Women underrepresented in faculty, report finds

Though the female portion of the Yale faculty has increased steadily over the past decade, women remain significantly underrepresented across the University, according to a report released Monday.

The 49-page report, titled “The View,” collects gender data from across the University and is released every five years by the Women Faculty Forum, an organization that works to create dialogue on gender issues at Yale. According to the report, while women make up 50 percent of students in the University and 48 percent of non-ladder faculty, they constitute only 34 percent of ladder faculty — which includes all term or tenured professors — and 24 percent of tenured faculty.

The presence of women in the faculty also varies greatly between departments and schools, with women making up 30 percent of the tenured faculty in the humanities but only 11 percent in the physical sciences. WFF chair Priyamvada Natarajan said in addition to science departments, the School of Management, Law School, and School of Medicine all have low numbers of women.

The report also found that minorities are even more underrepresented, with minority women making up only 4 percent of tenured faculty, which Natarajan described as the “most sobering” part of the report.

While the report did not include suggestions on how the University can work towards gender equity, Natarajan noted the importance of mentoring, work-life balance, and an articulated vision from University leaders. In addition, she placed a special emphasis on the importance of student engagement.

“It’s time for the undergraduates and the stakeholders in the University to also articulate how they feel and to gather their reactions to see how to galvanize after progress,” Natarajan said.

Representation of women in the faculty has risen in recent years. In 2002 women made up 17 percent of tenured faculty, and in 2007 that number grew to 21 percent. The University launched a faculty initiative in 2006 to hire more female professors in the sciences and economics, and in 2007, it reworked its tenure system in an effort to make the process fairer and more transparent.

Allison Tait, one of the report’s authors and a postdoctoral associate in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Department, said the percentage of women on the faculty has not risen more quickly for a variety of reasons, including gender fatigue — the idea that people are “tired of talking about gender issues” and believe that current policies have already remedied the situation. Natarajan added that there can be “an amplification of implicit biases” that occurs during the hiring process.

University President Richard Levin said one reason for continued underrepresentation is that “many faculty were tenured 20 or 30 years ago, when there were far fewer women.” Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, added that issues such as childcare and strained time commitments make it particularly difficult for some women to progress as faculty members.

Physics Department Chair Meg Urry said she believes it is important to hire a diverse faculty for students to have role models that are like them.

“When I came to Yale, I was the only woman faculty member in my department,” Urry said. “I had a lot of young women come to talk to me. It’s such a value to the students.”

The report noted that the gender statistics at Yale are similar to those at Princeton and Harvard.

Comments