by Banu Özkazanç-Pan
22nd April 2022

Banu Ozkazanc-Pan On International Women’s Day we launched a series of articles to celebrate our female authors and editors: Women in academia and practice. We look at their work and the challenges they have faced, and hear their thoughts about obstacles to gender equality.

Banu Özkazanç-Pan is Professor of Practice at the School of Engineering and Academic Director of the IE Brown EMBA programme at Brown University and Founder and Director of the Venture Capital Inclusion Lab at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship. She is the author of Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work.

What do you do and how did you get there?

I’m a professor in the practice of engineering, the Director of the Venture Inclusion Lab, and the co-academic director of the IE Brown Executive MBA programme at Brown University. At the same time, I’m joint editor-in-chief of Gender, Work & Organization, an academic journal which publishes critical and feminist work at the intersection of gender, work and organisation studies. I got to my current position in an unconventional way as my training was in Organisation Studies at the Isenberg School of Management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. For about 11 years, I worked as a professor of management in a business school and even got tenure! But I gave up tenure to take on a position at Brown University which allowed me the intellectual freedom and support to pursue my research and applied work and to create a curriculum in the Executive MBA programme that speaks to global inequities. As a feminist scholar, understanding and addressing the gendered and racialised ways in which inequality becomes manifest has been a strong driver of my research. But I’ve also been active in translating research findings into practice-and-policy conversations as real change requires that we move beyond academic circles. This is where I am currently – at the intersection of academia, practice and policy. It’s a form of feminist praxis.

What challenges have you faced?

As a junior scholar who had just graduated from a PhD programme and started a tenure-track position, I was elated to be given the opportunity to pursue my research and teaching passions. I started my tenure-track position in August 2008 and got pregnant in September 2008 and then again in June 2011 – many, many colleagues asked me if this was the right time to start a family as I was pre-tenure. It made me question what success means in academia and why there was such hesitancy on the part of the institution to support people like me. I was fortunate to have some close friends and colleagues who supported me and after deferring my tenure decision twice, I was granted tenure. Fast forward to 2019, I decided that the conditions in my university were not ideal for my health and wellbeing and my scholarship, and pursued a different opportunity. It also meant giving up tenure as Brown University had no business school and my appointment would be through the School of Engineering. Giving up tenure was quite difficult as it’s often seen as the pinnacle of academic success but the institution I was leaving was not as supportive of my work over time and my compensation was well below that of my colleagues in the same department. In the end, we have to define success for ourselves and for me, that means being in an institutional environment where I was supported, my research celebrated and my endeavours to create meaningful impact noticed.

What needs to be done to address the challenges women face generally?

There needs to be intention, investment and interest on the part of the academic community as a whole to create meaningful change towards gender and racial equity. Currently, the system relies on female, lower-wage adjuncts or other non-full-time scholars as instructors or overburdens female scholars with service and committee work, allowing tenure-track and tenured (mostly male) colleagues to excel in publishing and meet tenure expectations. And these dynamics do not seem to be changing, as we can see from a 2020 report suggesting that:

“women make up 43 per cent of full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty members and 54 per cent of full-time, non-tenure-track professors […] Salaries for female full-time faculty members are approximately 81 per cent of men’s overall, and female tenure-track and tenured professors in particular make 82 per cent of what their male counterparts do. Women are 50 per cent of assistant professors, 45 per cent of associate professors and 34 per cent of full professors.’”

The system will not change until we recognise and decide to change the fact that the norms, values and expectations of academia are gendered and racialised – and that will require solidarity and collaboration across disciplines to create new institutional norms to address the inequalities manifest in academia today

What advice would you give to younger women and more broadly?

When I was a doctoral student, I was selected by my programme to attend a doctoral student seminar on ‘how to be successful in academia’ at our annual conference. I didn’t have the words or support at that time to know that what was being sold as success was gendered – the tenured, older white male professor told us that the way he was so successful at getting tenure and publishing was to take weekends off, go to a hotel and write, write, write while his wife took care of the kids. It didn’t take me long to realise that what he was really promoting were gendered, racialised metrics for academic success, caregiving and work-life balance. My advice to young women would be to think about what success looks like in your own life, defined by your terms, and find those mentors, colleagues and friends who will support you rather than judge you.

What, in your opinion, is the biggest obstacle to gender equality today?

There is a lack of interest and empathy on the part of those who benefit from gender and racial inequality in academia – what incentives do they have to change when academic institutions are built by and for them? My sense is that as we see a new generation of scholars emerging, there will be a chance to redefine what success means in academia and what our institutions’ structures should look like to support a more inclusive academic environment. And I feel that the onus of that responsibility lies not only with the younger generation of scholars but also with those of us who are mid-career and beyond to create opportunities for change, hold space for those who have been excluded and model the behaviour we want to see going forward.

Banu Özkazanç-Pan is Professor of Practice at the School of Engineering and Academic Director of the IE Brown EMBA programme at Brown University and Founder and Director of the Venture Capital Inclusion Lab at the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship. She is the author of Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work.


Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work cover.

Transnational Migration and the New Subjects of Work: Transmigrants, Hybrids and Cosmopolitans by Banu Özkazanç-Pan is available on the Bristol University Press website. Order here for £26.99.

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