In 1998, data that showed a decline in the percentage of female professors at Yale, especially in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, worried administrators. They decided something had to be done.
Yale announced a new policy in February 1999 aimed at making it easier to recruit women and minorities.
But two years later, many of the same concerns still exist that motivated Yale President Richard Levin and Provost Alison Richard to launch the initiative. While there have been no significant drop-offs in the number of women and minorities faculty members, percentages have remained relatively stagnant over the past four years, with very slight increases in most areas.
“Numerically, we are going in the right direction, but not fast enough,” Richard said.
University figures describing the makeup of the faculty show that at the beginning of the 2000-2001 academic year, Yale had 1,604 ladder faculty, which includes assistant, associate and full professors, and Gibbs instructors. Of those, 25.8 percent were women, 2.8 percent black, 8.2 percent Asian and 1.9 percent Hispanic.
In 1996, women made up a slightly smaller proportion of the faculty at 23.7 percent. Blacks were at 2.5 percent, Asians at 6.7 percent, and Hispanics at 1.7 percent.
Numbers that differentiate between tenure and non-tenure faculty make Yale’s faculty appear even less diverse.
Several policies are currently in place to help diversify the faculty. They include giving some departments the ability to offer positions to talented women and minorities even when there are technically no slots available, coordinating recruitment efforts by deans and department heads and giving the central administration an enhanced role in the hiring process.
“In recent years, we’ve made a real thrust in making departments understand the importance of this,” Levin said.
While Yale’s efforts would appear to be sincere, officials said they realize the lack of a significant increase in diversity might lead some, including faculty, to think otherwise.
“There is a discrepancy between our commitment and the perception of junior women and indeed some of the senior faculty,” Richard said. “I’m aware of the fact that it’s necessary to reaffirm these commitments.”
Search committees have often struggled to find suitable minority candidates. Their effort is complicated by the fact that in some senior searches, the talent pool was created 15 to 20 years ago when the group of students graduating with doctorates was less diverse, said History Department chair Jon Butler, whose department is conducting eight searches this year.
“Search committees have done an excellent job in trying to make sure we have the most diverse group of candidates,” Butler said. “But women and minority graduates have been attracted to excellent job opportunities in excellent occupations outside of academia.”
In some cases, there are no members of a particular ethnic group in a given field.
“Push comes to shove when you do actual searches,” Butler said. “And when you do them, things don’t always turn out as you’d like ideally in the abstract.”
Although Yale may not be a bastion of faculty diversity in higher education, its biggest Ivy League rivals are not much better.
Harvard University’s faculty, excluding members from its medical school, is 25.5 percent female, an almost identical number to Yale. Princeton has a greater female presence at approximately 28 percent while Stanford women make up only 20 percent of the faculty, according to data from the respective institutions.
Minorities make up 18.5 percent of Harvard’s faculty, 16.5 percent of Princeton’s faculty, and 15 percent of Stanford’s faculty — all higher than the minority presence at Yale.