The sex that’s second

Although there are many female professors out in the wide world of academia, the image of a female professor is generally not the first to come to mind when thinking about this occupation. Laurier Brantford professors weigh in on the subject of female faculty.

In the words of Dr. Christine Lei, assistant professor of Contemporary Studies, things have always been this way. She recalls that while her undergraduate program did not lack other young women, while attaining her Master’s and PhD, she was the only female in the Theory and Policies Studies program. She explains that research indicates women comprise approximately 25 percent of all faculty at Canadian universities.

Dr. Lei bears no particular hard feelings. Despite being the lone female in the classroom, she had “gotten used to it” by the time she was a graduate student. She also points out that post-secondary education “just wasn’t something girls did at the time” in the 1970s. Dr. Lei jokingly said most of the high school girls she knew wanted nothing more than a MRS degree.

On the other hand, Dr. James Cairns notes that in his university years, he never “felt women were treated specially.” He notes he only experienced one female professor during his undergraduate studies. He wonders what kind of message undergraduate students are getting about who the experts are when they only see male professors

Extending beyond Brantford, according to CBC Radio, universities across America, from Harvard to Queens, are debating changing a department name from “Women’s” Studies to “Gender” or “Sexuality” Studies. Whether this is an appropriate change or not explores the issue of equal rights. Is it possible that the equal rights movement is so far behind us that the name can be dropped completely from university programs?

As an exception, in Dr. Lei’s first year at university, she learned from a female history professor. In many ways, Dr. Lei fondly reminisces, that woman was a mentor of sorts, proving the smaller pool of female academics is in no way indicative of their power.

For more information on the Women’s Studies re-naming debate, students can visit

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