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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty 1 Introduction The 1999 report, A Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT,1 created a new level of awareness of the special challenges faced by female faculty in the sciences. Although not the first examination of the treatment of female faculty, this report marked an important historical moment, igniting interest in the difficulties experienced by many women, particularly those at the higher levels of academia. Since the release of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology report, many other institutions have studied equity issues regarding their faculty, and several have publicly pledged to use their resources to correct identified disparities. Although academic departments, institutions, professional societies, and others have paid more attention to the topic in the past 10 years, there has been concern that remedial actions have approached a plateau. Unquestionably, women’s participation in academic science and engineering (S&E) has increased over the past few decades. In the 10 years prior to the start of this study, the number of women receiving Ph.D.s in science and engineering increased from 31.7 percent (in 1996) to 37.7 percent (in 2005).2 The percentage of women among doctoral scientists and engineers employed full-time, while still small, rose from 17 percent in 1995 to 22 percent in 2003.3 However, women continued to be underrepresented among academic faculty relative to the number of women receiving S&E degrees. In 2003, women comprised between 18 and 45 1 See Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1999). 2 National Science Foundation (2006); Figure A2-1 and Table A2-1 in Appendix 2-1. 3 National Science Foundation, Survey of Doctorate Recipients, 1995-2003; Figure A2-3 in Appendix 2-1.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty percent of assistant professors in S&E and between 6 and 29 percent of associate and full professors.4 The evidence for disparities in the treatment of women and men is mixed. In some cases (e.g., with regard to salaries), there are strong quantitative data. In other cases (e.g., marginalization), the evidence is more anecdotal. Still in other instances, the evidence is scant or missing. Assessing whether search committee members are biased in their evaluations of male and female candidates could be—and has been—done in essentially a laboratory-like setting, but there are no publicly available national data upon which to draw. WHY DISPARITIES MATTER Interest in studying the disparities between the careers of male and female faculty is widespread. Government agencies, legislators, and organizations, including many professional societies, have a vested interest in promoting science and engineering education and careers and encouraging a diverse set of students and graduates to enter and remain in S&E. Administrators in the academic community need benchmarks to help set the context in which universities conduct their own self-examinations—as many already do. S&E students considering academia among their career options are seeking better information about career prospects and challenges. Why is an assessment needed now? Three reasons support this.5 First, the nature of the academic profession is changing in several important ways, including the composition of the profession, reward structure, and professional activities. Due in part to the diminishing financial resources and increasing costs faced by higher education institutions, hiring into tenure-track positions has slowed, while the number of part-time, temporary, and off-track positions has increased. Such changes may affect female academics differently than male academics. Second, substantial efforts to increase women’s participation as faculty in higher education have been underway for three decades. These include programs and policies of the federal government, professional societies, and their universities and individual academic departments. At the federal level, one example is the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) ADVANCE program. Scientific and professional societies focused on women generally or in specific disciplines have collected relevant data and undertaken programs to support women in the profession (e.g., the Association for Women in Science [AWIS], the Society of Women Engineers [SWE], the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics [CSWP], and the Caucus for Women in Statistics). Higher education institutions have conducted 4 See Tables 2-1 and 2-2. 5 See also the four reasons suggested by NAS, NAE, and IOM (2007): global competitiveness, law, economics, and ethics.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty gender equity studies and developed work-life policies for faculty and staff.6 An assessment of changes in faculty composition as well as policies and outcomes related to faculty careers is one step in evaluating these efforts. Finally, where gender disparities exist and women are underrepresented among S&E faculty, negative consequences result that require policy solutions. Substantial resources go into producing a Ph.D. in S&E.7 The untapped potential of fully trained and credentialed women, as well as the women who are interested in S&E but choose not to pursue degrees because of obstacles, real or perceived, represents an important economic loss—one a competitive United States cannot afford. As Senator Ron Wyden (2003) stated: A report from the Hart-Rudman Commission on National Security to 2025 warned that America’s failure to invest in science and to reform math and science education was the second biggest threat to our national security, greater than that from any conceivable conventional war. America will not remain the power it is in the world today, nor will our people be as healthy, as educated, or as prosperous as they should be, if we do not lead the world in scientific research and engineering development. To make our country better, to improve our national security and quality of life, we need to encourage people to go into these disciplines. Women represent a largely untapped resource in achieving this vital goal. Similarly, Neal Lane, former Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, remarked to the Summit on Women in Engineering (1999) that “we simply need people with the best minds and skills, and many of those are women.” This view was echoed by leaders of nine top research universities in a meeting at MIT in 2001 to discuss women faculty in science and engineering. A joint statement issued by the participants noted, “Institutions of higher education have an obligation, both for themselves and for the nation, to fully develop and utilize all creative talent available. We recognize that barriers still exist to the full participation of women in science and engineering” (Campbell, 2001b). A more inclusive workforce may be more innovative and productive than one which is less so. As Arden L. Bement, Jr., Director of the National Science Foundation, said in 2005: Year by year, the economic imperative grows for broadening, empowering, and sharpening the skills of the entire U.S. workforce—just to remain competitive in the global community. This fresh talent is our most potent mechanism for technology transfer to our systems of innovation. Fortunately, we have a fount of untapped talent in our women, underrepresented minorities and persons with 6 For a list of gender equity studies conducted by Research I institutions, see the CWSEM Web site at http://www.nas.edu/cwsem. 7 The average annual support for a doctoral student is $50,000 according to a new study (NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2007). The average doctoral student takes 7 years to complete a Ph.D., suggesting support for a single student could be $350,000.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty disabilities. Our need to broaden participation and increase opportunity is critical, for both the science and education communities and the nation.8 “Having scientists and engineers with diverse backgrounds, interests, and cultures assures better scientific and technological results and the best use of those results.” (Lane, 1999). If, for example, women approach the process of S&E teaching or research differently or generate different, important outcomes (findings, publications, patents, etc.), then their relative exclusion somewhat diminishes the potential of academia (Xie and Shauman, 2003:footnote 2). A comparison of data from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE) indicates that when faculty emphasized effective educational practices, students tended to engage more in those practices. Interestingly, the FSSE found women were more likely than men to value and use effective educational practices (Kuh et al., 2004). “Academic institutions play a pivotal role in preparing the science and engineering work force, and their faculty and leaders serve as intellectual, personal, and organizational role models that shape the expectations of future scientists and engineers,” said Alice Hogan, NSF’s former ADVANCE Program Manager. “Ensuring that the climate, the policies and the practices at these institutions encourage and support the full participation of women in all aspects of academic life, including leadership and governance, is critical to attracting students to science and engineering careers” (Harms, 2001). Women are students before they enter the workforce. Female faculty, by acting as role models, produce the next generation of scholars and are associated with greater production of female S&E students. According to Trower and Chait (2002:34), the “most accurate predictor of subsequent success for female undergraduates is the percentage of women among faculty members at their college.” Finally, there are legal prescriptions prohibiting discrimination and questioning the propriety of disparities (see NAS, NAE, and IOM, 2007 for a review of antidiscrimination laws). The Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 all focus on prohibiting sex discrimination. Title IX is a particularly relevant piece of legislation, prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex in federally assisted education programs or activities. Most frequently invoked to promote equal access to athletic programs, Title IX also covers employment, and a 2004 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report suggested efforts to enforce compliance with Title IX should be applied more broadly to educational institutions. The Science and Engineering Equal Opportunities Act of 1980 declares “it is the policy of the United States that men and women have equal opportunity in education, training and employment in scientific and technical fields.” As Lane (1999) noted, “Careers 8 Arden L. Bement, Jr., “Remarks, Setting the Agenda for 21st Century Science,” at the meeting of the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, December 5, 2005. Available at http://www.nsf.gov/news/speeches/bement/05/alb051205_societypres.jsp.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty in science and engineering are immensely rewarding, and all Americans should have the opportunity to participate—it’s what America is all about.” THE COMMITTEE’S CHARGE The concern that inequities still exist, as well as the need for empirical evidence to conduct a search for disparities, prompted this study. In 2002, Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), of the Subcommittee on Science, Technology and Space of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation convened three hearings on the subject of women studying and working in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.9 Soon after, Congress directed the NSF to contract with the National Academies for a study assessing gender differences in the careers of science and engineering faculty, based on both existing and new data.10 To meet this charge, the National Academies appointed an ad hoc study committee—the Committee on Gender Differences in Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty—to examine this issue under the auspices of the Committee on Women in Science and Engineering (CWSE) and the Committee on National Statistics (CNSTAT). (Appendix 1-1 identifies the members of the study committee and describes their areas of expertise.) The committee was guided by the following statement of task: An ad hoc committee will conduct a study to assess gender differences in the careers of science, engineering, and mathematics (SEM) faculty, focusing on four-year institutions of higher education that award bachelor’s and graduate degrees. The study will build on the Academy’s previous work and examine issues such as faculty hiring, promotion, tenure, and allocation of institutional resources including (but not limited to) laboratory space. APPROACH AND SCOPE Approach The committee interpreted its charge to include three goals: (1) to update earlier analyses with newer information, (2) to provide a more thorough understanding of the scope of potential gender differences in S&E faculty, and (3) to recommend methods for further informing or clarifying assumptions about gender and academic careers. Establishing causes for any observed differences, while an 9 See Statement of Senator Ron Wyden, Hearing on Title IX and Science, U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, October 3, 2002. 10 In addition to this activity, the Government Accountability Office was asked to complete a study on Title IX (GAO, 2004), and the RAND Corporation conducted a study on gender differences in federal funding (Hosek et al., 2005).
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty important task, was considered to be beyond the scope of the charge. For purposes of this report, science and engineering are defined as the physical sciences (including astronomy, chemistry, and physics); earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematics and computer science; biological and agricultural sciences; and engineering (in all its forms).11 The committee understood the charge as focusing primarily on major research universities—known as the Research I (RI) or research-intensive institutions—for several reasons.12 First, the committee believed gender disparities, if present, are more likely to occur in these institutions. Second, findings for research universities are likely to serve as a good starting point for the consideration of gender disparities in other sectors of higher education. Finally, and most important, as is discussed more fully below, research universities play especially important roles in training doctoral students and future scholars and faculty. Recognizing at the outset the need for new data, the committee conducted two national surveys in 2004 and 2005 of faculty and academic departments in six science and engineering disciplines: biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics. The first survey of almost 500 departments focused on hiring, tenure, and promotion processes, while the second survey gathered career-related information from more than 1,800 faculty. Together the surveys addressed departmental characteristics, hiring, tenure, promotion, faculty demographics, employment experiences, and types of institutional support received. In addition to results from the surveys, the committee heard expert testimony and examined data from federal agencies and professional societies, individual university studies (e.g., gender equity, salary, or “climate” studies), and academic articles. The survey is discussed in greater detail later in this chapter and in Appendix 1-4. 11 The term “sciences and engineering” is often defined as the academic disciplines of physical sciences (including astronomy, chemistry, and physics); earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; mathematical and computer sciences; biological and agricultural sciences; and engineering (in all its forms). Additionally, psychology and the social sciences (including economics, political science, and sociology) may also be treated as science fields. Non-S&E fields are defined to include the various arts and humanities. The natural sciences and engineering are defined in this study as agricultural sciences, biological sciences, health sciences, engineering, computer and information sciences, mathematics, and physical sciences. Further gradations can be seen in the Survey of Earned Doctorates list of fields of study. Our definition includes Ph.D. fields coded as between 005 and 599, inclusive. Refer to the questionnaire, an example of which is found at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf06308/pdf/nsf06308.pdf. 12 Research I institutions are defined as institutions which offer, beyond baccalaureate programs, doctoral programs which award 50 or more doctoral degrees annually. In addition these institutions receive a substantial amount ($40 million or more) of federal support. Note that this definition is based on the 1994 classification devised by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The classification scheme was redone in 2000 and 2005. See “Carnegie Classifications” at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications/ for further details.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty There is no question that academic careers vary significantly for both men and women, depending on the type of academic institution and the academic position, so the findings from these surveys may or may not be relevant to other academic appointments or institutions. While by no means exhausting the topic, the purpose of this report is to advance the state of knowledge on specific aspects of gender in academic science and engineering, while at the same time recognizing the study’s limitations. There are many factors that play a significant role in women’s careers in academia that are outside the charge and therefore were excluded in the committee’s deliberations. These include, for example: Constraints of dual careers, particularly in geographic mobility; Access to quality child care; Impact of stopping-the-tenure-clock policies; Preference for part-time academic positions; Perceptions of isolation and lack of collegiality; Expectations regarding professional recognition and career satisfaction; Attrition along the academic career pathway; Disciplinary differences that either foster or impede these factors; and Other quality-of-life issues. In particular, the report does not explore the impact of children and family life. While these and similar factors are beyond the scope of this study, they are significant in impacting women’s faculty career choices. Also, incremental changes in the percentages of women with doctoral degrees and in postdoctoral positions do not by themselves result in commensurate changes in the numbers of women faculty in universities, especially at senior levels. Much more needs to be known about the careers of women scientists after and even during graduate school, as well as the many career paths they may follow that may lead them away from academia. This study focuses primarily on key transition points in academic careers that research-intensive institutions can control and influence. Substantial additional research is needed to create a more complete picture of women’s career paths (see suggestions in Chapter 6). The study reassesses and extends, with newly collected data, results of prior examinations of gender differences in academia to establish the contemporary veracity of those conclusions and to document trends over time. The study moves beyond earlier analyses by focusing more directly on the role of three sets of factors thought to produce gender differences in academic careers: (1) institutional practices and procedures, including the hiring and tenure processes; (2) individual characteristics, such as the role of marriage and family in the academic career paths of men and women; and (3) the overarching, changing nature of the academic profession. Focusing on these factors, the committee reformulated the
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty charge into a series of guiding research questions about academic hiring, institutional resources and climate, and tenure and promotion. Academic Hiring (Chapter 3) Is gender associated with the probability of individuals applying for S&E positions in Research I institutions? Given that an individual applies for a position, does a woman have the same probability of being interviewed as a man? Given that an individual is interviewed for a position, does a woman have the same probability of being offered a position as a man? Institutional Resources, Professional Activities, and Climate (Chapter 4) Do male and female faculty engage in similar professional activities? Do male and female faculty receive similar institutional resources? Are male and female faculty similarly productive in terms of research? Is the departmental/institutional climate the same for male and female faculty? Do male and female faculty have similar rates of retention and degrees of job satisfaction? Tenure and Promotion (Chapter 5) Are similar male and female faculty equally likely to receive tenure? Are similar male and female faculty equally likely to receive a promotion? Do men and women spend similar amounts of time at lower and intermediate ranks? To answer these questions, the committee relied on multiple sources of information, but especially on information collected through two national surveys of individual faculty and academic departments, described in detail later in this chapter. Chapters 3, 4, and 5 present the results of the statistical analyses of the data collected in the surveys during the course of this study. In a number of cases, findings from the current surveys differ from some of the positions put forth in the literature, as summarized in Chapter 2. Recommendations offered in Chapter 6 are based directly on the committee’s analysis of the survey data. Scope This study is necessarily limited. Academia in the United States is both broad and varied, and the factors affecting the career tracks of female Ph.D.s in science and engineering are diverse and complex. This report focuses on a small but vital
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty segment of higher education, a specific population of faculty members, and factors affecting academic careers largely controlled by institutions. It does not cover all of higher education, all faculty members, or all factors affecting career tracks or decisions. Put succinctly, the report examines key institutional transitions and experiences of male and female, full-time, assistant, associate, and full professors in the natural sciences and engineering at Research I institutions. What Career Factors Are Examined As is readily apparent to anyone who has studied, considered, or experienced an academic career, many vital transition points and factors affect career choices and decisions. These encompass influences from as early as high school or middle school to decisions and opportunities until (and beyond) retirement. They include decisions or opportunities to pursue academic careers, work in industry or government, or take oneself out of the job market. They cover, of course, formal institutional actions, such as those described here, as well as unofficial and unstated actions difficult to measure. And they include a myriad of personal characteristics, family circumstances, social pressures, opportunities, and experiences of female faculty members and those who might have become faculty. Many of the “whys” of the findings included here are buried in factors that the committee was unable to explore. We do not know, for example, what happens to the significant percentage of female Ph.D.s in science and engineering who do not apply for regular, faculty positions at Research I institutions. Do they pursue faculty jobs at other universities or colleges? Become clinical, adjunct, or research faculty members or other research personnel? Get postdocs? Take positions in industry or government? Opt out of the workforce altogether? Some factors to consider are: Presence of role models and mentors Finances Parental influence Family circumstances Professional networks Job market Geographical restrictions In the same vein, we do not know what happens to women faculty members who are hired and subsequently leave the university. The entire range of options available to new Ph.D.s is available to them, in addition to many institutional factors, such as: Salary level Likelihood of promotion
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty Denial of tenure Institutional funding Personal affinity for teaching or research Family circumstances Institutional climate Productivity Social factors For those who remain in regular faculty positions, the report does include important and new information on their individual characteristics, family circumstances, professional activities, and outcomes, as well as institutional resources and climate. But even for this group, there are many factors affecting individual choices and institutional climate that we were unable to measure. At the senior end of the academic career track, we know little about female full professors and what gender differences might exist at this stage of one’s career. This report does not include descriptions of special institutional programs or recognitions such as: Salary adjustments Research support Named chairs or professorships Leadership positions Who and What Are Included In addition to focusing on select factors affecting academic careers, the study has limited its scope to particular types of institutions, individuals, and disciplines. First, the focus of this study is primarily current, rather than historical or predictive. It is beyond the scope of the charge and the resources of the committee overseeing this report to estimate future trends for female faculty. Second, there are thousands of higher education institutions in the United States. This study does not address any pipeline issues regarding educational preparation and training prior to application for a tenure-track position. As stated above, the study focuses primarily on doctoral-granting institutions, specifically the 89 Research I institutions (also know as research-intensive institutions) defined by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1994 and listed in Appendix 1-2. These institutions were picked because of their prestige, the role they play in training future generations of scholars, their contribution to scholarship, and the amount of research they undertake.13 The data gathered 13 The National Science Foundation (2002:2-3) notes: “Research universities enroll only 19 percent of the students in higher education, but they play the largest role in S&E degree production. They produce most of the engineering degrees and a large proportion of natural and social science degrees
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty about research universities will also likely serve as a useful starting point for the examination of other types of higher education institutions. Third, this study will focus primarily on full-time, regularly appointed, professorial faculty. Due to the committee’s interest in what has traditionally been the typical academic career path within Research I institutions, the target population is limited to assistant, associate, and full professors. By and large, these are the faculty who are tenure eligible, who both teach and conduct research, who supervise most of the graduate students who will be the next generation of scholars, and who are most likely to receive the widest range of institutional support. Instructors, lecturers, postdocs, adjunct faculty, clinical faculty, and research faculty are not included. While these faculty are important, they have very different career paths and warrant separate study. Fourth, although data are provided for many natural science and engineering disciplines in assessing historical gender differences in academia, the new data collected for this report by the two surveys of department chairs and faculty focus on six fields: the biological sciences, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics.14 The purpose of the primary data collection on a subset of fields was to allow for an examination of the career paths for men and women facing similar expectations and constraints. Although the findings may identify male/female differences prevalent throughout science and at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. In 1998, the nation’s 127 research universities awarded more than 42 percent of all S&E bachelor’s degrees and 52 percent of all S&E master’s degrees.” For example, of the 8,350 Ph.D.s granted in the life sciences in 2002, 2,608 Ph.D.s (31 percent) were granted by just 20 Research I institutions (Hoffer et al., 2003). These institutions “are also the most conducive organizational contexts for a prestigious research career” (NRC, 2001a:124). On federal academic S&E support, see Richard J. Bennof, Federal Science and Engineering Obligations to Academic and Nonprofit Institutions Reached Record Highs in FY 2002, NSF InfoBrief, June 2004, (NSF 04-324). 14 The four science fields were chosen, partly because they represent the “standard” or well-known science fields. In addition, professional associations in the areas of chemistry, mathematics, and physics collect data on their fields. Readers should note that “biological sciences” is a broad term, and may include agricultural or health sciences. Likewise, mathematics data sometimes include data for statistics or computer science. Finally, physics data may include astronomy. Civil engineering was chosen as a middle ground among the various engineering fields. According to Gibbons (2004), during the 2002-2003 academic year, more than 8,000 students received civil engineering baccalaureate degrees—the fourth largest amount—and women received 23.4 percent of those degrees. This lies between a high for environmental engineering (42.1 percent of degrees went to women) and a low of 11.7 percent for engineering technology. About 3,600 students received master’s degrees—the fifth largest amount—and women received 25.2 percent of them, between 42.2 percent for environmental engineering and 9.0 percent for petroleum. The third largest amount—631 doctoral degrees were awarded and women received 18.4 percent of them, between 33.3 percent for engineering management and zero percent in mining and in architectural engineering. Finally, for faculty, civil engineering had the third highest number of faculty members: 3,320, and 10.9 percent of tenured/tenure-track teaching faculty were women. Fields with the lowest percentage of women were aerospace, petroleum, and mining (all at 5.0 percent); while the highest were biomedical (16.6 percent), industrial/manufacturing (15.4 percent), and environmental (14.7).
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty engineering faculties, the reader is cautioned about generalizing from the findings. Not only may they not apply to all fields of science and engineering, but also it may be inappropriate to generalize from findings in physics and chemistry, for example, to all physical sciences or from civil and electrical engineering to all engineering fields. Differences and Commonalities with Other National Academies’ Reports The committee has benefited greatly from three other National Academies’ reports on women in academic science and engineering. In 2001 NRC published From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers,”15 a statistical analysis of the career progression of matched cohorts of men and women Ph.D.s from 1973 to 1995, using data from the NSF Survey of Earned Doctorates and Survey of Doctoral Recipients. The 2001 report had a much broader scope than this one; it covered employment outside academia; all science and engineering disciplines including the social sciences; and (within academia) all types of higher education institutions and faculty positions. It relied on longitudinal data on the same individuals collected over time, rather than a snapshot of faculty and departments at a single point in time. While it is not possible to draw direct comparisons between the data in the two reports, some of the 2001 findings on women’s participation in academia provide a useful backdrop: Men hold a 14 percent advantage in tenure-track positions. Women are underrepresented in senior faculty positions at Research I institutions. At any professional age, men are more likely than women to hold tenure. Women are less likely to be full professors than are their male counterparts. The 2005 NRC report, To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in U.S. Science and Engineering,16 identifies the strategies that higher education institutions have employed to achieve gender inclusiveness, based on case studies of four successful universities. Concluding that women face “challenges that may lead to their attrition at key junctures in higher education” and that “female faculty appear to advance along the academic career pathway more slowly than males,” the 2005 report identifies successful strategies for recruitment and retention of women undergraduate and graduate students, recruitment and advance- 15 National Research Council, 2001, From Scarcity to Visibility: Gender Differences in the Careers of Doctoral Scientists and Engineers. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. 16 National Research Council, 2005, To Recruit and Advance: Women Students and Faculty in U.S. Science and Engineering, Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty ment of women faculty, and advancement of women faculty into administrative positions. A third report, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering, was released in 2006.17 Appointed under the aegis of the Committee on Science, Engineering, and Public Policy (COSEPUP), this study committee was charged to “review and assess the research on sex and gender issues in science and engineering, including innate differences in cognition, implicit bias, and faculty diversity” and to “provide recommendations to guide faculty, deans, department chairs, other university leaders, funding organizations, and government agencies in the best ways to maximize the potential of women science and engineering researchers.” Beyond Bias and Barriers examines the results of recent research on gender differences in learning and performance—particularly cognitive, biological, and sociocultural differences that address the educational pathways to becoming faculty. It lists 11 common beliefs about women in science and engineering and presents evidence refuting them. Based primarily on existing data and the committee’s expertise, it identifies barriers that women face in academia and calls for action by university leaders, professional societies, federal agencies, and Congress to “transform institutional structures and procedures to eliminate gender bias.” The COSEPUP report is significantly broader in scope than this report. It covers faculty from all fields of sciences and engineering (including the social sciences) and encompasses the full range of academic institutions. It addresses the overall mobility of women in academia, as well as the specific concerns of minority women. And based on an assessment of the underlying causes of gender discrepancies in academia, it provides broad policy recommendations for changes at higher education institutions. In contrast, and following COSEPUP’s recommendation for new and accurate information, this report examines the experiences of a specific set of faculty and departments in six disciplines in a particular type of institution (Research I), based primarily on data collected in 2004 and 2005. Rather than an overview of career paths, our examination is limited to a snapshot of key transition points in academic careers that are under the control of the institutions (hiring, institutional climate and resources, tenure, and promotion). It highlights many striking differences among the disciplines that make generalizations across science and engineering difficult. The findings and recommendations here are a direct result of the data from our two surveys, which were not available to the COSEPUP committee. Given the differences in scope and approach, it is not surprising that some of the findings of the two reports differ. While both committees found that women are underrepresented in academic science and engineering, the survey findings presented here indicate that at many critical transition points in their academic 17 National Academies, 2007, Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty careers (e.g., hiring for tenure-track and tenured positions and promotions), women appear to have fared as well as or better than men in the disciplines and type of institutions (Research I) studied. The survey data show that female and male faculty have had comparable access to many types of institutional resources (e.g., start-up packages, laboratory space, and research assistants), in contrast to the COSEPUP committee’s general findings that “women who are interested in science and engineering careers are lost at every educational transition”18 and that “evaluation criteria contain arbitrary and subjective components that disadvantage women.”19 Like the COSEPUP committee, however, this committee found evidence of the overall loss of women’s participation in academia, even though many of the actual transition points under the control of institutions (like interviewing, hiring, and promoting) do not show evidence of a loss. The loss is most apparent in the smaller fraction of women who apply for faculty positions and in the attrition of female assistant professors before tenure consideration. The former is especially apparent in the fields of chemistry and biology, where the number of female applicants for faculty positions in Research I institutions is much lower than the number of women doctorates in the pool. Unfortunately, our surveys do not shed light on why women fail to apply for faculty positions or why (or if) they leave academia between these critical transition points. Similarly, the reports agree that there are gender differences in time in rank, but we do not have any causal evidence as to why this is so. The findings in both reports underscore the fact that our work is not done. Further research is needed, along with continued efforts to increase the number of women faculty in many disciplines and at key points in academic careers. Sources of Information The primary source of information for this report consists of two new surveys designed and conducted especially for this project by the American Institute of Physics during 2004 and 2005. The surveys were undertaken to fill in some of the current gaps in knowledge regarding faculty outcomes and institutional practices, which could not otherwise be addressed by existing data sets. One survey focused on departments; the other examined faculty. The departmental survey was a census of biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, mathematics, and physics departments at Research I institutions (N = 492). It gathered information on departmental characteristics, hiring practices and outcomes, and tenure and promotion processes and yielded an overall response rate of 85 percent. Data on attrition were not collected. 18 Ibid, p. 2. 19 Ibid, p. 3.
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty In contrast, the faculty survey was a stratified, random sample of approximately 1,800 faculty from the same departments. The faculty survey included information on demographic characteristics, employment experiences, and types of institutional support received and yielded a response rate of 73 percent. Comparable, cross-institution information on hiring and resource allocation is notoriously difficult to find—although some universities collect such information—and thus the survey data collected for this project is quite instructive. Because of funding limitations and concern that longer surveys would have lower response rates, the surveys neither included questions about degree of job satisfaction nor collected information on attrition of faculty over the preceding several years. Hopefully, others will collect some of the information that could not be gathered in the course of this study. Details on the implementation of the surveys, including the actual questionnaires and response rates, can be found in Appendix 1-4 and Appendix 1-5. To gain a better understanding of the overall representation of women in academic science and engineering and how that has changed over time, the committee examined data from two large, national studies: the Survey of Doctoral Recipients (SDR), conducted biennially by the NSF, and the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty, conducted every five years by the National Center for Education Statistics of the Department of Education. Data from professional and disciplinary societies were also examined. To determine the state of current knowledge on women’s academic career paths, the committee reviewed studies conducted by individual universities as well as publications by individual researchers. It also heard expert testimony from several interested stakeholders at its first committee meeting (see Appendix 1-3). Drawing from these multiple sources, Chapter 2 provides a brief overview of the representation of women in academic science and engineering at the time the surveys were conducted in 2004 and 2005. A more extensive analysis of changes from 1995-2003, using data primarily from the SDR, can be found in Appendix 2-1, along with an overview of existing research. The committee used many of the themes and issues identified in this research to develop the survey questionnaires, and we hope that the findings presented here—and the many unanswered questions—will form the basis for future research. OUTLINE OF THE REPORT The remainder of the report is divided into four topic areas. Chapter 2 presents data on the representation of female faculty in science and engineering as of 2004-2005. The next three chapters present the survey results and analysis, with findings at the end of each chapter. Specifically, Chapter 3 examines the applicant pool for academic positions in research universities and the hiring process. Chapter 4 considers the day-to-day life of academics, examining professional activities, climate, institutional resources (including start-up packages, laboratory space, and
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Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty access to equipment), and outcomes such as publications, grant funding, and salary. Chapter 5 explores whether there are disparities in the tenure and promotion process in research universities and, if so, whether those disparities are associated with gender. Chapter 6 provides a summary of key findings from the surveys and the committee’s recommendations, including questions for future research.