GOAL 7 CHANGING THE LEARNED SOCIETIES
In the years after 1968 in both the UK and the USA feminist sociologists challenged their own learned societies, the BSA and the ASA. Typically there was a working party on the equality of the sexes, which later became a permanent committee. Inside the learned societies, women’s caucuses tried to get women onto the important committees, elected to the high offices, to get funds to support women’s topics as conference themes, and even to start journals.
The American Sociological Association had 13,055 members in 1999, and 48 per cent of them were female. The proportions of male and female full members (as opposed to student members) is roughly equal in the under-50s, but there are twice as many men as women in the ‘over-50’ age range. These figures on the sexual division of labour in American sociology are not surprising: in the past 30 years women have been increasingly appointed to permanent jobs, and increasingly active in the ASA. Footnotes (December 2001: 3-4) the newsletter of the ASA states that in 1997, 40 per cent of all sociologists under 75 with PhDs in employment were female. In 2000, women were 45 per cent of ASA’s membership. Women are over-represented in the sections on sex and gender, the family, medical, and race, gender and class. Men are over-represented in the theory section, and those for political sociology and comparative/historical sociology. The other sections have men and women in the regular 55:45 per cent proportions. The path from the relative absence of women to the 2000 figures is made up of many individual careers. Some of these are recorded in publications, enabling us to empathise with the struggles of individual feminist sociologists. Dorothy Thomas, wife of W. I. had a PhD from LSE. She was the first woman President of the ASA in 1952. Subsequently Mirra Komoravsky (1973), Alice Rossi (1983), Matilda Riley (1986) and Joan Huber (1989) were. Rossi, Riley and Huber were all married to
leading male sociologists active in the ASA. Throughout this book, an analysis of published autobiographical essays by American men and women sociologists is drawn on to humanise the statistics. The autobiographies of 42 women sociologists published in three collections (Goetting and Fenstermaker, 1995; Laslett and Thorne, 1997; Orlans and Wallace, 1994) were analysed with a parallel study of 22 male autobiographies. The samples are not equivalent, because the 42 women are not nearly as distinguished as the 22 men: some have worked in low status institutions, some have had stalled careers. The women’s autobiographies differ from the men’s in two obvious ways: the autobiographies are published without ASA endorsement by ‘marginal’ presses, and ten of the 42 women report a denial of tenure. None of the 22 men report such a denial. However, they are useful data to explore the achievements of feminist sociology.
Progress in the UK has been similar. The BSA publishes a membership register. The 1977 edition listed 1,106 members, of whom 171 were female (15.4 per cent). Some 58 of the 1,106 said they were professors, and four of these were women. Not all the members had provided entries for the register, but there is no evidence that women in general, or professorial women, had failed to return their forms disproportionately compared to men. In the register, members listed their research interests. Those who listed theory, industrial sociology and stratification were nearly all men; women were more likely to report research interests on education, health and illness, and women. In 1988 the BSA had 1,616 members, of whom 680 had completed a questionnaire, while 936 had not; 241 of the 680 members were women. Of the 1,616 members, 96 were professors, of whom 13 were women. By 1997 there were 2,600 members, of whom 79 were in Europe and 122 elsewhere in the world. Among the UK-based members 165 were professors, of whom 45 were women. In 1979 when the BSA was 28 years old, it had had only two women Presidents Barbara Wootton (1959-64) and Sheila Allen (1975-7). After 1979, Sheila Allen, Meg Stacey (1981-3), Jennifer Platt (1987-9) and Sara Arber (1999-2001) were women presidents.
Among the important jobs in sociology are staffing the academic journals. Ward and Grant (1985) examined the editorial boards of ten American sociology journals from 1974 to 1983. Five of the ten journals had no female editor-in-chief in that period, four had had a woman for four or more of the ten years. In 1977-8 four of the ten had a woman editor, in 1981 all ten had male editors. Four of the five journals which never had a woman editor published fewer than 20 per cent of articles on gender in that decade. All ten journals had some women on their boards or acting as assistant editors (from 10 per cent up to 37 per cent).