Michael Issues a Gender Equity Challenge!

Regular reader and blogger Michael Anes wrote to tell me:

I haven't heard any Scienceblogging on the gender equity report issued this morning and profiled on the Chronicle? Did you check it out?...My post and challenge is here -- I'd be interested in your take on the issue and the action I suggest!

(For modesty's sake I removed the line where Michael told me how great I am.)

Michael is referring to the new report issued by the AAUP, AAUP Faculty Gender Equity Indicators 2006, and discussed in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The report contains, as you might expect, dismal news for women. From the Chronicle:

The issue at the heart of the report has been much discussed in academe: Women still represent a distinct minority of tenured and tenure-track faculty members, despite the fact that among American citizens, women are earning more than half of all Ph.D.'s conferred.

The AAUP does not offer any new arguments about why women are not being hired by academe at the rate they are earning doctoral degrees, nor does it propose novel solutions. But it does take a particularly hard line, blaming the institutions for the "accumulated disadvantages" it says women face in academe, and holding individual colleges accountable. "My attempt is to put the academy on notice," says Roger W. Bowen, general secretary of the AAUP. "We've got work to do."

"Women face more obstacles as faculty in higher education than they do as managers and directors in corporate America," according to the report. Women have not been "welcomed into the faculty ranks," says the report, and they confront an "inequitable hurdle" when it comes time to apply for tenure. If higher education continues hiring, offering tenure, and paying women at the same rate it does now, says the report, it will take decades for women to "reach parity."

Well, I have to say that fits with my experience in academia versus industry. I was much more welcomed and appreciated in industry, and given much more credit for my work, much more readily accepted as part of the team, in all of my industry jobs. When I was still hanging on to the hope of a career as a research professor, I was the most miserable soul on the face of the earth. Industry: more respect, regular hours, far better pay. You make the call.

John W. Curtis, director of research and public policy at the AAUP, says the organization released the campus-by-campus data "so it wouldn't be so easy to say, Yes, there are some problems overall on this issue, but we're doing fine here." While that has been the response of many institutions, he says, "the overall numbers show there hasn't been that much progress, even if you look at the last 30 years."

I like John W. Curtis.

It's a nice juicy report and I very much thank Michael for poking me to blog on it. It's been a hectic week, what with the travel to San Diego, all the stuff from the conference I want to blog on. MIchael does a nice job of summarizing the main points of the report on his blog post. Here's his call to arms:

I've been looking at comparative data in great detail within the document; over 1400 colleges and universities were surveyed! My plan, and I've already begun collating the data, is to send an email to my entire faculty (not a one has commented yet, and the report was reported this morning) letting them know where we stand in our niche (Baccalaureate IIB). I'll include data from a selected cohort of "peers and peer aspirant" schools. Why not send a message about how well, or how poorly, we are doing in our neck of the woods in gender equity in access to tenure-track and tenured positions and to an equitable salary?

How about it? Are you with me? Will you send the same email for your colleagues to consider? Or are ya yellah?

Well? Are ya? Get on that report! Don't make Michael and me ashamed to know ya!

More like this

The percentage of women within the tenured and tenure-track ranks. Women, it says, held 44.8 percent of tenure-track positions in 2005-6, and only 31 percent of the tenured positions.

I haven't read the whole article yet, so I'll have to say more much later, but this one blurb prompts a question from me:

If we subtract out the engineering and science departments, how does the balance come out?

Or, in more blunt terms, is it all the fault of the scientists? Not to suggest that there aren't problems elsewhere, but at least in representation, if not also in climate, we know that science (particularly Physics) and engineering are much worse.


^^And as a corollary inquiry to the above comment, are there any fields where women are overrepresented? If so what are the details? Targeted remediation measures(if any) would be much more effective, and fair than a generic approach, which may "equalize" numbers like these, but leave things even more divided on the ground.

I did it. The beginning of the email to the whole faculty was thus:

Hi Colleagues,
The AAUP issued a major report on gender equity last week and it was profiled in the Chronicle a few days ago - I'm sure many of you read it. The purpose of this email is just to summarize some of the data relevant to us at X. I've always found comparisons to other schools to be instructive, and perhaps this comparison can motivate us to continue
looking at the issue over time. The full report is available from this link:

We'll see what kind of responses I get. I know the introduction was a bit weak, but I am untenured you know! Can't stir the pot too much! Can't be too threatening!

Rogerly, read the post again, and pay attention to what John Curtis had to say.

This report is not talking about representation of women, it is talking about their distribution within the tenured/non-tenured ranks, and tenure-track vs. non-tenure-track positions. Doesn't matter how they are represented in a particular discipline, they are disproportionately clustered in non-tenure-track and in untenured positions.

Keep focused on the topic at hand. Now go read the report before you write back in with more off-the-cuff speculation and what-ifs.

I can assure you that I've read the entire post and fully grasped the distinctions you'd pointed out ;)
That said, it was somewhat of a side issue that I'd brought up, I certainly didn't intend any malicious derailing, I'll let you get back to your personal focus now.