Academic (Gender) Equity: A Performative Roundtable

Submitted by Michael Neininger on
Academic (Gender) Equity: A Performative Roundtable

The room quickly filled with students and professors who stepped away from their projects this winter quarter on February 23, to take part in an important discussion at the UW Germanics Department. “To kick off a conversation that identifies continuing barriers to the advancement of women in academia and to analyze past and current efforts to address these barriers …” was just one of the goals in the organizers’ vision, when the team of three doctoral candidates started working on the program for this year’s roundtable last fall.

The roundtable, delivered by Verena Kick, Kristina Pilz and Vanessa Schmolke focused on issues of academic gender equity. The presenters inspired participants to share their experiences by performatively engaging with personal experiences, a discussion of statistics on female underrepresentation at the UW and the comparison of the U.S. academy with Germany’s socio-political measures to provide gender equality.

The benefits of the performative approach that combined the readings of quotes and a personal letter to self with statistical and cultural analysis, were evident in the lively interaction that followed. A discussion surrounding intersectionality gave way to a transnational approach, revealing a common thread in the struggle for equity. Institutional barriers, generational hierarchies and issues of bullying were topics of interest, leading to an inspiring variety of potential follow-up discussions. Combining three different approaches, the roundtable proved to be an excellent opportunity to connect with colleagues, share ideas and challenge assumptions about gender equity.

The roundtable also struck a chord with participants outside of the humanities, who remarked “It is good to see so many people from various disciplines engaged in trying to make a change.” With this positive spirit, a chance to be in dialogue with colleagues, and captivating discussions, it truly was a roundtable that offered plenty of food for thought. So, stay tuned for the next one in fall 2018.