FACULTY AND DEPARTMENTAL SURVEYS
Recognizing at the outset the need for new data, the committee conducted two national surveys in 2004 and 2005 of faculty and academic departments in six science and engineering disciplines: biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics. The first survey of almost 500 departments focused on hiring, tenure, and promotion processes, while the second survey gathered career-related information from more than 1,800 faculty. Together the surveys addressed departmental characteristics, hiring, tenure, promotion, faculty demographics, employment experiences, and types of institutional support received. In addition to results from the surveys, the committee heard expert testimony, examined data from NSF, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and professional societies, and reviewed the results of individual university studies and research publications.
As it would be impossible to survey all “science, engineering, and mathematics (SEM) faculty at four-year institutions of higher education,” the committee limited the scope of the surveys in four important ways. These limitations must be kept in mind in the interpretation of the survey results:
1. The data present a snapshot in time (2004 and 2005), not a longitudinal view.
2. Six disciplines are examined: biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.
3. Institutions are limited to major research universities, referred to as Research I or research-intensive (RI) institutions.
4. Only full-time, regularly appointed professorial faculty who are either tenure eligible or tenured are included.
In other words, except in its review of historical data and existing research, the report does not examine gender differences outside of the six disciplines covered in the surveys or at institutions other than RI institutions. It also does not examine the careers of instructors, lecturers, postdocs, adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, or research faculty, who may experience very different career paths.
Many of the “whys” of the findings included here are buried in factors that the committee was unable to explore. We do not know, for example, what happens to the significant percentage of female Ph. D.s in science and engineering who do not apply for regular faculty positions at RI institutions, or what happens to women faculty members who are hired and subsequently leave the university. And we know little about female full professors and what gender differences might exist at this stage of their careers.
We do know that there are many unexplored factors that play a significant role in women’s academic careers, including the constraints of dual careers; access to quality child care; individuals’ perceptions regarding professional recognition and career satisfaction; and other quality-of-life issues. In particular, the report does not explore the impact of children and family obligations (including elder care) or the duration of postdoctoral positions on women’s willingness to pursue faculty positions in RI institutions.