Tenure and Promotion (Chapter 5)
The findings related to tenure and promotion indicate the importance of addressing the retention of women faculty in the early stages of their academy careers; not as many were considered for tenure as would be expected, based on the number of women assistant professors. Retention was particularly problematic given the increased duration of time in rank for all faculty. Both male and female faculty utilized stopping-the-tenure-clock policies—spending a longer time in the uncertainty of securing tenure—but women used these policies more. Women faculty who did come up for tenure were as successful or more successful than men, so one of the most important challenges may be in increasing the pool of women faculty who make it to that point.
8. In every field, women were underrepresented among candidates for tenure relative to the number of female assistant professors. Most strikingly, women were most likely to be underrepresented in the fields in which they accounted for the largest share of the faculty— biology and chemistry. (Finding 5-1)
In biology and chemistry, the differences were statistically significant. In biology, 27 percent of the faculty considered for tenure were women, while women represented 36 percent of the assistant professor pool. In chemistry those numbers were 15 percent and 22 percent, respectively. This difference may suggest that female assistant professors were more likely than men to leave before being considered for tenure. It might also reflect the increased hiring of female assistant professors in recent years (compared with hiring 6 to 8 years ago).
9. Women were more likely than men to receive tenure when they came up for tenure review. (Findings 5-2, 5-3, and 5-4)
In each of the six fields surveyed, women were tenured at the same or a higher rate than men (an overall average of 92 percent for women and 87 percent for men). It appears that women were more likely to be promoted when there was a smaller percentage of females among the tenure-track faculty. Discipline, stop-the-tenure-clock policies, and departmental size were not associated with the probability of a positive tenure decision for either male or female faculty members who were considered for tenure. Both male and female assistant professors were significantly more likely to receive tenure at public institutions (92 percent) than at private institutions (85 percent).
10. No significant gender disparity existed at the stage of promotion to full professor. (Findings 5-6 and 5-7)
For the six disciplines surveyed, 90 percent of the men and 88 percent of the women proposed for full professorship were promoted—a difference that was not statistically significant, after accounting for other potentially important factors such as disciplinary differences, departmental size, and use of stopping – the-tenure-clock policies. Women were proposed for promotion to full professor at approximately the same rates as they were represented among associate professors.
11. Women spent significantly longer time in rank as assistant professors than did men. (Findings 5-8 and 5-9)
Although time in rank as an assistant professor has increased over time for both men and women, women showed significantly longer durations than men. It is difficult to determine whether these apparent differences may be explained, at least in part, by individual and departmental characteristics such as length of postdoctoral experience and stopping-the-tenure-clock for family leave. Both male and female faculty spent more time in the assistant professor ranks at institutions of higher prestige.
12. Male and female faculty who stopped the tenure clock spent significantly more time as assistant professors than those who did not (an average of 74 months compared to 57 months). They had a lower chance of promotion to associate professor (about 80 percent) at any time (given that they had not been promoted until then) than those who did not stop the clock. Everything else being equal, however, stopping the tenure clock did not affect the probability of promotion and tenure; it just delayed it by about 1.5 years. It is unclear how that delay affected women faculty, who were more likely than men to avail themselves of this policy. (Finding 5-10)
Although the effect of stopping the tenure clock on the probability of promotion and tenure is similar for both male and female faculty, 19.7 percent of female assistant professors in the survey sample availed themselves of this policy compared to 7.4 percent of male assistant professors. At the associate professor level, 10.2 percent of female faculty compared to 6.4 percent of male faculty stopped the tenure clock.
The survey data suggest that positive changes have happened and continue to occur. At the same time, the data should not be mistakenly interpreted as indicating that male and female faculty in math, science, and engineering have reached full equality and representation, and we caution against premature complacency. Much work remains to be done to accomplish full representation of men and women in academic departments.
Many of the survey findings point out specific areas in which research institutions and professional societies can enhance the likelihood that more women will apply to faculty positions and persist in academia up to and beyond tenure and promotion. Changes in the faculty recruitment and search process, enhancement of mentoring programs, broader dissemination of tenure and stop-the-tenure-clock policies, and investigation of the subtle effects of climate on career decisions can all help. Increased data collection, of course, is also necessary. Specific recommendations for institutions and professional societies are delineated in Chapter 6.
QUESTIONS FOR FUTURE RESEARCH
This study raises many unanswered questions about the status of women in academia. As noted at the onset of this report, the surveys did not capture the experiences of Ph. D.s who have never applied for academic positions, nor of female faculty who have left at various points in their academic careers. We also recognize that there are important, nonacademic issues affecting men and women differentially that impact career choices at critical junctures. Fuller examination of these issues (for example, topics relating to family, children, home life, care of elderly parents) will shed greater light on career choices by women and men and should yield suggestions on the types of support needed to encourage retention of women in academic careers. Below are suggestions for future research:
A Deeper Understanding of Career Paths
1. Using longitudinal data, what are the academic career paths of women in different science and engineering disciplines from receipt of their Ph. D. to retirement?
2. Why are women underrepresented in the applicant pools and among those who are considered for tenure?
3. Why aren’t more women in fields such as biology and chemistry applying to Research I tenure-track positions, as discussed in Finding 3-3?
4. Why do female faculty, compared to their male counterparts, appear to continue to experience some sense of isolation in more subtle and intangible areas?
5. What is the impact of stop-the-tenure-clock policies on faculty careers?
6. What are the causes for the attrition of women and men prior to tenure decisions, if indeed attrition does take place?
7. To what extent are women faculty rewarded beyond promotion to full professor?
8. What important, nonacademic issues affect men and women differentially that impact their career choices at critical junctures?
Expanding the Scope
9. How important are differences among fields?
10. What are the experiences of faculty at Research II institutions?
11. What are the experiences of part-time and nontenure track faculty?