequality in Higher Education Settings

The research findings reveal that the study’s participants, all leaders in higher education settings, are cognizant of the existence of gender inequality in their institutions. The first insight is that women are sometimes given employment opportunities with better chances than their male counterparts. However, there are still noticeable instances of gender-based stereotypes and hindrances that undermine the rise of women into higher and leadership positions. It is also evident from the participants’ observations that the issues of sexual harassments, gender-based discrimination and undermining the role of women are rampant at their institutions. The female leaders in the study, however, revealed that most of the negative treatments are perpetrated against women holding lower ranked positions.

The findings also concur with the insights drawn from the literature review. Barone and Assirelli (2020) revealed that gender-based segregation is highly evident in higher learning institutions. Due to the segregation, women continue to be treated as the weak gender and hence are in most cases offered courses and leadership in facilities considered to be of low regard. The ones who find their way into other programs such as STEM and ICT programs have not made it into high ranks in faculty leadership in those areas. This work confirms this study’s findings that two of the participants have attained the PhD in mathematics but have not reached to top leadership ranks in their departments due to the perception that women in STEM are weaker candidates for leadership. Winslow and Davis (2016) state that, despite the structural changes in higher learning institutions and qualifications that a significant number of women have attained, reinforcement of masculine work standards has led to gender inequality. Cruz (2020) and Henning et al. (2017) respectively acknowledge the existence of sexual assaults and workplace harassment in higher education. It implies that women do not have favorable working conditions, which is one of the strongly raised concerns from the research participants.

Perceptions of Leaders on the Challenges of Addressing Gender Inequality in Higher Education Settings

The research findings revealed that there are a range of challenges regarding the process of addressing gender inequality in higher education settings. First, there is an agreement among the study participants that the problem is not significantly recognized and those impacted are not given adequate opportunities to discuss it. The measures put in place such as hiring quotas and adhering to affirmative action standards in the recruitment may provide women the chance for employment but those measures do not address the concern of gender-based segregations, harassments, and sexual assaults. It is also evident that there is lack of awareness training to enlighten the staff of all genders, both in leadership/management/administrators and subordinate levels, about the gravity of the problem and its impact. The findings reveal that, for the study’s participants, gender inequality reduces work productivity, undermines the morale of victims, and hinders the realization of their full potential.

Barone and Assirelli (2020) state that gender inequality in higher education spills over into other sectors of the economy, hence intensifying the magnitude of the problem. Szewczok and Parslow (2018) reveal that the suppression of women with the potential to rise into leadership leads to lack of mentorships and hence women in the first years in their careers do not get the motivation and support to excel. Henning et al. (2017) acknowledges that higher education leaders and faculty experience and witness gender inequality, particularly workplace harassment, affects productivity and health effects to the victims, perpetrators, and the witnesses.

Recommendations by Educational Leaders on Best Practices to Address Gender Inequality in Higher Education Settings

The education leaders who participated in this study recommended several practices to address gender inequality in higher education settings. Diversity training is prominently considered as one of the strong practices to assist in addressing or reducing gender inequality. The strategy should however be implemented strategically for the intended awareness to be created and trickled down into practice. The training undertaken by external experts is highly recommended particularly in institutions where leadership and leadership pathways for women are highly impacted by a culture of inequality. Open approaches, where even the lower ranked faculty and leaders would have a chance to make inquiries and raise their concerns, are also highly recommended. Study participants implied that the training should go beyond the lecture approach to enhance learning and awareness on the issue of gender inequality. Use of case study discussion, where practices adopted by the best performing higher learning institutions are used as examples, was also identified as a recommended approach to raise awareness. Creating a culture of diversity is also highly advocated for. The leadership in higher education institutions are recommended to take up the responsibility to ensure that there is recognition of the value of diversity itself, especially where it concerns gender inequality, and work toward readiness for cultural transformation.

Buitendijk, Curry and Maes (2019) agree that the problem of gender inequality can be addressed through enhancement of the culture of an institution to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion. Timmers, Willemsen and Tijdens (2010) recommend that leadership communicate their assessment of the existing gender inequality issues, and then articulate strategies to address them. Communication of this sort can serve as the equivalent to formal training recommended by the research participants. The participants recommended that, in order to create a culture of diversity, it must be supported by the leadership and management of the institution. This perspective is highly supported by Peterson (2011), who advocates that the management/leadership in higher learning institutions should come up with formal gender mix policies. Peterson recommended that institutions uphold a well-thought talent management system, including where it impacts recruiting. Similarly, Benschop and van Brink (2014) call for the reevaluation of existing programs to identify unconscious gender biases and the dropping of interventions that are redundant.

In this context, it should be mentioned that scientists have found the following fact: men and women publish approximately the same number of articles per year (Smith et al., 2020). Over the past 60 years of women’s active participation in science, gender differences in publication activity in the areas known as STEM have only increased (Smith et al., 2020). Using data from the web database, scientists have reconstructed the complete history of publication activity of more than 1.5 million authors from 83 countries, published in 13 different disciplines between 1955 and 2010. It turned out that in 1955, women accounted for 12% of actively published authors, and by 2005, their share had increased to 35% (Smith et al., 2020). On average, men during their career published 13 scientific articles, while women published 10. It was also found that the number of articles contained in citation indexes authored by men is 30% higher than those authored by women (Smith et al., 2020). The study was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Researchers associate gender differences in publication activity with the fact that women are more likely than men to leave research careers. Leaving the academy of researchers explains up to 67% of gender differences in publication activity (Smith et al., 2020). Scientists emphasize the need to take steps to support female researchers at the academy at all stages of their careers. According to their findings, the support of young women researchers alone is not enough to keep talented women in science (Maggian et al., 2020).

Success in publishing for women may also be owing to hidden discriminatory practices and the overall atmosphere of gender inequality taking place in higher education institutions. Taking into account the significance of science in higher educational institutions, its role both for educational goals of students’ early engagement in scientific activity and overall benefit for society, gender inequality seems to be a critically deteriorating factor for the American education and science. Improving the quality of university education in the United States and its competitiveness in the world arena is associated not only with the development of professional competencies of graduates, but also with the creation of an intellectual and cultural field that meets international standards, and includes women (Buitendijk, Curry & Maes 2019). Leading universities position themselves as ethical benchmarks and carefully monitor their business reputation. To a large extent, this covers issues of gender culture, and if declared values do not correspond to the real situation, ultimately the educational institution could diminish its goodwill.

Potentially, the problem can be studied and discussed within social conflict theory, as the norms and principles of interaction between men and women are distinguished by historical variability and correlate with national, cultural, political, and religious characteristics. Studies show that these differences can be of a cardinal nature (Ferguson, 2015). The American tradition of gender relations is a collection of intermediate forms between two poles – the principle of the leadership of men over women which was inherent in Puritans in the era of the state formation, and the European tradition in which gender equality is considered a basic principle of social structure. Therefore, the equality of rights and opportunities for men and women guaranteed by the Constitution is de facto observed very conditionally in practice (Kezar, 2014).

It should be noted that gender inequality receives the most complete interpretation in the theory of social conflict, where it takes the form of the main category of analysis and interpretation of gender relations (Phillips, 2010). However, if there is a unanimous opinion on the existence of gender inequality and the need to eliminate it within feminism, then the question of the nature of women’s dependence is a matter of disagreement (Timmers, Willemsen & Tijdens, 2010).

Convergence theory discussed by Lorber (2005) that gender inequality will decline over time. Sociological theories of modernization and post-industrial society emphasize that trends towards rationalization in globally competing economies reinforce meritocratic principles and therefore, rapidly erode the gender basis of distribution along educational and labor trajectories (Lorber, 2005). Based on the assumption that employers are striving to maximize utility, the theory of human capital in its classical form suggests that the chances of women to enter a higher-paying job – provided that they are more qualified – should be higher (Lorber, 2005). Thus, gender inequality must be explained by the difference in human capital between women and men. Indeed, if women have higher human capital than men, then, according to this theory, their incomes should be higher (Lorber, 2005). In consistency with this logic, it can also be assumed that over time, vertical gender inequality either declines or reverses towards greater benefits for women.

The opposite argument lies in sustainability theory, according to which gender is a key factor influencing individual choice in the situation of seeking mutual agreement between employer and employee in the labor market (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Unlike convergence theory, it predicts the persistence and inertia of gender inequality early in a career. For example, according to the theory of gender identity, even if men and women have the same level of formal education, their specialties may differ, which is a consequence of gender stereotypes in preferences formed first in the process of socialization in the family, then under pressure from peers, which is expressed in less presence of women in STEM fields of science and education (Ertl et al., 2017). Moreover, if employers believe that hiring women is associated with higher risks because women tend to have higher turnover and absenteeism, they may be systematically recruited to less privileged and less paid positions, according to the theory of statistical discrimination (Messerschmidt et al., 2018). So, according to these arguments, even if women have a higher level of education than men, it is not at all predictive that they are more successful in the labor market, because of gender mechanisms that prevent full conversion of their educational advantages.


The study was based on three assumptions. First, it was assumed that the individuals who participated have the familiarity and experience with the issue of gender inequality and hence would provide the reliable data and information. Secondly, it was assumed that the research questions were relevant to the research problem and that the respondents were able to respond effectively and honesty. The other assumption was that the respondents involved would adequately be representative of the true state of the research problem. In other words, it was an assumption that the sampling technique and the sample size used could be relied upon in the realization of the target objectives.

Implications for Future Research

The research findings reveal that the participants, who are education leaders in higher learning institutions, are aware of the existence and the magnitude of the problem of gender inequality. It is also evident that they are aware of the weaknesses and loopholes, and efforts and strategies, put in place to address the issue. Suggestions are also made on the best practices that the leaders feel would assist in addressing the problem. Moving forward, researchers should try to consolidate the findings and provide insights on how the suggested practices can be.

A larger study sample may have provided additional relevance for settings that are dissimilar to those where the participants of this study work. Parsing differences by discipline, career stage, gender and other characteristics, may have provided a deeper understanding of the experiences of both individuals and cohorts. Though the participants in this study are representative of university professionals generally, the attempt here was to honor their individual perceptions and experiences.

Future research should consider the application of social justice and its role in gender equality in higher education in different faculties. For example, researchers can seek to understand how policy on social justice can be used to ensure that women are fully integrated into the system are given equitable access to resources needed in their faculties. This will help provide a wider scope, enabling women to be given equal access to the resources and opportunities to be more helpful to themselves and the departments where they lead.

Note: future research should focus on defining gender based on one’s expression as opposed to the public view of the person belonging to a specific gender.


This study aimed to investigate the perspectives of current educational leaders, including administrators and faculty members, about gender inequality. The data was collected, analyzed and the research findings compiled. The discussion revealed that the various institutions are aware or have witnessed or suffered due to gender inequality. Issues of gender segregation, sex assault, discrimination, and workplace harassments have been raised substantially, and strategies deemed suitable in addressing the problem include awareness training, the development of internal policies that promote gender equality, intensified mentorships, and inclusivity in all levels in the learning institutions, including recruitment and hiring.

Application to the Field

The findings of this study provided insightful data about best practices to address gender inequality in higher education. As a result, this training was developed to empower institutions to examine their current culture, staff, and past histories to forge more inclusive, productive, and service-oriented colleges and universities.

This chapter contains a description and detailed discussion of the importance of professional training as one of the most beneficial means of bridging the gender disparities in the higher education setting. In particular, the section covers the purpose of the proposed training process, its format, directions, and techniques expected to produce the best outcomes for an organizational approach to addressing gender inequality issues (Timmers et al., 2010). Moreover, the training highlights specific tips and describes the materials necessary for successfully implementing the training procedures.

Training Summary

This training session uses PowerPoint slides and handout given to each participant to take notes and follow the presentation more effectively. A pivotal implication of the present study is the practical understanding of institutional challenges, knowledge about the identified themes related to gender inequality in the higher education settings, and the retrieved recommendations for best practices to implement in diversity training. The training sessions are designed to demonstrate the real workplace implementation of gender inequality training interventions for universities. The presentation was prepared from in-depth knowledge gained from the literature review, hence provides the guidance needed in the training program. It is also crucial to note that each slide is presented and the speaker’s noted, providing the trainees with an added advantage of following the session and for later references. A list of handouts is presented in Appendices K, L, M, and N to illustrate the materials, such as schedules, training plans, and assessment tools that might provide beneficial outcomes for addressing gender inequality and gender-based discrimination in academic workplaces.

Application to practice

Purpose and Format of Training

There is a need to train and enlighten faculty leaders on gender inequality since leadership plays an important role, which can help determine the success of addressing inequality in organizations. This training will also empower you to implement efforts, institute policies, and adopt legal frameworks as leaders to help your organization grow and overcome the vice. Gender discrimination has negative impacts on the growth of an individual’s career, affecting the entire organization’s development.

As faculty leaders, we must understand that women are not lesser beings as many excel in different fields. The only thing why the woman who works with you fails is because she lacks the opportunity other women have. This applies to women too; some discriminate against their fellows, making them feel less important. Therefore, our collective duty is to understand that providing a good working environment helps breed talent and collectively improves the organizational outcome. The training will enlighten you on the various aspects of the problem and the possible strategies for optimal outcomes in eliminating it. Moreover, this training is aimed at increasing your awareness and knowledge of matters of gender equality. You will be offered insights on practical strategies to assist you in addressing gender inequality in your higher learning institutions. This program will contain both theoretical part and practical exercises – thus, you will learn gender theory and try to apply it in practice, with the relevant reflection and correction.

Module 1

Module 1

Opening Remarks and Welcome (5 min’s)

Distinguished guests, leaders, ladies, and gentle, I take this opportunity to welcome you all to this training, which is vital in our institutions’ success. Most of our departments are affected due to the lack of relevant knowledge regarding some of the critical principles of workplace conduct. In this training, we will have different activities, discussions, and presentations to help us understand the concept of gender inequality and its related issues. This training will cover two days and be completed in four modules, which means we will cover two modules per day. I will try to make the sessions engaging and would like to see some feedback from you. If you have questions in the presentation, please keep them and ask when the presentation is complete. As there are several areas to cover, I wish to ask you to be attentive and stay with me till the end of the course. Most importantly, we are here to learn and be the change our organizations want, be open-minded, and learn from each other. Without saying much, I take this opportunity to welcome you to our first module and the rest of the course.

Introduction of the concept

Introduction of the Concept of Diversity and its Benefits for the Workplace (10 min’s)

Diversity refers to including people derived from various social and ethnic backgrounds, different in sexual orientation, gender, religion, or opinions (Gomez & Bernet, 2019). Your organization can have various groups of people working harmoniously and contributing to the change you desire within your company (Holck, 2018). Since it involves work relationships, we must understand the scope of organizational diversity, which is equality of opportunity and employment without any bias because of the differences existing within the workforce. Juneja (2015), in paragraph 6, says, “anyone who has the talent and passion to make it big in the professional world ought to get an opportunity to showcase his/her talent. Organizations eventually benefit from the innovate ideas of all individuals when pooled together.” Therefore, our organizations must have effective diversity management frameworks.

Klein (2016) reveals multiple diversity management approaches, which can positively impact your organization’s efforts to address its needs for equal employment. In the modern age, people have a better understanding of gender stereotypes and their harmful implications, and the development of digital communications assists in spreading this information (Grosser & Moon, 2005). In the academic and business literature, diversity management and the very concept of organizational diversity are usually viewed in a cross-cultural context. However, gender diversity has not received adequate attention – it is believed that the legal observance of quotas is sufficient.

One may ask why it is essential to train leaders about diversity management: our companies have not adopted frameworks that help reduce diversity issues at the workplace. However, some commonly employed efforts to reduce inequality include legislation, policies, affirmative action, diversity management, and diversity training information (Grosser & Moon, 2005). They can be used to manage and address problems related to diversity. Legislations such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 can illustrate the former category (Beaumont, 2016; Evans, 2016). Moreover, diversity training targeting gender inequality elimination practices is pivotal in policies against gender-based discrimination in the workplace. According to Ferguson (2018), some of the terms we could have used include gender training, gender-sensitive training, and non-discrimination training. As you notice, these terms address the need to use a wide range of people in the company and identify practices aimed at promoting gender awareness among staff.

Diversity is an essential component in your company because it increases productivity, marketing opportunities, and creativity, improves cultural awareness, and results in the company’s positive reputation. A diverse workplace provides the opportunity for multiple idea sources and processes necessary for solving the problems within an organization (Gomez & Bernet, 2019). Having a diverse talent indicates that your company has a wide range of skills to choose from among the employees.

The manifestations

Presentation: The Manifestation of Gender Inequality and Discrimination Against Women in the Workplace (30 minutes)

As organizational leaders, we must understand that women experience gender inequalities within our organizations. In a study we conducted recently, women participants’ responses revealed a prevalence of gender inequality, which agrees with the findings by Henning et al. (2017). If we can survey this room, we will find that most women have experienced one form of gender inequality. On the contrary, most men will deny that they have ever encountered such a vice. This shows us that women do not tend to show discrimination towards men. However, we must also agree that some women despise their fellows and favor men instead. It is common to hear women say, so and so thinks she can manage what men do.

On the other hand, men think they are superior to women, hence have a reserved place in the organization (Evans, 2016). As leaders, we must understand that each of our juniors is incredibly gifted, and such gifts are mostly hidden where they are unappreciated. Thus, a despised woman who is exceptionally talented may offer the “needed” job deliverables to earn some income while she invests elsewhere or shares the ideas with another company, believing in her abilities.

The discrimination of women is also rampant due to the traditionally held notions that women are meant for some duties while exempted from others. For example, some people believe that women should not hold influential positions because they should be taking care of their families. While their families are important, these should not be reasons to think they are less qualified to hold positions demanding greater responsibilities within your company (Mosedale, 2014). The sexuality of women and their age or physical features of beauty should not be used to demean their efforts at work.


Implementation of a self-assessment “Personal Experiences of Self-Assertion” each Class Member (30 minutes) (Handout name: Assert Yourself – 01 – What is Assertiveness (Michel, 2008).

  • Objective: To allow trainees reflect on their personal views and experiences with gender inequality
  • Participants: 1
  • Duration: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Materials: Personal booklet

This assessment is vital in this training as it provides you with a chance to reflect on your lives and write what you find. By systematically following the instruction, you will realize that you have a rich experience to be part of the solution of gender inequality as suggested by (Michel, 2008). Reflect on the following prompts and take a minute or two. Respond as honestly as you can.

  • I often say “yes” when deep I want to say “no”
  • I defend my rights at all cost
  • I don’t think I have a voice in company matters
  • I have never defended someone who’s rights are violated
  • I am reserved regarding some issues
  • I speak when it is very necessary
  • I give my opinions when I believe it is right even if it hurts others
  • I rarely listen to other people
  • I never ask for help from my colleagues
  • I have never seen injustice in my workplace
  • People get punished because they deserve it
  • I prefer the interest of the company over employees
  • Women are generally lazy
  • Women holding high positions achieved them through favors
  • What a man can do, a woman can do better
  • I have been treated equally with my peers

What can you say about yourself regarding gender discrimination or gender inequality? What role have your played? Have you never bothered or your intervention changed your organization to become better?

Video on gender-sensitive team bulding

Training Video on gender-sensitive team-building practices and strategies (30 minutes)

We learn some concepts regarding gender and sexuality. While these are not the specific areas of this training’s interest, understanding one’s views about their sexuality is also an essential aspect of workplace diversity. Gender identity describes one’s perspective of themselves regarding gender López (2020). Most of you were labeled male or female from the time you were born based on the appearance of your genitalia, except for the intersex. However, some of us here and at the workplace do not feel the same, and such traditional gender assignments do not reflect on their gender identity, especially when they have reached the age at which they make their personal decisions. According to López (2020), individuals who find it challenging to identify with their assigned gender are non-binary, transgender, or sometimes both, while those who fit within the assigned gender from birth are called cisgender. Therefore, we must be tolerant of each other and appreciate our diversities.

Organizations that appreciate diversity in the workplace perform better both culturally and financially (Cho et al., 2017). When your diverse juniors work together, they acquire skills from each other, resulting in high-quality output in terms of goods and services. If your organization has a diverse workforce, you will experience a positive job environment, enhancing employee growth and career successes (Cho et al., 2017). Your organization will benefit from several positive outcomes. For instance, the firm will have a wide range of talents to choose from whenever a given task should be performed. This makes it better if the organization has multiple areas where services or goods are needed, as skilled employees will be available to take the task.

A diverse workforce also helps to promote innovation in your company as each member contributes specific skills, when put together, result in high-performing departments (Cho et al., 2017). We have also learned that having a gender-sensitive team helps to grow your company since a diverse workforce will resonate well with your customers, who will be attracted to you because you value everyone without prejudice. Consequently, you will build your reputation across a broad scope without using extra costs (Cho et al., 2017). Moreover, the employees and customers will act as your goodwill in spreading your company’s awareness to other potential workers and customers (Cho et al., 2017). Therefore, it is crucial for leaders to consider working with a diversified team, for their organizations to enjoy these benefits.


Ice Breaker Activity “A Penny for Your Thoughts” for group table personal and job introductions (45 minutes)

  • Objective: To get team members acquainted and to promote small talk
  • Participants: 5 to 15 people
  • Duration: 15 to 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Materials: A penny for each participant, should be shiny, easy to read and less than 20 years old

Again, another very ‘adult’ activity to be used on teams that don’t know each other very well.

We love this icebreaker because it’s quick, reveals personal facts and promotes the further development of personal relationships.

This ice breaker has appeared on a few of our blog posts, and the simple reason for its re occurrence is that we love its simplicity, differentness and its effectiveness.

Module 2

Module 2

Table Group Discussion Activity on “Equality Exercise: Gender Differences” *(45 min’s)

Purpose: This activity helps delegate to recognize and understand the equality between sexes better and overcome some possible misconceptions about opposite sex. This exercise works best with larger groups of delegates with an equal number of men and women participants. Reigstad (2021) provides more insight regarding gender differences at workplace.

Objective: Delegates to choose the best answer without knowing the group responsible for them.

What You Need:

  • A flipchart for each group
  • A marker pen for each group
  • The “Questionnaire” given below


  • Divide the delegates into men and women.
  • Ask half of the men and half of the women group to leave the training room.
  • Give one flipchart to the ladies and one to men.
  • Show the “Questionnaire” on the projector. You can also give it as a handout, though it is ideal you show it as a slide.
  • Explain each group (one of men and one of ladies) to answer the questions shown below collectively and record their answers on their flipcharts.
  • After 5 minutes, place the two flipcharts in front of the room, facing the delegates.
  • Ask the other delegates to come back to the training room. They are not allowed to talk to people already present in the room.
  • Ask those from outside to sit in the front row facing the flipcharts. Explain that they should decide which of the two answers are better and vote on it. Ask them to record their choice. Repeat this for each of the three questions.
  • At the end of the voting, reveal which flipchart belongs to which group.
  • Follow with a discussion.


Have you ever experienced or witnessed gender inequality in workplace? How does it make you feel? Was this exercise helpful in showing the lack of basis for gender inequality?

For each question, write down your chosen answer on your flipchart:

If you don’t agree with a superior’s opinion at work, would you:

  1. Explain your disagreement in a private meeting
  2. Talk to your colleagues about how unfair it is
  3. Announce your disagreement more publicly to gain more support

If you feel you haven’t been paid appropriately, would you:

  1. Spend less time working
  2. Ask your boss directly for a pay rise
  3. Speak to your union for a more organised action for pay rise

The most important thing about your job is:

  1. Status
  2. Money
  3. The opportunity to work within a team

The manifestation

The Manifestations of Gender-based Discrimination within a Historical perspective, including the examples from the History” (30 min’s)

Gender inequality is a complex and multifaceted issue as revealed by Schmidt and Cacace (2017). Consequently, this issue cannot be reduced into some countable factors, depending on individuals. However, women have long been subjected to different forms and types of discrimination (Schmidt & Cacace, 2017). Some of the critical moments in history include suffrage, marriage, education, and legislation, where women have been disregarded.

The suffragette movement is one of the most renowned moments in history where inequality was rampant. During this time, women were not allowed to vote or express any opinion regarding politics. However, with time, after a hard-won battle for equal rights, they were allowed to vote, but still not to contest for the political seats. According to Belson (2016), Milicent Fawcett led the fight for equal rights through protests and legal means, though suffragettes were violent in their pursuit of social justice.

The lives of women mainly depended on the men they married for a long time. For several decades, women were only meant to raise their husbands’ children and manage their homes, while the husband worked and earned the family’s income (Belson, 2016). Moreover, husbands were considered heads of the family, which made them the heads of every community council (Belson, 2016). Moreover, the women were considered weak and would be under the protection of their husbands once they were married.

Even though the women took a center-stage taking of the children, the Organization for Economic Co‐operation and Development (OECD) (2013) reveals that women did not have parental rights. The children were considered to belong to the husbands and were given their father’s name. I know that most of you here still use your fathers’ names as your surname. So, we are recipients of this very act, which demeaned women’s parental rights. According to Belson (2016), Caroline Norton was denied access to her children after divorcing her husband because she had no right to the parentage. We see some slight changes, though we consistently hear of upkeep lawsuits because society believes that children belong to the man, even if the woman is self-sufficient and can take care of her children.

Education has also been subjected to gender inequalities as opined by Barone and Assirelli (2020). This is still prevalent in modern times, especially in some African countries where the rate of education for boys is much higher than that of girls. Historically, British women were home-schooled because of their perceived roles to take care of home affairs, while boys were allowed to attend formal schools.

Legislation has been instrumental in ensuring the abolition of gender-based discrimination. Women were initially considered inferior to men, and as noted earlier, they were not granted some rights such as voting, owning property, or going to school. However, the UK’s 1919 Sex Disqualification (Removal Act) became a turning point against this menace (Takayanagi, 2020). It ensured that no one was disqualified from being active in civil roles based on their gender or marital status.

Table group analysis

Table Group Analysis of “Cases from the Past and Comparison of Implications with the Present” (45 min’s)

Purpose: This activity helps delegates analyze and contextualize how reforms have worked towards ending gender discrimination. This helps them understand the need for current reforms and actions to help future generations based on the findings from Kalev and Deutsch (2018).

Objective: Trainees are required to give answers based on the overall agreed discussion.

Materials Needed:

  • Pen
  • Working sheets


  • Divide the class to have three groups.
  • Assign each group one question
  • Ask the groups to discuss their assigned question and each member to give one point
  • Ask each group to assign one member to read out loud the answers the group identified.
  • Ask if anyone else from other groups can have a different answer from those enumerated.
  • Lead the discussion to flow from one question to another.

Individual exercises

Individual exercises for “Categorizing Stereotypes and Identification of Gender Bias in Workplace Situation examples” (15 min’s)

  • Objective: To allow delegates to reflect on some of the possible or outright stereotypes and how to become acquainted with the ability to identify possible gender biases within their organizations.
  • Participants: 1
  • Duration: 20 to 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Materials: Personal booklet and handout. Handout name: Gender Inequality) (UNDP, 2016).

This assessment is crucial as it grants you the opportunity to critically explore your organization for any potential indicators of gender-based discrimination. By critically answering the questions, you allow yourself to get deep into your company and remove any existing inequality issues. You look at your life and examine if you have been part, and find a solution to be an example to others within your department. Consequently, the change begins with you. Moreover, you also become a foundation for future eradication of discrimination based on gender.

Closing Remarks

Day’s End Closing Remarks/Reflections (15 min’s)

The last two modules have been richly engaging. We have covered the concept of diversity and its benefits for the workplace and how it is manifested at work. All the activities have been engaging and richly rewarding as well. We all now understand that gender inequality existed in the past and still exists in our companies. However, we have also demonstrated that there have been historical findings on the efforts made by individuals and organizations to try and end the vice. This teaches us as leaders that we all have a responsibility for the future generation. We are the change we want in our organization, especially if we begin implementing what we have learned. We have also learned that several issues cannot be easily categorized as inequalities based on gender.

We may have to explore some areas, such as remaining steadfast and differentiating between company values and being labeled as one who discriminates against others. We have to be clear about this: only good performance is rewarded while undesired conduct is punished regardless of whether one thinks they are discriminated against as the company’s goal is to succeed. This can be achieved by having an influential report so that every detail is made public and no one finds any reason for accusing you wrongly. You have been a fantastic audience and participants, and for that, I say thank you!

Module 2

Group Discussions

Mixing up the tables, Group Discussions of “Cases of Discrimination Examples Experienced or Witnessed by the Participants; Application of Concepts, Categories, and Terms learned during the training” (60 min’s)

Purpose: This activity group discussion empowers the trainees to explore discrimination happening at workplaces, and reflect on their personal encounters with gender-based inequality. This makes it possible for the participants to understand underlying concepts of workplace prejudice and become part of the problem’s solution. The examples of workplace discrimination are highlighted by Colella and King (2018) while the categorizing of discrimination are suggested by Stypinska and Turek (2017). The participants will be given some highlights to inform them on the direction they should consider when reflecting on the types and examples of workplace discimination.

Objective: Trainees are required to give answers based on the overall agreed discussion.

Materials Needed:

  • Pen
  • Working sheets


  • Read out the questions and allow delegates to think about them for a few minutes
  • Allow the tables to discuss the questions and make notes on their findings and personal experiences.
  • Ask if there is anyone who can give their personal experience on the first five issues, two or more can give their accounts per issue.
  • Ask participants to listen carefully and make notes reflecting on the story being narrated by their fellows.
  • Request about one volunteer per question to give their personal experiences with discrimination at workplace. Strategically select participants to ensure equal representation.
  • Lead the discussion to flow from one question to another.
  • Randomly select participants to define some of the word they have learned during the training sessions.

Group Activity

Group Activity “The Story of a Princess and Prince” (45 mins)

Purpose: This activity helps delegates recognize and understand the equality between sexes better and overcome some possible misconceptions about the opposite sex. This exercise works best with larger groups of delegates with an equal number of men and women participants.

Objective: To equip trainees with the knowledge that people can change and gender discrimination can be a thing of the past.

What You Need:

  • Handout named “The Story of a Princess and Prince.” (Trgan, 2013).
  • Booklet
  • Pen


  • Divide the class into men and women.
  • Divide the two categories into two once again.
  • Assign one women-group and one men-group to consider themselves the princess and the other groups to consider themselves the prince
  • Ask the groups to read the story.


  1. How did you react when as a prince or princess at the despise shown by the king?
  2. How did you feel when the prince protected the princess?
  3. Did you think initially that the prince would behave like his father?
  4. Do you believe there is a time prejudice against the female gender will end?

Best Practices to Bridge the Gender Gap in Education Settings and Eliminate Gender-based Discrimination

Best Practices to Bridge the Gender Gap in Education Settings and Eliminate Gender-based Discrimination” (30 mins)

Buitendijk, Curry, and Maes (2019) state that enhancing equity, diversity, and inclusion in higher education brings about many advantages. As leaders, we must realize that achieving these ideals requires effort to bring under-represented groups on board. This ensures that the faculty creates a diverse community of students and staff, which helps achieve an all-inclusive curriculum (Buitendijk, Curry, and Maes (2019). As leaders and administrators, you have a greater responsibility to ensure that diversity is highly upheld in your higher learning institutions. However, you first need to familiarize yourself with your organizations’ discrimination situation and understand that there are systematic biases and gender inequality within your faculties. As leaders, you should understand both your internal and external issues in your organization. After gathering the information from your research, you need to collaborate with all stakeholders to analyze the situation and identify the potential strategies or interventions.

Gender quotas have been used globally in different institutions to solve disproportion among company employees. It has been used for gender gap-bridging at various recruitment and promotion stages and has proven fruitful. As Maggian et al. (2020) reveal on page 4, “quotas introduced at early stages of a career are invoked in male-dominated sectors,” such as STEM. Regarding the higher education sector, the Swedish universities were allowed by the government to implement voluntary quotas that they used as interventions at senior levels when recruiting professors.

Affirmative action is another helpful practice used to bridge the gender gap in the higher education sector, though it is a long-term process. It helps in providing a solid foundation for bridging the gender gap in higher education. As De Lange (2006) reveals on page 315, women are “primary beneficiaries of affirmative action in employment settings. This allows women to take key roles in various departments in our institutions.

The other best practice you can adopt in your institution and the most effective and promising technique is gender mainstreaming. According to Grosser and Moon (2005) on page 329, this is “the (re)organization, improvement, development, and evaluation of policy processes, so that a gender equality perspective is incorporated in all policies at all levels at all stages, by the actors normally involved in policy making.” This method helps incorporate various policies, interventions, and guidelines that help promote the respect to and recognition of gender issues at all levels of performance.

Other strategies that can be used include mentorship programs within the workplace. This provides a framework for the systematic adoption of values passed from senior managers to their followers. Diversity training can also help address the gender gap, especially when staff and management realize its benefits to the organization (Norbash & Kadom, 2020). When you use these approaches, you can be sure you will solve discrimination issues within your institutions.

Group Role Playing

Group Role Playing “Gendered Behaviors & Their Significances” (60 min’s)

Purpose: To help participants identify and understand the differential behavioral norms ascribed to men and women.

To identify sources that influence and reinforce these behaviors and their consequences.

Tips: Socialization is a process of informal education, which imparts certain values, attitudes, and behavioral codes to individuals. These behavioral codes are different for men and women. They often put greater restrictions on the freedom of choice, expression and movement for women in comparison to men in most societies. Socialization is a continuous process. Several institutions, starting with the family into which a child is born, help in the process of socialization. The sources where we learn gender-based behaviors are, family, friends, tribe, peer groups, society, religion, culture, traditions, schools, customs, proverbs, media, legal provisions, etc. There is no exact period or phase when we learn these behaviours, as socialization is a life-long process. So strong is the influence of these images in our lives, that we perform the roles ascribed to us almost automatically. We ourselves begin to judge others by how accurately they perform these roles. We don’t realize the far-reaching consequences these prescribed roles and norms have on the ability of individuals to realize their full potential.

Module 4

Group Discussion and Analysis

Group Discussion and Analysis of “Policies, Techniques, and Practices Aimed at Promoting Gender Equality in the Workplace (Leave suggestions/examples for the HR department) (45 min’s)

Purpose: This activity engages delegates a more focused analysis and discussion of ways that can help promote gender equality at work place. The attendees will give their experiences and opinions based on their real-life stories or encounters.

Objective: To enable trainees contribute to the understanding of various around gender discrimination within their organization.

Materials Needed:

  • Pen
  • Working sheets


  • Select five topics and assign them to each table.
  • Ask each table to have an in-depth discussion on the topics and analyze their impacts on their organizations
  • Allow each table to finish its discussion
  • Ask if anyone has an observation or an additional strategy apart from those assigned and discussed.
  • Lead the discussion to flow from one question to another or from emerging issues to build on the identified areas or help create a new a strategy and help the trainees formulate the idea such that it can be used to solve the organizational discrimination. The participants to consider the following topics and provide further insight based on the associated researchers’ findings.
  • Gender pay gap (Blau, 2018)
  • Work-life balance (Agha et al., 2017)
  • Cultural diversity (Dreamson, 2021)
  • Stereotypes (Hanrahan et al., 2017)
  • Altering hiring practices to increase diversity (Peckham et al., 2017)
  • Leadership Roles for both gender (Kelan & Wratil, 2018)
  • Strictness against workplace harassment (Wang et al., 2018)

Role Playing

Role Playing on “Gender Discrimination Scenario’s” (Each table is given a scenario to act out for the entire class) (60 min’s)

Purpose: This activity enables attendees to act scenarios that are possible within their organization.

Objective: Each table to be assigned to act on the assigned scenario.


  • Assign each table a scenario according to the number
  • Give the participants about 10 to 15 minutes to create and assign roles for their act.
  • Call each group at a time to act their part in front of the class.
  • Control the situation so that the process moves smoothly and the intended purpose achieved.
  • When the last group finishes its act, create calm in the room
  • Ask the trainees through random selection, to reflect on what they have learned from all the acts
  • Put the class together and help internalize the concepts taught and direct on what should have happened in each act

Tips: Could anyone among you who has never experienced gender inequality in their institutions wonder where it comes from? First, gender inequality arises when individuals of any gender are disadvantaged and cannot achieve their potential in education and career in higher learning institutions. Second, it may emerge in cases of bias and discrimination among individuals based on gender, as one of the participants I told you earlier revealed that her dream was killed because of prejudices in the faculty. Third, workplace harassments and sexual assaults perpetrated mainly on women in low ranks in the institutions are also among the manners in which inequality can be manifested. Scholars such as Clauset, Arbesman, and Larremore (2015) and Duong, Wu, and Hoang (2017) also found out that these three forms of inequality are rampant in educational institutions.

Rampant sexism has made it difficult for women, including those here, to thrive in these areas, and leaders must address institutional and cultural aspects of gender inequality (Beaumont, 2016; Hurst, 2015). Bias among faculty and students based on gender is rampant and leads to discrimination (Liu, Macgill & Vora, 2016). This is a cultural problem that we need to address by creating awareness and implementing systems that entrench equality. Since you are the leaders in your institutions, you must take the primary role of preventing such cases and, if they occur, provide frameworks enabling prompt reports and immediate legal actions to help dismantle any form of organizational inequality.

Group Case Study Analyzation

Group Case Study Analyzation “Role of Education, Governmental, Financial and Development Institutions” (60 min’s)

Purpose: This act enables attendees to practice some key organizational roles played by different organizations regarding gender inequality reductions.

Tip: In the United States, there are many opponents of the social policy due to the lack of social democratic traditions and the traditional rejection of government intervention (Russell, 2010). It is also important to note that regulators do not have the power to order private institutions to do anything they do not agree to do. However, the federal government can impose some conditions to force private institutions to ensure fairness in employment, especially if such organizations receive federal funds. I particular, the government uses affirmative action to enforce its policies on social justice.

In two month after training program completion

The Impact COVID-19 on the Training Process

It should be noted that the current situation with COVID-19 may influence the willingness of participants to take part in training. However, while online communication between members of the academic community has intensified during the pandemic, there is no face-to-face communication with colleagues, and issues of gender inequality in labor market and at the workplace can become much more latent.

Economists are now discussing two main channels that can influence gender inequality. The first one is through the different risks of losing jobs and wages for women and men due to the disproportionate impact of the epidemic and quarantine on sectors with different employment rates for women and men (Schnackenberg & Simard, 2018). As impacts of the pandemic are analyzed, it has become clear that women have the majority of responsibilities for childcare. Eliminating access to daycare facilities, schools and recreational activities for children rendered women anchored to the home whether or not their jobs were essential (and thus open) or were being conducted remotely. In addition, working remotely while still having responsibility for childcare and/or children’s educational guidance rendered many women unable to fulfill their work responsibilities. Some women reported quitting their jobs which may have required them to report to worksites because they had no childcare support (Collins et al., 2021). With the lifting of quarantine restrictions, women are slower to return to full employment (Collins et al., 2021). Therefore, when some issues occur in the workplace, women are affected more than their men counterpart.

Moving forward, it is hoped that this kind of training, whether conducted among colleagues in person or remotely, can add lessons learned during the pandemic to further enhance the opportunity to address gender inequality in higher education institutions.


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Appendix A: Permission to Conduct Research

Dear Dr.,

My name is NAME, and I am a doctoral student in the Educational Leadership program at Trident University International. I am also a member of your group “Make a Living Teaching Online.” I am in the process of writing my dissertation, and I intend to conduct a study that examines gender inequality in higher education.

I am requesting your permission to post a research recruitment note in your group “Make a Living Teaching Online,” in order to recruit a sufficient number of research participants for my study. I would also like to request that the recruitment notice be pinned to the top of the group (for an agreed amount of time) to ensure enough members see it. The study seeks higher education administrators and participating would involve completing email interviews about inequality in higher education. The risks of participation are minimal; the only concern is the possibility of discomfort related to discussing a not very pleasant topic. I will take all steps possible to protect participants’ confidentiality. No names will be revealed, and the name of the Facebook group will also be concealed using a pseudonym.

I am attaching the draft of the post itself for you to review. I will be able to send you an IRB approval once I receive it.

If you have any concerns about the research or the post, wish to know more, or want to review the interview protocol, please contact me using this email or by phone at 719-290-0611. You may also contact my dissertation chair if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for your time. I am excited about the possibility of sourcing important data from the group!

Sincerely yours,

Appendix B: Grant of Permission to Conduct Research

Grant of Permission to Conduct Research

Appendix C: Invitation / Notice to Participate in Research

Subject Line: Invitation to Participate in Research

Dear [Insert Name],

Thank you very much for your interest in my research! My name is Cynthia Krupa, and I am studying at Trident University International. Currently, I am in the process of writing my dissertation, and in order to complete it, I am going to conduct a study exploring gender inequality in higher education. I intend to gather the information about the gender inequality experiences of educational leaders working in higher education settings. I also want to invite the participants to discuss the approaches to managing gender inequality that are used by their institutions. Please consider the following information to see if you are interested in becoming a participant in my research.

Inclusion Criteria

In order to participate in this research, please check if you correspond to the following criteria.

  1. The study focuses on leaders from higher education institutions. If you are a member of the administration or have a leadership position in the faculty, you can participate in this research.
  2. The study looks for people older than 30 years.
  3. The study looks for people who are comfortable responding to questions in English using emails.

Please note that the study uses quota sampling. As a result, it might not be able to recruit everyone who may be interested since I am seeking a participant pool that is broad and diverse. However, I will do my best to involve particularly enthusiastic participants!


If you choose to participate in the study, I will send you an informed consent form. You will need to print it, sign it, scan the result, and send the scan to me via email [or make arrangements for electronic signing, and then return the consent form to me via email.

Then, I will send you some communication rules to make sure that we establish the principles and time frame for our communication. You will be asked to respond to a series of questions via emails (you may attach documents with responses to the emails if you like). I will send you the email interview protocol (list of questions), and you will respond to them by the deadline. That will conclude your participation in the study. It should take no more than an hour to complete the email interview.

Confidentiality and Subject Rights

As a research subject, you can withdraw from the research at any time without penalty. You also have the right to confidentiality. Any personal information that you might disclose during the research will remain confidential; I will not include any identifying or personal information collected from you in the materials that will be made public. All the information that I receive from you will be preserved in its electronic form with the help of my computer; I will use passwords to protect it and will refer to participants and the source Facebook group using pseudonyms. All data will be deleted in three years, following university policy. You will be provided with the contact information of the Institutional Review Board in the informed consent form to make sure that your rights as a research subject are protected.

Benefits and Risks

There are minimal risks of participating in the study. They include concern with negative emotional experiences that may arise while responding to the email interview questions. The questions may bring up unpleasant information regarding gender inequality or your personal experiences. In addition, the time spent responding to the interview cannot be used for other productive purposes, so that time will be lost. However, participating may contribute to valuable findings and insights into the issue of gender equality in higher education, especially from the perspective of educational leaders, so participating may be perceived as a benefit. Beyond that, there are no direct personal benefits for participating (no compensation will be provided). The study can result in the dissemination of data about the issue, its consequences, and best practices in resolving it.

If you have any questions about the study, please contact me using this email. You also may contact my dissertation chair or the Institutional Review Board, especially if you have any concerns about the research. Please check the contact information below:

My contact information:

  1. Name:
  2. Phone number:
  3. Email:

My dissertation chairs contact information:

  1. Name:
  2. Phone number: 3
  3. Email:

The contact information of my Institutional Review Board:

  1. Address:
  2. Email:

Thank you very much for your time!

Sincerely yours,

Appendix D: Informed Consent

You are invited to participate in a study conducted by Cynthia Krupa, a doctoral candidate in the Educational Leadership program at Trident University International. The data collected from this study will be used by Cynthia Krupa to complete a dissertation. Please read this informed consent document very carefully and make sure that you understand it before signing it. Contact Cynthia Krupa if you have any questions about the informed consent prior to signing it.

Purpose of the Study

The study that you are asked to participate in will investigate gender inequality in higher education administration. It intends to investigate educational leaders’ experiences with gender inequality and their means of handling gender inequality (including the policies, diversity training approaches, and other aspects of managing inequality in their institutions). To become a participant, you need to consider the following inclusion criteria:

  1. You work in higher education settings as an educational leader (you have a leadership position in the faculty, administration, and so on).
  2. You are older than 30 years old.


During the study, you will be asked to do the following:

  1. Answer nine (9) questions about yourself to provide some demographic data (your age, race, working experience, and so on).
  2. Answer a series of questions designed to invite you to discuss gender inequality in higher education. Some of these questions will inquire about your personal experience with gender inequality and its outcomes, as well as the solutions to it that your institution uses (or used).

Both stages will be completed using email interviews; it is anticipated that the process of completing the interview should take no more than one (1) hour. You will be emailed the interview protocol (list of the questions), and you will be provided with a timeframe within which to complete it and send your responses back to the researcher via email. Please remember that you can withdraw from the study at any time without penalty, and you do not need to complete the interview nor to respond to all questions.

Potential Risks

The study’s risks are minimal; the only concerns being that you might experience discomfort because of discussing unpleasant or traumatic experiences related to gender inequality, and the time spent completing the interview will not be available to you to do other things. Your confidentiality will be fully protected, and no identifying information will be revealed, except as required by law.

Potential Benefits

You will not benefit from this research personally (there will be no monetary compensation), but its findings will contribute to the growing bulk of literature on gender inequality. Specifically, it may provide insights into the gender inequality experienced and observed by higher education leaders. The results are of interest from the theoretical and practical perspective as an opportunity to share experience and best practices.


You will not be paid for participating.


The study does not require any identifying information with the exception of your email address and demographic information, which will be known to the principal investigator only. You do not have to provide any other information, including your name. The email address will not be disclosed; only the principal investigator will have access to it, and it will not appear in any research. You name or pseudonym that you will choose to use will also not be identified as pertaining to your personal information. Please note that some quotations from your responses may be used in the final report without any connection to any identifying or potentially identifying information about you (like your institution or position in it). Any information gathered during the research, including your email address, will be stored in a secure location (the principal investigator’s computer) with necessary precautions (passwords) and destroyed after three (3) years following university policy.

Participation and Withdrawal

Participation in the study is strictly voluntary. You are free to withdraw from the study at any time without any penalty. In addition, you may refuse to answer any of the questions or to complete the interview. The researcher might choose to withdraw you from the study as well.

Identification of Investigators

Before consenting to participate in the study, please make sure that you understand the content of this document. With any questions about the study or this document, please contact the principal investigator, the instructor, or the Institutional Review Board of the investigator’s educational institution:

Investigator’s contact information:

  1. Name:
  2. Phone number:
  3. Email:

Instructor’s contact information:

  1. Name:
  2. Phone number:
  3. Email:

The contact information of the Institutional Review Board:

  1. Address:
  2. Email:

Research Subject Rights

Your rights as a research subject, including your right to withdraw from the study at any time, are protected. If you have questions about your rights or feel that they are being violated, please contact the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects


Appendix E: Interview Protocol

Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this study! Please read all the following questions and then proceed to respond to them in any order. There are no word limits or requirements. Enter your response under the question as listed. Be honest and remember that the study is completely confidential! There are no right or wrong answers.

Section 1: Demographics

  1. What is your age?
  2. What is your gender expression?
  3. What is your racial/ethnic identity?
  4. What degrees or educational certificates do you hold, in what subjects or disciplines?
  5. For how many years have you been working in the field of education?
  6. What is your position in your university?
  7. For how many years have you been holding that post?
  8. Are you currently serving in a teaching position (tenured faculty, tenure track, part time, adjunct)?
  9. Do you teach in person, online or both?

Section 2: Gender Inequalities and Their Outcomes

  1. Have you ever experienced gender-based discrimination in your institution (or in the institutions that you previously worked at)?
  2. Have you ever witnessed gender-based discrimination in educational settings? Please describe in detail, indicating the impact of discrimination on the roles of the people affected by it.
  3. Do you think that getting into higher education leadership positions is as easy for women as it is for men? If not, what are the barriers?
  4. Do you think that female leaders in higher education face discrimination? How? Cite any examples you have knowledge of or have observed.
  5. What are the outcomes of gender-based discrimination from your perspective? You can consider individual and group outcomes.
  6. Have you witnessed such outcomes in your institution? Feel free to provide an example.
  7. Do you think that gender inequality should be reduced? Why?
  8. What steps do you think universities should take to reduce gender inequality (if you believe they should do so)?

Section 3: Diversity Training and Its Effects

  1. Do you think that diversity awareness training can help in reducing gender inequalities?
  2. Does your institution use diversity awareness training to reduce gender inequalities? Can you describe it or, possibly, provide the link to relevant materials?
  3. If your institution does have a diversity awareness training, do you find it effective in reducing gender-based inequalities?
  4. Based on your experience, do you think that you can suggest what should be included in a diversity awareness training to reduce gender-based inequalities?

Section 4: Other Solutions to Gender Inequalities

  1. Does your institution have any safeguards that aim to address gender inequality? Please specify if they attempt to prevent inequality or deal with its consequences. You can focus on the solutions that are not related to training.
  2. Do you find your institution’s actions in the field of gender equality promotion effective? If yes, how? If not, what would you improve about them?
  3. Are you familiar with any other approaches to resolving gender inequality that are not in place in your institution? Would you like them to become a part of your institution’s gender equality program? Why?
  4. What is the most effective approach to combating gender inequality from your experience or perspective?

Appendix F: Recruitment Materials

My name is NAME, and I am in the process of writing my dissertation. I am conducting a study about gender inequality in higher education, and I am looking for research participants.

The research will consist of email interviews with a total of 9 questions about demographic data (age, ethnicity, working experience, and so on) and 14 questions about gender inequality (personal experience, attitudes, solutions, and so on).

The study needs:

  1. Educators who hold leadership positions in their higher education institutions (administrators, faculty leaders, etc.).
  2. The educators need to be over 30 years old to participate.
  3. The educators need to be comfortable with using emails to respond to the 23 questions in English.
  4. The more experience the educators have in leadership positions in higher education institutions, the better.

The study is voluntary and confidential. If you are interested in participating, please contact me for more information using this email: [email protected]

Please feel free to share this post if your friends might want to participate. Thank you very much for your time!

Appendix G: Researcher/Participant Communication Protocols

Subject Line: Research Interview: The Rules of Communication

Dear [Insert Name],

Thank you very much for your interest in my study! If you are reading this, you have read and signed the informed consent document, agreeing to participate in an interview devoted to gender inequality in higher education. Now, we need to discuss the rules of communication for this study. The rules of communication exist to ensure that our cooperation remains positive and fruitful.

Please consider the following standard rules.

  1. The first rule is confidentiality. Any information that you provide to me will remain confidential. You will not be identifiable from any documents that I will draft for my dissertation.
  2. Please remember that you can withdraw from participation at any time. If you choose to do so, please consider informing me about it. You do not need to explain your choice; a short note about your decision will be enough.
  3. I do not want to rush you, but we need to establish a time frame or deadline for your responses. I propose a week; the questions should not take more than 1 hour to answer, but I understand that with your schedule, you may not have a free hour every day. Please take your time.
  4. Please inform me if it is appropriate to remind you about the research. I would like to send you one reminder if the established deadline for the response expires, but please feel free to inform me if you do not want any reminders.
  5. There are no right or wrong answers. Please share your personal experience and perspectives. Please also be honest and truthful.
  6. Please make sure to inform me if anything about the study or its questions causes you discomfort.
  7. Please remember about your right to skip any of the questions or withdraw from the study.

Please review the above-presented rules and inform me if you have any questions or comments about them. The rules are negotiable, and I am willing to discuss them with you. Please contact me with the help of this email for further cooperation.

Thank you so much for your time!

Sincerely yours,


Appendix H: Email Interview Instructions

Subject Line: Research Interview Questions and Instructions

Dear [Insert Name],

Thank you very much for choosing to participate in my research! As we have already discussed, it is dedicated to gender inequality in higher education and focuses on the perspectives of leaders. If you are reading this, you have already sent me your informed consent form, and you have already confirmed that you understand and agree with the communication rules. Now, I am sending you the interview questions (see the attached document).

You may type the responses into the document or use the email. You do not need to include personal or identifying information in your responses, but if you do (by accident or with intent), I will keep the data confidential and not include it in any reports. If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact me again using the email. If you have any concerns regarding your rights as a research subject, please contact me or my Institutional Review Board Address:


Thank you so much for your willingness to help me with my dissertation and for the time that you dedicate to this project!

Sincerely yours,


Appendix I: Reminder to Submit Responses

Subject Line: Reminder to Submit Responses

Dear [Insert Name],

Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in my research! Last week, I sent you the interview questions for my study on gender inequalities in higher education.

I am writing to remind you about the study, and I attach the questions to this message. If you want to participate in the study, please respond to them in the document or an email. Please remember that you are free to withdraw from the study at any time.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

Thank you very much for your time!

Sincerely yours,


Appendix J: Certificate of Research Training. Example Plan of Diversity Training

Conduct a multifaceted assessment of organizational culture and the place of gender discrimination in it.

Find a gender training specialist.

Identify gender training program’s goals, which might include:

  • To enhance staff’s understanding of the importance of gender equality in the workplace;
  • To ensure staff’s ability to recognize gender stereotypes;
  • To educate the staff on the proper ways to address gender discrimination in the workplace;
  • To develop an effective communication style between genders without implicit bias;
  • To integrate gender mainstreaming into the organizational culture.

Develop a schedule of training sessions:

  1. Promote the training program among employees to ensure mandatory admission.
  2. Divide participants into groups for effective and interactive group sessions.
  3. Develop materials, literature, and handouts for training.
  4. Allocate a room in the facility for group meetings or choose an online platform for remote training sessions for groups.
  5. Develop intra-training and post-training evaluation forms for tracking participants’ progress.
  6. Conduct a feedback collection intervention to evaluate the outcomes and the perception of the training program by the staff.

Appendix K: Example Schedule of a Four-Week Gender Training Program

Week 1

  • Introduction of the concept of diversity and its benefits for the workplace
  • Lecture on the manifestations of gender inequality and discrimination against women in the workplace
  • Presentation on gender stereotypes and their outcomes for women in the workplace
  • Implementation of a self-assessment tool for group members
  • Watching video materials on the prevalence of gender-based discrimination
  • Group discussions

Week 2

  • Workshop on the identification of gender stereotypes
  • Group discussions
  • Lecture on the manifestations of gender-based discrimination within a historical perspective, including the examples from the history
  • Group analysis of cases from the past and comparison of implications with the present

Week 3

  • Workshop on gender-sensitive team-building practices and strategies
  • Group discussions of cases of discrimination examples experienced or witnessed by the participants; application of concepts, categories, and terms learned during the program
  • Individual exercises for categorizing stereotypes and identification of gender bias in workplace situation examples
  • Roleplay with female and male group members performing as their counterparts to promote awareness of implicit bias

Week 4

  • Presentation of best practices to bridge the gender gap in education setting and eliminate gender-based discrimination
  • Group discussion and analysis of policies, techniques, and practices aimed at promoting gender equality in the workplace
  • Case studies for both group and individual work to identify, address, and resolve gender discrimination issues
  • Post-training self-assessment tool application and feedback collection

In two months after program completion: Survey on the outcomes of the training program on the organizational culture and interpersonal communication in the staff

Appendix L: Self-Assessment Tool Before the Program

Respond to the following statements by marking a matching box depending on the frequency of such occurrences in your experience:

# Question Always Seldom Never
1 Since my childhood, I experienced prejudiced attitudes due to my gender
2 At school, I felt an outsider in academic performance due to my gender
3 Growing up, I witnessed gender discrimination
4 I perceive gender inequality as a norm of social life
5 I can identify gender-based inequality when I witness it
6 I feel comfortable addressing the manifestations of gender discrimination to stop it when I see it
7 I understand what gender stereotypes are
8 I experience the pressure of the glass ceiling in my professional life
9 I feel discriminated against in my workplace due to my gender
10 I have been denied promotion due to my assumed family responsibilities
11 I experience sexual harassment in the workplace
12 I feel that my gender contributes to the feeling of inferiority when communicating with my colleagues
13 I have access to resources for gender mainstreaming
14 I feel organizational support in addressing gender discrimination in my workplace
15 I have enough knowledge to promote gender equality in the staff I work with

Appendix M: Program Feedback Tool Two Months After the Training

Provide full answers to the following questions:

  1. How effective was the program?
  2. Did you manage to apply the knowledge and skills obtained during the training sessions to your workplace situations? What were the outcomes? What challenges did you face? What positive achievements were noticeable?
  3. How has the gender equality picture change after the program has been implemented for you and your colleagues?
  4. Is there a place for implicit bias toward women in your workplace? How is it manifested?
  5. What do you think about the effectiveness of the training program?
  6. What would be your recommendations for the training improvement?