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  • Are similar male and female faculty equally likely to receive tenure?

  • Are similar male and female faculty equally likely to receive a promotion?

  • Do male and female faculty spend equal amounts of time in professorial ranks?

Tenure and promotion decisions are designed to be based on merit. Although there may be some subjectivity in the determination of merit, the committee wished to compare rates of tenure and promotion for men and women who were similar along as many dimensions, such as experience and productivity, as could be observed. Assuming (1) men and women have similar talent, (2) are given similar amounts of time to demonstrate their teaching excellence, research potential, and commitment to service, and (3) are held to the same standard, then men and women should achieve similar tenure and promotion results. Different results would occur if one or more of these assumptions are false.

This chapter draws on evidence from the study’s surveys of research-intensive (Research I or RI) institution departments in the sciences and engineering,3 which the committee compared with data from other national surveys (primarily the National Science Foundation’s Survey of Doctorate Recipients [SDR] or the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty [NSOPF] of the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education), as well as information drawn from gender equity studies carried out by individual institutions.

An important limitation of most analyses of tenure and promotion decisions is that they examine selected samples of those who succeeded in gaining tenure or promotion, and those who are eligible for these advances but have not yet been considered. Many studies examine the representation of women among tenured versus untenured faculty or among full versus associate professors. Generally, there are no data on the decision-making process itself.4 One methodological approach is to make the argument that one would expect faculty who are 10 years beyond being hired as assistant professors to be tenured. It is then possible to compare the percentage of men and women who have in fact received tenure. This comparison, however, omits the faculty who left prior to being considered for tenure (possibly because they had been informed that they were unlikely to receive it), as well as those who were considered, but not awarded tenure. A second approach is to examine time spent in the assistant professor rank by those who were promoted to associate professor and time spent as associate professor by those who were promoted to full professor.


The committee acknowledges that the p-values for all the data presented for the study’s surveys of faculty and departments are unadjusted and that many of the data presented are interconnected.


It may be that the only time the decision-making process becomes publicly visible is during litigation brought by faculty denied tenure or promotion.

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