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Social and Cultural Determinants of the Gender Gap in Higher Education in the Islamic World

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In an analysis of gender stratification in higher education in Iran, Pakistan and Turkey, cultural factors (particularly religion) were found to be much better predictors than structural factors. Realignments of state-class relations were unrelated to the size of the higher education gender gap, which is maximized by the institutionalization of Islamic religious codes. A woman who had received an invitation to attend one of the discussion sessions organized by the Women's Solidarity Association contacted me. She is a university teacher who wanted to participate in the session. Her husband, however, had refused, forbidding her to leave the house. This is a man who believes that work outside the home is not only a women's right, but indeed her duty, in order to elevate the financial and social level of her family. He sees no justification, however, for a woman to leave her home for any other purpose. His wife had explained to him the importance of her attendance at this meeting. ... He was not convinced, and told her that women have no problems-for after all, they have acquired education and gained employment as professors, government ministers, doctors and engineers. So then, what can their problems be? (El Saadawi, 1988: 8).

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology, Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania 19085-1699, U.S.A.


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