University tenures record number of women: 12

After another year of faculty searches and promotions, Yale moved one step closer in its quest to correct the gender imbalance existing in the senior faculty ranks.

During the past academic year, the University offered tenured positions to more women than ever before, Yale College Dean Richard Brodhead said. In addition to the five women who were promoted internally as junior Yale professors, the University recruited seven more from other institutions, including Oxford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“It may well have been the largest year ever,” Brodhead said.

Among the female professors tenured internally were American studies professors Kathryn Dudley and Laura Wexler, history professor Joanne Freeman, Near Eastern civilizations and languages professor Beatrice Gruendler, and religious studies professor Christine Hayes.

Joining them at Yale will be molecular biophysics and biochemistry professors Susan Baserga ’80 and Anna Pyle, philosophy professors Susanne Bobzien, Robin Jeshion and Sun-Joo Shin, computer science professor Julie Dorsey, and German professor Carol Jacobs.

Graduate School Dean Susan Hockfield said the large number of tenured women this year is not an aberration, but instead a sign of change.

“Just looking at the lists over the last few years, it’s apparent that we’ve been doing better and better, and I think we’ll continue to do better and better,” Hockfield said. “I see this as a steady growth process.”

While the University has made a concerted effort in recent years to tenure more women, it has never become an institutional policy. Instead, administrators and professors said the recent rise in numbers can be attributed to a more open academic world.

“The doors to academic careers have been more open and now we’re beginning to see the results,” Brodhead said. “It shows that there are many, many fields where the intellectual talent is as likely to be found in a woman as in a man. That’s a development we’ve long been waiting for.”

Baserga, who joins the Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry Department from the Yale School of Medicine, said she expects that one day, 30 percent of tenured faculty at the medical school will be women because presently, 30 percent of the medical school’s junior faculty are women.

“It’s a pipeline issue,” Baserga said. “If you have nobody in the pipeline, then there’s nobody to hire or promote.”

The University as a whole may be succeeding in decreasing the gender gaps, but some areas, such as the humanities and some social sciences, have had far greater success than other disciplines, such as the natural sciences.

While shrinking the gender gap among the faculty remains an important priority for the University, it has not adopted any sort of affirmative action policy. Instead, professors are hired strictly based on their scholarship, Brodhead said.

Freeman said she does not believe gender played any role in her promotion. And while the History Department is one of the more balanced disciplines at Yale, Freeman said there is still more work to be done.

“I’ve never felt that the department is a really male-dominated one,” Freeman said. “But I do think that it’s a good thing, a really positive thing, a really necessary thing to balance out the proportions more.”

While departments like History and English are relatively far along on their quest to create a gender balance, other departments, like Computer Science, have just started.

This year, the Computer Science Department added a third woman, Dorsey, to its 22-person roster. Hailing from MIT, which has one of the top computer science programs in the country, Dorsey specializes in graphic design, filling a major gap in the department.

“It was just a wonderful coup to persuade Julie Dorset to come to Yale,” Hockfield said. “She’s a woman, sure, but she also fills a long-standing need in the department.”

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