Gender inequality has been persistent despite the multiple efforts at reducing it that were implemented at various levels from international to local. Among other fields, gender inequality is an important concern for various workplace settings all over the world (Jayachandran, 2015; Thébaud, 2015), and higher education institutions are no exception (Clauset, Arbesman, & Larremore, 2015; Duong, Wu, & Hoang, 2017). It is particularly noticeable in the way the staff, including faculty and administration, may be treated differently depending on their gender. Indeed, a prime example of gender inequality in higher educational institutions is the gender inequality in educational leadership, which is expressed in the way women are underrepresented within it.
The present study suggests investigating this topic by introducing the perspectives of the people who are currently involved in the field; in particular, it intends to focus on the expert opinions of educational leaders concerning gender inequality in their institutions. The study will consider the leaders’ accounts of individual experiences and witnessed examples, current attempts at monitoring and handling inequality, the challenges associated with the task, and relevant recommendations. The leaders’ accounts of the impact of institutional policies related to gender equality will also be considered. To this end, a qualitative approach will be used: the study will involve email interviews with educational leaders that will gather the relevant information and will be analyzed with the help of thematic analysis. The perspectives of both men and women will be introduced.
Statement of the Problem
Gender Inequality: Definition, History, Current Climate
Gender inequality can be described as the unequal treatment of genders (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Historically, women used to be directly and legally discriminated based on their gender. For example, women did not have the right to vote in the US until 1920 when the corresponding amendment was made in the US Constitution (the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution of 1920). Later, other steps towards achieving legal equality were taken to protect the right of the US women to work (the Civil Rights Act of 1964) and earn (the Equal Pay Act of 1963) (Beaumont, 2016; Evans, 2016). After the legal safeguards were instituted, additional measures aimed at the improvement of employment equality were developed to manage diversity, including gender equality policies, education, affirmative action, and so on (Klein, 2016). However, it cannot be said that complete gender equality has been achieved.
Indeed, while it is illegal to discriminate, research indicates that discrimination still occurs. Women are still underrepresented in the positions of power, and research on the topic suggests that it may be the result of bias (Beaumont, 2016; Clauset et al., 2015). Furthermore, certain methods of achieving gender equality are not very effective; for example, affirmative action was described as problematic because it could be interpreted as the result of viewing women as deficient and unable to succeed on their own, which would contribute to bias and stereotypes rather than confronting them (Klein, 2016). Today, the research on the topic is more extensive than it was a few decades ago, and the history of efforts aimed at reducing inequality can be used to inform future decisions.
Gender Inequality in Higher Education
Today, many people working in the field of higher education still experience gender inequalities which impact important facets such as cooperation with students, educational leadership, and academic management. The topic is frequently discussed by researchers worldwide (Clauset et al., 2015; Hadjar & Gross, 2016; Loots & Walker, 2015). The numerous attempts at reducing gender discrimination have already improved the systems of education in different countries (Hadjar & Gross, 2016). For instance, in the US, as well as the European Union, the number of women of enrollees in educational institutions actually exceeds that of men, and there has been an increase in the number of women in educational leadership since the 1990s (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). These are the outcomes of the efforts that were meant to reduce inequality, including legislation, policies, affirmative action, diversity management, education, and so on (Klein, 2016).
However, inequality persists within the settings. The different representation of genders in various fields of education and the fact that women still account for around one-third of the faculty are the prime examples (Winslow & Davis, 2016). There exists reliable evidence that for women, it takes longer to get promoted to professors, and the top administrative positions are mostly occupied by men while part-time and temporary positions are mostly occupied by women (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). The latter factor also contributes to the wage gap (Winslow & Davis, 2016), which is also a problem in higher education.
The reasons for the persistence of these symptoms of gender inequality may be numerous. First of all, not all efforts that are aimed at improving diversity are effective (Klein, 2016). They may fail because of their inherent flaws (as, for example, is the case with affirmative action) or because they are not implemented very well. The latter outcome may occur because of the persistence of gender bias, which does not have to be conscious (Beaumont, 2016). While legislative and policy-related methods of combating inequality are important, the understanding of barriers to their effective use is also a must, and it can suggest more effective solutions.
There are reasons for combating inequality. First, gender inequality is a challenge for the personal and professional development of everybody involved in higher education (Dunn, Gerlach, & Hyle, 2014). Indeed, educational leaders have an impact on students and staff alike (Klein, 2016). Both male and female leaders become role models for their students, as well as the community, which is why the equal representation of genders in educational leadership is important. The existing trends, in which women are less likely to hold significant positions than men, also indicate the unequal distribution of power and resources between genders (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). Without gender equality, these trends will persist. Students, graduates, staff, and administrators will be denied promotion opportunities based on their gender, which, in turn, will keep impacting their wages (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Furthermore, students will be less likely to be exposed to female role models, which may contribute to the implicit bias towards women and perpetuate negative stereotypes (Beaumont, 2016). These facts highlight the importance of combating gender inequality.
To sum up, gender inequality is an issue that causes problems for higher education in many countries, including the US. Its persistence indicates that there are barriers to reducing inequality, the reasons for which are important to investigate. Currently, the research on the topic expands, examining the existing experience and using it to inform future decisions. The present study will contribute to this trend.
Purpose of the Study
Causes and Consequences of Gender Inequality in Higher Education
Historically, the differences in the status of men and women would often result from economic, social, and cultural causes. The segregation of labor, in which women are supposed to maintain the household while men are expected to work outside of it, has been a significant factor for many centuries. To this day, it is more common for women to be housewives than it is for men to be househusbands (Hurst, 2015; Winslow & Davis, 2016). Given that household chores are not a paid job, this arrangement results in a disbalance of power and access to resources. The mentioned arrangement has been a part of what is commonly called “gender roles,” which are gender-related expectations that in many societies, including the US, involved viewing men as the dominant gender (Hurst, 2015). As a result of such gendered stereotypes, to this day, women can be perceived as less competitive, less competent, and unfit for leadership (Beaumont, 2016; Hurst, 2015). In summary, in the past and present, a complex intersection of socioeconomic and cultural factors resulted in gender inequality in the US.
The mentioned causes are also pertinent to the educational institutions’ context. Research suggests that hiring may be subject to implicit bias (Clauset et al., 2015), which could explain the disparity in the men and women occupying leadership positions in education. Furthermore, men and women are differently represented in various fields of education, which, coincidentally, correspond to the stereotypes about “male” and “female” fields of expertise (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Naturally, if any of these fields experiences a decline, one of the genders will be more affected by the event than other ones. It should also be noted that the economic aspect is not inapplicable to the settings: women are still expected to be more engaged in childrearing and household chores, which limits the time that they can spend on their work (Hurst, 2015). This factor may explain the prevalence of women on part-time jobs, as well as a certain element of the hiring bias (Winslow & Davis, 2016). In other words, the causes of gender inequality are present in higher education.
It is apparent that higher education saw some improvements in the past years. In the US, the number of women in leadership positions keeps growing, which is partially attributed to legislative and policy-related improvements (Winslow & Davis, 2016). Similarly, various types of diversity management approaches appear to have a positive impact (Klein, 2016). In the modern age, people have a better understanding of gender stereotypes and their harmful implications, and the development of digital communications assists in spreading this information. However, negative consequences are also present, and they affect most people involved in higher education. Women are denied important advancement opportunities (Winslow & Davis, 2016), students lack important role models (Klein, 2016), and faculty and administration are deprived of potentially valuable members (Winslow & Davis, 2016). The general climate of gender inequality, especially if it is pronounced, may harm any woman that has to study or work in it. To summarize, gender inequality is a problem that requires investigation and solutions.
Leadership in Higher Education and Gender Inequality
There is an apparent connection between gender inequality and leadership in higher education: women remain underrepresented in it. Currently, about two-thirds of the US higher education leadership positions are taken by men (Winslow & Davis, 2016), and the disparity tends to increase for the most prominent posts (Klein, 2016; Winslow & Davis, 2016). As a result, choosing leaders as the source of information on gender inequality in education is justified. Leaders will be able to share their personal experiences of being promoted, and many of them should also be able to comment from the perspective of a person who is involved in hiring others. Aside from hiring, though, leaders are likely to be familiar with their institutions’ gender equality efforts, which also makes their contribution very valuable.
The purpose of this study is to examine the role of gender in higher education and its impact on educational leadership with a focus on gender inequalities, their consequences, and possible solutions to them. The problem that the research will consider is gender inequality in private for-profit and nonprofit educational administrations. The main phenomena that are going to be discussed by this study are gender inequalities in higher education as presented by educational leaders. They will be able to report on their understanding of the issue, as well as the challenges and the best practices that they know. Through the investigation of these perspectives, the study will be able to achieve its goal: to contribute some data that may assist in improving the understanding of gender inequalities in higher education.
Feminist Standpoint Theory (FST) will guide this study. It was characterized as the second major wave of feminism in the United States that was founded in the 1980s (Mosedale, 2014). FST does not have one particular author or founder. It was developed through years and contributed to by several strong feminist theorists, including Smith (1997), Collins (2002), and Harding (2004). The list of people involved in the development of this theory is not full, and it is necessary to admit that some contributors did not even know each other. This theory was introduced as a feminist epistemology, and it was used to explain the cases of oppression of people based on their gender. FST does not reject objectivity, but it highlights the fact that knowledge is socially constructed and situated (Mosedale, 2014). In other words, according to the supporters of FST, society is the root of knowledge.
According to Hekman (2013), another strong aspect of FST is its attempt to understand the nature of oppression experienced by women. Social reality is complex, and it is important to recognize a feminist standpoint regarding the experiences of women in different fields. To be heard and recognized, women have to develop their standpoints and protect their positions. It is a political achievement that has a social nature. Some women are ready to take steps and protect their opinions, and some women are in need of motivation and promotion (Hekman, 2013).
Regarding the nature of FST and the participation of several theorists in its development, a number of concepts can be identified in a future study. Smith (1997) is one of the developers of the FST, and her field of interest is sociology. As a result, she added the idea of the relationships between people of both genders to her feminist theory (Hekman, 2013). In a similar way, Harding (2004) supports the importance of sustainability that may be observed in cultures, human needs, and scientific discrimination. Finally, the work of Collins (2002) helps to identify the role of stereotypes in the discussions of gender inequality.
The proposed dissertation intends to use FST as its conceptual theory, adopting a few of its critical terms, including “gender inequality,” “feminism,” “stereotype,” “social relationships,” and “sustainability.” Higher education and leadership presuppose the participation of all genders expressions in administrative affairs of private institutions, and these frameworks help to create a plan for the analysis of gender relationships and inequalities. Feminist theories assist in identifying such concepts as marginalization, domination, and stereotyping and give a kind of voice to women with diverse perspectives based on their personal standpoints and understandings of what they have to do and what they want to do (Hekman, 2013).
To summarize, the study will use FST to consider the concept of gender inequality in higher education and cover the related gap in research. Even though there are recent articles and books about gender inequality as such, which can cover the US and education (Dunn et al., 2014; Evans, 2016; Hadjar & Gross, 2016; Mosedale, 2014), there are not many recent studies dedicated to gender equality in higher education leadership in the US. The dissertation will contribute more information on the topic, helping to cover the mentioned gap.
The proposed research intends to employ a qualitative approach. In particular, it will use email interviews. Qualitative research is typically employed to explore a phenomenon and gain insights on the topic (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). In addition to that, the use of qualitative methods is in line with FST, which highlights the importance of providing women with an opportunity to voice their experiences (Hekman, 2013). From the perspective of the present study, it means that gender inequality can be described by qualitative methods.
The project will employ the elements of a narrative study. Creswell and Creswell (2017) explain narrative research as a type of work where a researcher has to communicate with people, gather their stories, and combine different points of view to answer the main research question. An interview is a method to gather qualitative information in this kind of research (Maxwell, 2009). The proposed study intends to employ online interviews; in particular, email interviews will be used. The topic of email interviews requires extensive consideration to ensure that its choice is justified because the method is emerging.
Presently, Internet-based communication methods are being adjusted for research purposes. The reason for the development is that the Internet is being used increasingly by people all over the world (Iacono, Symonds, & Brown, 2016; Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Additionally, the Internet has the major advantage of establishing communication between people from different parts of the world, which makes it less time- and resource-consuming (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Various technologies have been used for interviews in the modern day; they incorporate messengers, including voice-based ones like Skype, platforms like Facebook, and emails (Iacono et al., 2016). The proposed research suggests using email interviews because this approach is particularly well-suited for its aims.
The quality of the data provided by email interviews is generally comparable to that offered by other, more traditional methods (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). Furthermore, email interviews have important advantages. Participants have a very high level of control over the process of interviewing in the case of emails (Mason & Ide, 2014). Consequently, participants can feel empowered by the procedure (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). This factor is particularly important for ethically appropriate research since power imbalance can be problematic for the voluntarily of participation and information disclosure (Brooks, Riele, & Maguire, 2014; Råheim et al., 2016).
Also, power imbalances can result in reduced quality of gathered evidence in case participants attempt to provide the answers that they believe the researcher wishes to receive. In other words, the opportunity to empower participants and provide them with some control is important. Email communication can be a good choice for a shy participant (Iacono et al., 2016), and the people who are comfortable with technology may also find its use during interviews convenient and engaging (Mason & Ide, 2014). In addition, according to Mason and Ide (2014), email interviews can make it easier for participants to quit participation if they are uncomfortable, which is a very important participant right.
Emails can be answered at any time. In other words, they are asynchronous, which further empowers the participants, makes this form of communication more convenient, and allows both the participant and researcher to think through their responses (Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). The latter factor is particularly important since it results in more structured and explicit responses, which affects the quality of the data in a positive way (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Additionally, email interviews do not need transcription (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015), which reduces the possibility of transcription errors, as well as the time spent by the investigator on the process.
One of the major advantages of email communication is the possibility of maintaining confidentiality. Indeed, the participants will be recruited from the Facebook group and will contact the researcher with the help of their emails; the researcher will develop pseudonyms and will not provide any personal information (including emails) of the participants to anyone. As a result, the participation will be completely confidential since nobody from the group (as well as no people from other groups) will be able to learn who decided to take part in the research. Given the fact that the topic of gender inequality can be sensitive, it is an important factor (Mason & Ide, 2014; Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Also, the confidentiality potential of the approach is greater than that of other Internet options (like Facebook or Skype), and it became the main argument which prompted the choice of the method.
However, it should also be noted that email interviews have their specifics, some of which can be described as barriers or limitations. The use of email interviews may be associated with difficulties in building rapport (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015), even though the accounts of online communication suggest that it does not have to be so (Iacono et al., 2016; Mason & Ide, 2014). One of the solutions noted by Iacono et al. (2016) consists of sending several emails specifically to build trust. Such emails can be used to establish the rules of communication; including, for instance, confidentiality concerns, the expected time of responses, the appropriate form of reminders, and so on (Mason & Ide, 2014). This way, the problem can be resolved.
Informed consent procedures are specific for email interviews, but this issue can be settled as well. A common approach consists of sending the informed consent form as an attachment so that it can be printed, signed, and sent back (Ratislavová & Ratislav, 2014). Also, email communication does not allow the researcher to note the changes in the participants’ behavior (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). The lack of non-verbal cues, which can convey important information, increases the opportunity for miscommunication (Bowden & Galindo-Gonzalez, 2015). Ratislavová and Ratislav (2014) state that the questions, therefore, need to be very clear and unambiguous, which means that this problem can also be resolved.
The confidentiality requirements and the distance can also be associated with a problem; it can be difficult to ensure that the interviewees respond only once without using another email address to participate again. Similarly, the participants might be able to lie about some of their experiences or demographics, and it will be impossible to check their honesty (Iacono et al., 2016). It is planned to discourage the participants from doing so; also, the researcher will inform them about the importance of being honest and providing the responses that reflect their experience.
In summary, there are some challenges related to the method, including rapport building, informed consent, and identity verification, but there are reliable solutions to them, which are described by the literature on the topic. At the same time, email interviews have major advantages, including convenience for everyone involved, empowerment of the participants, and confidentiality possibilities. Given that the study will recruit participants from a Facebook group, email interviews are particularly applicable. Therefore, the choice of the method is justified.
Regarding the content of the email interview protocol, their questions can be found in Appendix E. As can be seen from Appendix E, the participants will be asked about their job roles, the impact of status at the workplace, and the presence or absence of gender issues in education. The email interviews will aim to prompt the participants to share their personal experience.
The main research questions addressed in this study are:
- How do educational leaders perceive the issue of gender inequality in higher education settings?
- How do educational leaders perceive the challenges of gender inequality in higher education settings?
- What are educational leaders’ best practices to address gender inequality in higher education settings?
A population is a group of people who are going to participate in the study, answer questions, and provide a researcher with the necessary information (Singh, 2007). In this project, an academic population will be used. A very diverse Facebook group with over 11,000 users will be used as the pool for potential participants. This group is comprised of educators, administrators, and leaders who work in higher education facilities across the United States and either work or want to work online, which justifies the application of the e-mail interviewing method to them. Regarding the topic of the study, the population should include both male and female participants who can share their experiences and knowledge about the existing challenges caused by gender inequality.
Other main characteristics of the population are the age of the participants (in universities, the age rates of employees vary from 28 to 55 or even older) and their occupation (the specific positions taken by them in the faculty or administration may vary). The age of the population is an integral factor because of the changes that have been observed in the system of education. For example, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 influenced the positions of women in different academic fields. Educators, administrators, and leaders should understand the outcomes of such legislation and compare past and present working conditions.
Communication with the participants of both genders will be used to clarify the leading positions that may be available to women, the qualities that women must develop, and the relationships that have to be developed to promote effective leadership in different fields. Teachers’ and administrators’ opinions are crucial for this study. Their knowledge, as well as personal experience, can discover some new aspects of the work in profit and non-profit organizations. The representatives of multiple universities or colleges can create a solid basis for the discussion of inequality female leaders may face in all higher educational facilities.
Sampling is the second step in research methodology in terms of which subjects should be selected from a population (Miller & Salkind, 2002). The goal of this stage is to understand which group of people is the most appropriate choice for the study and what interests and characteristics may play a crucial role. The goal of sampling is to achieve data saturation, which will enable the interview to fulfill its own aim: provide the participants with the opportunity to describe their lived experiences (Fusch & Ness, 2015). In other words, the sampling will attempt to reach a point at which new data will not be provided. It is planned to gather data from up to 20 people, but the data saturation can change the number.
Non-probability sampling will be used because probability approaches are not entirely feasible for a dissertation that will recruit its participants from a Facebook group. Therefore, the purposive approach is required in this work (Coe, Waring, Hedges, & Arthur, 2017). Regarding the specific types of sampling that are going to be used, the approach chosen for this research corresponds to the definitions of convenience, voluntary, quota, and snowball sampling. They can be defined as follows. Initially, the study will involve a post in the Facebook group (see Appendix G) with the information about the study and invitation to contact the researcher. This approach can be viewed as a convenience sampling since it presupposes employing a setting that is likely to include the representatives of the population of interest (Creswell & Creswell, 2017). Additionally, it will involve a call for volunteers, which is the definition of voluntary sampling (Remler & Ryzin, 2015).
Furthermore, given the specifics of Facebook, the researcher will encourage the group members to share the post and, therefore, inform more people about the research. This approach is the definition of snowball sampling in online settings (Creswell & Creswell, 2017; Creswell & Poth, 2016). Finally, quotas will be used to make the sample diverse, which means that quota sampling will also be employed by the study (Remler & Ryzin, 2015). It is intended to include ten men and ten women, as well as at least five people aged 30-40, five people aged 40-50, and five people older than 50. Ethnicity is also of interest to the study, which is why people of different races and ethnicities will be recruited; in order to regulate this aspect of the sample, it is planned to recruit no more than 10 Non-Hispanic white people. This approach can be defined as quota sampling (Creswell & Creswell, 2017).
In summary, the study will involve creating a recruitment post in a Facebook group that includes the people who would qualify for participation and encouraging the readers to spread the message while employing quotas to diversify the sample. This strategy is explained by the needs of the research and should provide it with a sample that will be able to produce the required information. The sample will be drawn from a higher education Facebook group titled Make a Living Teaching Online. It is necessary to describe the group since it can be viewed as the settings of the study. The group was created by the Babb Academy (n.d.) in 2009, and it is an active group which is currently run by the same organization. As of 2018, the group has almost 11,500 members who are online educators, although no extensive information about the demographics of the group has been provided. On average, ten posts appear in the group every day. The principal investigator is an active member of the group since January 17, 2018; the Facebook profile is used to participate in it.
The administrators and moderators are easily accessible; they were contacted to obtain the permission to use their group for a research recruitment post (see Appendices A and B). The Babb Academy (n.d.) describes itself as an “education solution provider” (para. 1), and the group itself is dedicated to supporting online educators. Among other things, the posts are devoted to the events, changes, and issues of the industry, and the participants are encouraged to “share daily musings” and “ask questions” (para. 3). Job posts are also a part of the group. Overall, the group has a large number of participants who are likely to be interested in the research and capable of providing the necessary information.
The main inclusion criterion will be the participants’ current occupation in higher education; the study will look for male and female employees who take different leadership positions in universities. The second major inclusion criterion is the working experience, which should be more than one year in the same facility. Furthermore, it is intended to limit the age of the potential participants to over 30 years. It is anticipated that people who are older than 30 are more likely to take up leadership positions and have some experience. All participants should be English-speaking people who can spend about one hour on communication. The final requirement will be the wish of the potential participants to talk about their professional and personal issues, working experience, and inequality problems if any occur in the workplace; only voluntary participation will be accepted (see Appendix C).
People belonging to any race or ethnicity will be accepted; an attempt will be made to include the people of different races and ethnicities. Also, it is expected to work with the academic staff of different United States universities because of the specifics of recruitment (the usage of a Facebook group). Admittedly, the situation with gender equality can be different across the US and individual institutions, but the present research does not intend to focus on a specific state; rather, it attempts to review the problems with gender equality that manifest themselves in educational settings in general. The only exclusion criteria that may prevent participants from being engaged in the study are those that make them vulnerable (non-fluent English).
An email interview protocol (see Appendix E) is the instrument that will be used in the research (Olsen, 2012). The particular email interview questions serve as one of the main and most credible sources of information because of direct communication with people who are involved in the chosen field of work. The email interview guide can be found in Appendix E. It is a tool that was specifically developed for this research. The process of selecting questions was based on the topics identified in research questions; it also aims to cover the key themes of the research. As can be seen from Appendix E, the email interview protocol is directly based on the research questions. The first block focuses on the demographics to ensure that the participants have the expertise on the topic and to help diversify the sample. The second set of questions details the respondents’ experience with inequality, as well as its consequences, responding to the first and second research questions. The third and fourth sets are related to the third research question, which is concerned with best practices in the area.
The anticipated duration of online communication with the participants should not exceed an hour. It will involve one-on-one communication because this approach will allow gaining information about the personal experiences and perspectives of the participants, which is the aim of the study. Moreover, it will be easier to ensure the confidentiality of the participants in one-on-one communication. Finally, one-on-one communication will help the participants be more open about their ideas and experiences, and it will not allow the participants to influence each other’s responses. Therefore, the approach is justified.
According to the current information from Facebook Help Community (2014), it is possible to use Facebook for research solicitation, and the only direct requirements for such posts consist of abiding by the rules of Facebook and requesting the permission for the post from the administrators of the group. The permission from the Facebook Group has already been obtained (Appendix B). The following plan is proposed for the next steps in recruitment. The data collection procedures will start following approval from UNIVERSITY NAME] University International’s (TUI).
First, the invitation to participate will be posted in the Facebook community group of interest (see Appendix G). Second, the participants who will contact the researcher will be provided with detailed information about the research (see Appendix C). The researcher will discuss standardized rules of communication with the participants who will agree to participate, specifying the deadline for responses and inquiring about the appropriate methods and timing of reminders (see Appendix H for the standardized rules). This step will help to establish rapport with the participants. After that, the participants will be provided with the email interview questions (see Appendix E) and instructions (see Appendix I). Due to the specifics of the approach to interviewing, its settings can be described as online settings; specifically, emails will be used. Physically, the participants can be present anywhere, which is a major benefit of this approach to data collection. Additionally, the emails do not need to be transcribed; they will be collected as they are. If the participants take longer than planned to respond to the questions, a reminder will be sent to them once (see Appendix J).
The analysis of the email interview data will be started immediately during its collection to track data saturation. It is planned to recruit about 20 participants, but the number can change depending on data saturation. In addition, it is planned to make the sample diverse; specifically, the study will involve both men and women, and an effort will be made to recruit people of different age to check if the situation with gender inequality has changed in their institutions over time. It would be helpful to investigate the intersections of gender-based discrimination and those pertaining to age or ethnicity as well.
Regarding the protection of the participants, the chosen methods are particularly helpful in this regard since they allow confidentiality. The addresses will not be disclosed by the researcher in any case, and no one but the researcher will get access to them during the study. No identifying information will be collected. If any potentially identifying information is mentioned by a participant, it will be removed by the investigator. The participants will be provided with an informed consent document; they will print it, sign, and send it back electronically (see Appendix D). The need for the informed consent is explained by the fact that the study may involve some sensitive topics, which is why the participants should be informed about risks beforehand.
The data will be kept in a secure location, which is the principal investigator’s place. In particular, a password-protected computer will be used as a storage device. All of the communication with the participants will be carried out with the help of the same computer. The participants’ names or email addresses will not be used; instead, each participant will be assigned a pseudonym, which will be randomly chosen and used to designate their responses. Also, a USB drive will have backup data, which will be kept in a safe at the principal investigator’s place. All the data will be destroyed (erased from all devices) after three years (as per the university policy) of storage.
Thematic analysis will be employed for the study, which implies the need for coding. The interviews will use emails, which is why no transcripts will be required. The steps for theme identification will be identical to the ones proposed by Clarke and Braun (2014). There are other approaches to the process as well, for instance, that by Vaismoradi, Jones, Turunen, and Snelgrove (2016). However, the methods are largely similar, and their main differences consist of the terms used. Overall, it will be necessary to become familiar with the data, start developing the codes, and search for themes. Themes then need to be reviewed and refined, and their eventual version should be established. The results of the analysis will be presented in the form of a table that will describe the themes and the frequency of their appearance.
For the time being, it is not planned to employ software; manual coding is intended to be used. As for validity, it will be ensured by triangulation (Cohen et al., 2017). The researcher will review the information from the Facebook group and the policies and training materials of the universities, the members of which will be recruited for the study, and their analysis will assist in contextualizing the data from the email interviews. Regarding the demographic data, they will be analyzed with the help of descriptive statistics; it is planned to use MS Excel since its capabilities are sufficient for the task. The results of this part of the analysis will be presented in the form of tables and graphs produced by MS Excel.
Trustworthiness and Credibility
Using the qualitative terms of “transferability, credibility, dependability, and confirmability,” which define a study’s trustworthiness (Given & Saumure, 2008, p. 896), the following analysis of the present project can be proposed. With respect to transferability, the study should only be applied to the US higher education; other countries or other levels of education will not be considered. This limitation will be explicitly stated in the results section, but it stems from the project’s aims, which is why it is not a problem; rather, it is a specific feature of the dissertation. Regarding credibility and confirmability, the accurate representation of the collected data and its appropriate interpretations will be ensured through triangulation. As for dependability, the study will present its methodology in detail, including the data collection tools. To summarize, the trustworthiness concerns were taken into account when developing this dissertation’s design.
The limitations of the dissertation are determined and justified by its methodology. First, the study will gather the personal perspectives of participants, which is why they are likely to be subjective and can reflect personal bias (Cohen et al., 2017). However, bias in research is generally difficult (if not impossible) to avoid (Walliman, 2018). Therefore, this issue is unavoidable, but it can be controlled. Also, it should be noted that the investigation of the instances of gender inequality, its consequences, and solutions to it needs to consider the personal experiences and perspectives of the people who are affected by it or witness it. Therefore, the introduction of personal, subjective views is required and can benefit this study, which will focus on the plurality of opinions.
Secondly, the sampling of the study can result in limitations. First, voluntary sampling can lead to the recruitment of the people with specific experiences and perspectives, which may result in self-selection bias (Callegaro et al., 2015). Similarly, the problem of non-coverage can be mentioned (Callegaro et al., 2015): the study will use online means of recruitment (a specific Facebook group), which automatically excludes the people who do not have Facebook accounts and the Internet access. These issues must be mentioned when presenting the results. The sample is also likely to be relatively small (20 people) (Walliman, 2018). However, the study does not intend to be generalizable; it plans to present varied opinions and aims to investigate the phenomenon of gender inequality and solutions to it. Also, the research will not target particular locations or institutions, which is why it is likely not to be representative of any of them. However, the investigation of particular locations or institutions is not the goal of the dissertation, which is why this limitation is not problematic.
Furthermore, the email interview method is noteworthy. The specifics of the approach make it difficult to verify the participants’ responses; also, it will not be possible to prevent them from participating twice. However, this potential issue is highly unlikely. The study will also prompt the participants to avoid dishonesty. The problems that are associated with email interviews are outweighed by their benefits; this method is particularly well-suited for the present research due to its sampling strategy (which uses a Facebook group). To summarize, many of this study’s limitations can be explained by the specifics of the dissertation, and the methods that are associated with them have multiple benefits and are suited for this research. The limitations will necessarily be taken into account when presenting the results.
The proposed study intends to investigate the issues related to gender inequality in higher education in the US and related solutions. It will use expert opinions and experiences; in particular, it will recruit educational leaders who work in the US and engage them in email interviews. The chosen methods have some limitations, which will be taken into account, but they also have notable benefits, and they can respond to the required research questions.
The proposed investigation is significant because the goal of gender equality has not been achieved yet. Additionally, there is not much recent research on the topic of gender equality in higher education as related to leadership in the field. The primary goal of the study is to find the information about the solutions to the problem of gender inequality. Apart from providing important insights, the data will be used to develop training interventions for educational leaders.
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Letter to the Group Seeking Permission to Conduct Research
Subject Line: Seeking Permission to Conduct Research.
Body of Email:
Dear Babb Academy,
My name is [NAME], and I am an Ed.D. in Higher Education student at [UNIVERSITY NAME] University International. I am also a member of your group “Make a Living Teaching Online.” I am in the process of writing my dissertation, and I intend to conduct a study dedicated to inequality in higher education to complete it.
I am requesting your permission to post a research recruitment note in your group “Make a Living Teaching Online” in order to recruit a sufficient number of research participants for my study. I would also like to request that it can be pinned to the top of the group (for an agreed amount of time) to ensure enough members see it. It will involve completing email interviews about inequality in higher education. The risks of participation are minimal; the only concern is the possibility of discomfort related to discussing a not very pleasant topic. I will guarantee the participants’ confidentiality.
I am attaching the draft of the post itself for you to review. I will be able to send you an IRB approval once I receive it.
If you have any concerns about the research or the post, wish to know more, or want to review the interview protocol, please contact me using this email.
Thank you for your time!
Permission to Conduct Research
This letter confirms that Babb Academy supports [NAME]
’s research dedicated to gender inequalities in higher education. Babb Academy has received extensive information about the research and has reviewed the recruitment materials. As a result, Babb Academy permits using its group “Make a Living Teaching Online” to post research recruitment materials for this study as long as the [UNIVERSITY NAME] Institutional Review Board provides a confirmation of the study’s approval from the perspective of the protection of human subjects.
Invitation / Notice to Participate in Research
Subject Line: Invitation to Participate in Research
Body of Email:
Dear [Insert Name],
Thank you very much for your interest in my research! My name is [NAME], and I am studying at [UNIVERSITY NAME] University International. Currently, I am in the process of writing my dissertation, and in order to complete it, I am going to conduct a study dedicated to inequality in higher education. I intend to gather the information about the gender inequality experiences of leaders working in higher education settings. I also want to invite the participants to discuss the approaches to managing gender inequality that are used by their institutions. Please consider the following information to see if you are interested in becoming a participant in my research.
In order to participate in this research, please check if you correspond to the following criteria.
- The study focuses on leaders from higher education institutions. If you are a member of the administration or have a leadership position in the faculty, you can participate in this research.
- The study looks for people older than 30 years.
- The study looks for people who are comfortable responding to questions in English using emails.
Please note that the study uses quota sampling. As a result, it might not be able to recruit everybody, but I will do my best to involve particularly enthusiastic participants!
If you choose to participate in the study, I will send you an informed consent form. You will need to print it, sign it, scan the result, and send the scan to me via email. (OR DOCU-SIGN?)
Then, I will send you some communication rules to make sure that we establish the principles and time frame for our communication. You will be asked to respond to a series of questions with the help of emails (you may attach documents with responses to the emails if you like). I will send you the interview protocol (list of questions), and you will respond to them by the deadline. That will conclude your participation in the study.
Confidentiality and Subject Rights
As a research subject, you can withdraw from the research at any time and have the right to confidentiality. Any personal information that you might disclose during the research will remain confidential; I will not include any identifying or personal information collected from you in the materials that will be made public. All the information that I receive from you will be preserved in its electronic form with the help of my computer; I will use passwords to protect it. It will eventually be erased (three years after the study as per the instructions of my Institutional Review Board). You will be provided with the contact information of the Institutional Review Board in the informed consent form to make sure that your rights as a research subject are protected.
Benefits and Risks
The only risks of participating are concerned with negative emotional experiences: it may be unpleasant to discuss gender inequality. There are no direct personal benefits for participating (no compensation will be provided), but the research will contribute some information to the investigation of gender inequality in higher education, especially from the perspective of the settings’ leaders. The study can result in the dissemination of data about the issue, its consequences, and best practices in resolving it.
If you have any questions about the study, please contact me using this email. You also may contact the Institutional Review Board at [PHONE, EMAIL], especially if you have any concerns about the research.
Thank you very much for your time!
You are invited to participate in a study conducted by [NAME] from the Doctoral Program at [UNIVERSITY NAME] University International which will be used to write [NAME]’s dissertation. Please read this informed consent document very carefully and make sure that you understand it before signing it. Contact [NAME] if you have any questions about the informed consent prior to signing it.
Purpose of the Study
The study that you are asked to participate in is dedicated to gender inequality in higher education administration. It intends to investigate educational leaders’ experiences with gender inequality and means of handling gender inequality (including the policies, diversity training approaches, and other aspects of managing inequality in their institutions). To become a participant, you need to take into account the following inclusion criteria:
- You work in higher education settings as an educational leader (you have a leadership position in the faculty, administration, and so on).
- You are older than 30 years old.
During the study, you will be asked to do the following:
- Answer nine (9) questions about yourself to provide some demographic data (your age, race, working experience, and so on).
- Answer a series of questions designed to invite you to discuss gender inequality in higher education. Some of these questions will inquire about your personal experience with gender inequality and its outcomes, as well as the solutions to it that your institution uses (or used).
Both stages will be completed with the help of an email interview; it is anticipated that the process should take up about one (1) hour. You will be e-mailed the interview protocol (list of the questions), and you will be provided with a week to complete it and send your responses back with the help of email. If you take longer than a week to respond to the questions, you will be reminded of the study once to make sure that you did not forget about it, but the researcher will not keep mailing you after that to avoid pressuring you. Please remember that you can withdraw from the study at any time.
The study’s risks are minimal; the only concern is that you might experience discomfort because of discussing unpleasant or traumatic experiences related to gender inequality. Your confidentiality will be fully protected; there are no confidentiality-related risks.
You will not benefit from this research personally, but its findings will contribute to the growing bulk of literature on gender inequality. Specifically, it will provide insights into the gender inequality experienced and observed by higher education leaders. The results are of interest from the theoretical and practical perspective as an opportunity to share experience and best practices.
You will not be paid for participating.
The study does not require any identifying information with the exception of your email address, which will become known to the principal investigator. You do not have to provide any other information, including your name. The email address will not be disclosed; only the principal investigator will have access to it, and it will not appear in any research. You name or pseudonym that you will choose to use will also not be disclosed in any way. Please note that some quotations from your responses may be used in the final report without any connection to any identifying or potentially identifying information about you (like your institution or position in it). Any information gathered during the research, including your email address, will be stored in a secure location (the principal investigator’s computer) with necessary precautions (passwords) and destroyed after three (3) years.
Participation and Withdrawal
The participation in the study is strictly voluntary. You are free to withdraw from the study at any time without any repercussions, as well as refuse to answer any of the questions. The researcher might choose to withdraw you from the study as well.
Identification of Investigators
Before consenting to participate in the study, please make sure that you understand the content of this document. With any questions about the study or this document, please contact the principal investigator:
Research Subject Rights
Your rights as a research subject, including your right to withdraw from the study at any time, are to be protected. If you have questions about your rights or feel that they are being violated, please contact the Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects at [UNIVERSITY NAME] University International.
Appendix E: Interview Protocol
Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this study! Please read all the following questions and then proceed to respond to them in any order. There are no word limits or requirements. Be honest and remember that the study is completely confidential! There are no right or wrong answers.
Section 1: Demographics
- What is your age?
- What is your gender expression?
- What is your racial/ethnic identity?
- What degrees or educational certificates do you hold, in what subjects or disciplines?
- For how many years have you been working in the field of education?
- What is your position in your university?
- For how many years have you been holding that post?
- Are you currently serving in a teaching position (tenured faculty, tenure track, part time, adjunct)?
- Do you teach in person, online or both?
Section 2: Gender Inequalities and Their Outcomes
- Have you ever experienced gender-based discrimination in your institution (or in the institutions that you previously worked at)?
- Have you ever witnessed gender-based discrimination in educational settings? Please describe in detail, indicating the impact of discrimination on the roles of the people affected by it.
- Do you think that getting into higher education leadership positions is as easy for women as it is for men? If not, what are the barriers?
- Do you think that female leaders in higher education face discrimination? How?
- What are the outcomes of gender-based discrimination from your perspective? You can consider individual and group outcomes.
- Have you witnessed such outcomes in your institution? Feel free to provide an example.
- Do you think that gender inequality should be reduced? Why?
Section 3: Diversity Training and Its Effects
- Do you think that diversity awareness training can help in reducing gender inequalities?
- Does your institution use a diversity awareness training to reduce gender inequalities? Can you describe it or, possibly, provide the link to relevant materials?
- If your institution does have a diversity awareness training, do you find it effective in reducing gender-based inequalities?
- Based on your experience, do you think that you can suggest what should be included in a diversity awareness training to reduce gender-based inequalities?
Section 4: Other Solutions to Gender Inequalities
- Does your institution have any safeguards that aim to address gender inequality? Please specify if they attempt to prevent inequality or deal with its consequences. You can focus on the solutions that are not related to training.
- Do you find your institution’s actions in the field of gender equality promotion effective? If yes, how? If not, what would you improve about them?
- Are you familiar with any other approaches to resolving gender inequality that are not in place in your institution? Would you like them to become a part of your institution’s gender equality program? Why?
- What is the most effective approach to combating gender inequality from your experience or perspective?
Facebook Post (Recruitment Materials)
My name is [NAME], and I am in the process of writing my dissertation. As its part, I conduct a study about gender inequality in higher education, and I am looking for research participants.
The research will consist of email interviews with a total of 9 questions about demographic data (age, ethnicity, working experience, and so on) and 14 questions about gender inequality (personal experience, attitudes, solutions, and so on).
The study needs:
- Educators who hold leadership positions in their higher education institutions (administrators, faculty leaders, etc.).
- The educators need to be over 30 years old to participate.
- The educators need to be comfortable with using emails to respond to the 23 questions in English.
- The more experience the educators have in leadership positions in higher education institutions, the better.
The study is voluntary and confidential. If you are interested in participating, please contact me for more information using this email: [EMAIL]
Please feel free to share this post if your friends might want to participate. Thank you very much for your time!
The Rules of Communication
Subject Line: Research Interview: The Rules of Communication
Body of Email:
Dear [Insert Name],
Thank you very much for your interest in my study! If you are reading this, you have read and signed the informed consent document, agreeing to participate in an interview devoted to gender inequalities in higher education. Now, we need to discuss the rules of communication for this study. The rules of communication exist to ensure that our cooperation remains positive and fruitful.
Please consider the following standard rules.
- The first rule is confidentiality. Any information that you provide to me will remain confidential. You will not be identifiable from any documents that I will draft for my dissertation.
- Please remember that you can withdraw from participation at any time. If you choose to do so, please consider informing me about it. You do not need to explain your choice; a short note about your decision will be enough.
- I do not want to rush you, but we need to establish a time frame or deadline for your responses. I propose a week; the questions should not take more than 1 hour to answer, but I understand that with your schedule, you may not have a free hour every day. Please take your time.
- Please inform me if it is appropriate to remind you about the research. I would like to send you one reminder if the established deadline for the response expires, but please feel free to inform me if you do not want any reminders.
- There are no right or wrong answers. Please share your personal experience and perspectives. Please also be honest and truthful.
- Please make sure to inform me if anything about the study or its questions causes you discomfort.
- Please remember about your right to skip any of the questions or withdraw from the study.
Please review the above-presented rules and inform me if you have any questions or comments about them. The rules are negotiable, and I am willing to discuss them with you. Please contact me with the help of this email for further cooperation.
Thank you so much for your time!
Email Interview Instructions
Subject Line: Research Interview Questions and Instructions
Body of Email:
Dear [Insert Name],
Thank you very much for choosing to participate in my research! As we have already discussed, it is dedicated to gender inequality in higher education and focuses on the perspectives of leaders. If you are reading this, you have already sent me your informed consent form, and you have already confirmed that you understand and agree with the communication rules. Now, I am sending you the interview questions (see the attached document).
You may type the responses into the document or use the email. You do not need to include personal or identifying information in your responses, but if you do (by accident or with intent), I will keep the data confidential and not include it in any reports. If you have any questions about the procedure, please contact me again using the email. If you have any concerns regarding your rights as a research subject, please contact me or my Institutional Review Board [The IRB Contact Information].
Thank you so much for your willingness to help me with my dissertation and for the time that you dedicate to this project!
Reminder to Submit Responses
Subject Line: Reminder to Submit Responses
Body of Email:
Dear [Insert Name],
Thank you very much for agreeing to participate in my research! Last week, I sent you the interview questions for my study on gender inequalities in higher education.
I am writing to remind you about the study, and I attach the questions to this message. If you want to participate in the study, please respond to them in the document or an email. Please remember that you are free to withdraw from the study at any time.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
Thank you very much for your time!