Welcome to the first installment of our Summer Session topic “Back to School.” For this session we will be talking about art and the academy, exploring the unique opportunities, challenges, and problematics specific to academia. Today we bring you an article by Bean Gilsdorf reporting on the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation’s study on the lack of women in positions of power within the Polish art academy. The foundation finds that the significant schism between the female-dominated student population and the male-dominated teaching population is, perhaps unsurprisingly, the result of both systemic and individual cultural gender bias. This article was originally published on April 7, 2016.
If you are currently attending or working in an academic arts institution, look around. What is the ratio of women to men in the student body? What proportion of the faculty is female? How many female faculty members are tenured? How many department chairs or deans are women? At many institutions, there is a visible disproportion between the number of women who are students versus the number who make it to ranked, tenured faculty or senior administration. This conspicuous lack of women in positions of power is the impetus for the groundbreaking 2015 study “Little Chance to Advance? An Inquiry into the Presence of Women at Art Academies in Poland,” published by the Katarzyna Kozyra Foundation.
Though the data portion of the study concentrates on Poland, it would be easy to extrapolate the majority of the philosophical findings to art departments, colleges, and universities around the world. “Little Chance to Advance” illustrates the cultural, psychological, and environmental factors that operate on individual and systemic levels to disenfranchise women, both within and beyond the academy. Currently, across the nine Polish visual art academies, women constitute 77 percent of the student body, but only 34 percent of assistant professors, 25 percent of associate professors, and 17 percent of full professors. In essence, the higher the level in the visual arts academy, the more women disappear. Are they opting out? If not, at which points in their trajectory are they being pushed out of the system?