Making History in Our Time: Gender and Contingency in the Professional Work Force  (Panel)


Women's and Gender Studies / Interdisciplinary Humanities

Margie Burns (University of Maryland, Baltimore County)

Contingency in the work force is aligned with gender, even in occupations requiring extensive education and credentials. Women predominate or are disproportionately represented among adjunct faculty and non-tenure-track faculty in universities, and among the underpaid freelancers and contract workers in the digital economy.

The result is that highly educated people, especially women, are routinely expected to provide a university-trained level of expertise and professionalism at less than a living wage, with a lack of benefits and job security. The wealth disparity between top and bottom within a company or university or within an industry is compounded by the gender disparity. This is not just a 'women's issue'; an industry that can hire cheaper employees will displace advanced professionals to do so.

The panel "Making History in our Time" recognizes the size of the adjunct and contingent phenomenon and the overlap with gender disparities. The panel also recognizes that efforts are being made to reanimate a professional sector and to reconnect it to the expectation of making a reasonable living. This panel invites papers on what is being done, by institution or by region; and papers on what can be done.

Improving the condition of adjunct faculty and other contingent workers generally has to involve doing what you can, when you can, where you can. More formal approaches involve creating new structures, reforming existing structures, and collective bargaining. The panel invites well-researched and well-documented papers on such efforts, including localized or workplace-specific approaches; and on related suggestions and ideas. Creative, animated reports welcome.

This session focuses on gender and contingency in the university work force and in the digital economy. Emphasis is on contingency in relation to women employed as adjuncts or other contingent faculty in universities, such as contract workers in the digital economy. This panel invites papers on approaches to deal with contingency and gender, including formal or structural models, reforms, and collective bargaining. The panel invites papers on efforts including localized or workplace-specific approaches and on related plans.