Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education


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That is why I feel that my parents got me married too soon. Another participant was disappointed about missing the opportunity to study because of her early marriage, which she said was due to poverty.


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She believed that an educated woman can have more say than uneducated women in the selection of a spouse with the attributes she desires—for her, a precondition for a good married life. She also reasoned that economic independence provides the necessary support for the woman when a marriage does not work out:. I was not interested in getting married. I was too eager to study and to do something in life.

But we had financial constraints at home. We were not allowed to study. Such people [who get the opportunity to study] get married by choice. I feel if you get married and get a good life partner, then it is good. In that case, it is better for the girl to earn something and stand on her own feet, become independent and only then get married. That life is better. Muslim, 25, urban Bangalore, no formal education. A year-old Hindu woman in Bangalore with 11 years of schooling expressed similar views when she said that marriage is essential, but resented being unable to pursue higher education.

She said she might have been able to achieve her full potential if she had been given the opportunity to study, but her lack of education and her marriage at the age of 18 had prevented her from doing so. A different point was made by a Hindu participant from rural Dharwad, who considered that having education could protect a woman who is married late from rumors, for instance, of being romantically involved with a man of her choice:. Various rumours spread [due to late marriage or being involved in a love affair]. In order to uphold the prestige of the parents, we marry.

Hindu, 33, rural Dharwad, no formal education. In the following sections, we examine the role of education across the spectrum of agential capacities that our study participants used. Although they are a small minority, seven participants expressed satisfaction over the age of their marriage and selection of their spouse although not necessarily about the happiness of the marriage thereafter. In other words, they had exercised convinced agency. Significantly, satisfaction about age of marriage was expressed primarily by participants who were married when aged above 18 years six out of seven , who had studied for 9 years or more five out of seven , and who were Hindu six out of seven.

A Hindu participant from urban Bangalore and married at the age of 22 recounted her reasoning as follows:. I was married at the right age. It [age] was right for my health and also for having children. My consent was taken. In my house, they were very careful that the boy should be good. Hindu, 24, urban Bangalore, 10 years of schooling. Another Hindu participant married at the age of 23 from urban Bangalore described how her consent was taken and she expressed her satisfaction:. My brother sat with me and discussed the proposal and then asked me for my consent.

Hindu, 24, urban Bangalore, 9 years of schooling. The five relatively more highly educated participants had been married when aged above 18 years. Yet the two outlier cases of convinced agency used by less educated participants indicate that matters are more complex. Seven participants two participants with no modern education and five participants with 10 and more years of education used resistance agency, one Muslim and two Hindu women from rural Dharwad, and one Muslim and three Hindu women from urban Bangalore.

This section outlines the experiences of four of these women two Hindus and two Muslims who had tried to use resistance agency during their marriage negotiations, but met with rather different consequences. First, we outline the cases of one Hindu and one Muslim participant who succeeded in realizing their aspirations, followed by one Hindu and one Muslim who were unable to do so.

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The first is a Muslim woman with 12 years of schooling, including training in computers, from urban Bangalore. She worked at the reservation counter of a domestic airline in Bangalore. Before she got married, she had experienced two failed marriage proposals because she was outspoken, a not-so-valued attribute for a bride:. This was not my first proposal. There were two more proposals which were broken.

It was completely fixed at first. It came up to engagement. But three months before the wedding it was broken. That guy did not like me. We differ in our daily life. They are more reserved and our attitude differs. He was not comfortable with me. That was dropped. The second one also happened like that, because they were not happy with the way in which we live. They are from a village. We are born and brought up here [Bangalore]. According to them, a woman should be reserved. She should not be frank or outspoken.

She used agency throughout the negotiation of the third marriage proposal which resulted in her marriage. She attributed her attitude to life to her unique upbringing: Her father treated her as an independent individual and asked for her consent before finalizing the proposal.

She was the only participant whose father asked her whether she had chosen her life partner and who had placed the onus for choosing her husband on her:. My father, he brought the proposal. He told me that there is a proposal like that. Then I decided. Are you in love with someone? Then he gave me this proposal. I had known them for many years and knew how they had been brought up. Otherwise I would have rejected him. Everybody [members of larger family] opposed [the match] at the time of my wedding and asked me not to get married to him as he is quite dark.

But I was adamant that I want this man. We also asked her about the appropriateness of her age at the time of marriage. She was married at the age of 21 and considered it to be the right age to be married as she had attained maturity and was mentally prepared for marriage:. Yes, I was totally mature. The way I was brought up was totally different.

I had already become completely mature by My father brought me up like that. I had my own thoughts. Some people will not have the maturity even now. Some of my friends of my age have still not attained it. It is because of my upbringing that I was completely mentally prepared. The second case is a Hindu woman residing in urban Bangalore with 10 years schooling.

When we interviewed her, she was not working as she had recently delivered a baby. She was the only study participant who had chosen her spouse on her own. She met her prospective husband while she was working at the garment factory. Her future in-laws expressed their disapproval of the alliance and underlined their distaste by not attending the wedding. Her own brothers also refused to attend the wedding celebration. Her wedding was a very simple affair in a temple, and solemnized in 1 day in contrast to the 3-day elaborate weddings that are common among Hindus in this area. Opposition was initially voiced by her mother when her prospective husband brought the proposal to her mother:.

She was looking for a good alliance within our caste. Several enquiries had already come. When my husband told my mother about his desire to marry me, she scolded him badly and even tried to beat him. Both she and her prospective husband were undeterred and persisted in their choice. The participant outlined the marriage arrangements performed by her mother:. He came to my house in just a pair of clothes and with Rs in his hands. My mother arranged for all the wedding expenditure and the wedding clothes, mobile, gold chain and all were bought for him.

Displaying her agency, she also explained that she married out of love and not for monetary reasons. He has a lot of patience and has good behaviour. He respects girls. He knows that women should be respected. He does not drink or have bad habits. He has sympathy for girls.


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  • He knows his responsibility towards a girl. I liked these qualities and his outlook. On being asked about the appropriateness of her age at marriage, she said that it was the right age as she was 23 and was working in the garment factory. She was getting many proposals, but she opted to marry the person of her choice. These two participants were similarly placed as they were both relatively highly educated, were employed at the time of marriage, and residing in urban Bangalore.

    The contextual similarity does not stop here, though, as both participants received support from their parents that seems to have helped them use resistance agency and realize their aspirations in selecting their respective spouses. The third case is a year-old Muslim participant with religious education. Immediately prior to her wedding, she was studying in a residential madrasa in rural Dharwad. She expressed her anguish because her family had lied to her when they brought her back from the madrasa :.

    When I was 15 years of age, I was sent to a madrasa for 6 months. They [her family] told me lies and got me back and I could not finish my study of Quran. I was very interested to finish it. Otherwise I would not have got married. She had, however, used her agency to express her eagerness to continue her education, but her family did not heed her and they justified her marriage on the grounds that she was of marriageable age:.

    How much more do you want to study? That is enough! She had also showed her agency by expressing her disapproval to her parents because her prospective husband was a manual laborer.

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    Nevertheless, she succumbed to the pressure exerted by her family members after she was brought back from the madrasa and learned that her marriage had already been fixed. She saw no chutkara [respite] from the situation and expressed her helplessness, because canceling the marriage after it was finalized would be socially undesirable:. They got me back after fixing my marriage. Once they had fixed it, I cannot get chutkara [respite].

    I had to listen to them. She was dissatisfied with the timing of her marriage because she was not allowed to pursue the education that interested her, but she was resigned to her situation and commented that parents always have good intentions when they take decisions for their children:. Whatever father and mother do, they do it right. They do it for our bhalaiyi [good].

    This is why I became silent. The fourth case is a year-old Hindu, with 12 years schooling, including ITI Industrial Training Institute professional training, residing in rural Dharwad. They know how I am. There was no way they could doubt my character. They know my nature. Since my birth, they had decided to take me [as daughter-in-law]. She considered this to be very young to be married. She expressed her disappointment about being unable to fulfill her ambition to continue studying further:. I felt it is not the right age to marry.

    I wanted to continue my education. That was my ambition. She told her parents about her desire to continue studying. They assured her that she could continue further education after marriage, but they discouraged her from revealing her reluctance to marry at that time to other people. They told me that even after marriage I can continue to study. Nobody will prevent you from continuing to study.

    They told me not to express my negative feelings to anybody. Maybe her young age was a barrier to asserting her wish to delay her marriage. Whatever they [parents] say, we have to accept. We cannot go against their wish. We have to agree with their decision. This juxtaposition of a Muslim and a Hindu participant helps us understand how neither realized her aspirations: they both used agency first to challenge hegemonic forces but then to conform.

    She reluctantly married a person who did not follow the occupation of her choice, and she was married earlier than she desired and barred from pursuing her interest in religious education. The Hindu participant had 10 years of education at the time of marriage and was also married at an earlier age than she wished. Both, however, told their family members about their interest in education and desire to delay marriage.

    Yet, in neither case did education enable them to achieve their aspirations. The cases are also similar because both women were married to close kin and their respective immediate families did not support them in fulfilling their aspirations. There was overt coercion in the first case while the second woman was subjected to subtle coercion. Both belonged to rural areas where social controls in the matter of marriage and pressures to comply with social norms such as consanguinity seem to be stronger than in urban areas.

    In both cases, the norm of consanguinity, the rural context, and probably most importantly the lack of support from parents and wider family seem to be the obstacles preventing these two participants from realizing their aspirations. The two Muslim participants who used resistance agency were situated at polar extremes of the modern educational spectrum: the one from rural Dharwad had madrasa education alone whereas the one from urban Bangalore had 12 years of modern education with professional training in computers. Of the two Hindu participants from rural Dharwad who used resistance agency, one was illiterate and the other had 12 years of education with professional training.

    Of the three Hindu participants from urban Bangalore who used resistance agency, two had obtained higher secondary education, namely, 12 years and 10 years of schooling. The third participant had completed 10 years of schooling at the time of marriage, although after marriage she continued her education for another 2 years and additionally obtained the Teacher Certificate Higher TCH training.

    Hence, we conclude that having higher education is not a necessary precondition for trying to use resistance agency during marital negotiations. Nor does higher education guarantee successful use of resistance agency. Of the seven women who used resistance agency, only the two women cited earlier were successful in marrying the person of their choice and at their preferred time of marriage, but other educated women were unable to do so.

    Twenty-two of the 36 participants did not consider they were married at an appropriate age, but they had refrained from openly intervening or expressing their point of view during the negotiations that preceded marriage. They all provided justifications for such a stance. For instance, a 27 year old Muslim participant from urban Bangalore with 10 years schooling preferred to remain silent. She wanted a slightly higher salary than the starting offer, paid maternity leave for one semester, a pre-tenure sabbatical, a cap on the number of new classes that she would teach each semester, and a deferred starting date.

    What had W done wrong? In a survey of graduating professional students, Linda Babcock, of Carnegie Mellon University, found that only seven per cent of women attempted to negotiate their initial offers, while fifty-seven per cent of the men did so. We see those dire statistics and think that women are, in a sense, self-sabotaging. But is it really the case that the disadvantage stems from not asking? But, had W spoken to psychologists who study the role of gender in negotiation alongside more popularly rendered edicts from women at the top of their fields, she might have been less surprised at the outcome.

    It may even backfire. In four studies , Bowles and collaborators from Carnegie Mellon found that people penalized women who initiated negotiations for higher compensation more than they did men. The effect held whether they saw the negotiation on video or read about it on paper, whether they viewed it from a disinterested third-party perspective or imagined themselves as senior managers in a corporation evaluating an internal candidate. Even women penalized the women who initiated the conversation, though they also penalized the men who did so.

    In a follow-up study, Bowles asked participants whether they themselves would negotiate in the given scenario—that is, they were now the job candidate and not the evaluating manager. The women, for the most part, said no. They were nervous that the conversation would turn against them. Attempting to negotiate can make anyone seem less nice, Bowles repeatedly found.

    The effect is especially strong, Bowles has found, when people observe women who engage in salary negotiations. One reason for the bias may be that the person hiring—or giving a raise—values different qualities in male and female colleagues. Doctor of Education Leadership. Doctor of Philosophy in Education. Doctor of Education. Academic Catalogue. Academic Calendar. Doctoral Viewbook. Master's Programs. All Master's Programs. Master's Viewbook. Professional Education. About Us. Our Participants.

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    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education
    Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education Challenges and Negotiations for Women in Higher Education

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