Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2003 Issue »

    Constructing Women's Status

    Policy Discourses of University Women's Commission Reports

    Elizabeth J. Allan
    In this article, Elizabeth J. Allan explores how discourses embedded in university women's commission reports position women as victims, outsiders to the structure and culture of the institution, and as being in need of professional development. Using policy discourse analysis, Allan examines discourses generated by university women's commissions, which are policy-focused groups advocating for gender equity in higher education. Allan analyzes the text of twenty-one commission reports issued at four research universities from 1971 to 1996, and illustrates how dominant discourses of femininity, access, and professionalism contribute to constructing women's status in complex ways and may have the unintended consequence of undermining the achievement of gender equity. She also explores how a caregiving discourse is drawn on and challenges institutional norms of the academic workplace. Allan provides four suggestions for improving university women's commissions, including promoting awareness of policy as discourse; analyzing frameworks and assumptions of policy reports; examining implications of policy recommendations; and looking at how policy discourses construct images of women. (pp. 44-72)

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