Finding 5-11: There is no significant difference between male and female faculty in terms of the time spent as an associate professor. Time in rank as associate professor is significantly associated with the prestige of the institution. Faculty at lower prestige institutions tend to be promoted to full professor earlier than those at the highest prestige institutions. (See Figures 5-4a and 5-4b for examples in biology and electrical engineering.)
Finding 5-12: Overall, it appears that women faculty took significantly longer from receipt of Ph.D. to promotion to associate professor with tenure, but this gender effect was confounded with current rank, discipline, and other factors. It is difficult to determine whether these apparent differences persist once we control for individual and departmental characteristics such as length of postdoctoral experience and stopping the tenure clock for family leave. While women did appear to remain at the rank of assistant professor longer than did men, the differences between gender depended on factors including the prestige of the institution, the time elapsed since completion of the doctoral degree, and the current rank of the individual. (Table 5-12)
Finding 5-13: The longer the time elapsed between receipt of the Ph.D. and hire as an assistant professor, the shorter the time spent in rank before gaining tenure. Academic age may contribute to the gender differential seen in the simple means of time in rank by gender, since the effect of academic age was significantly stronger for men than for women (p < 0.0001).
Our findings, which focus on the tenure and promotion decisions themselves rather than the proportions of tenured women or female full professors, differ from previous studies that indicated women fare worse than men, both in receiving tenure and in being granted a promotion. It does appear that women spend longer in assistant professor positions than men, but the complex interplay between different factors and the small number of cases for analysis limit the extent to which we can state that gender is associated (or not) with time in rank.
This study’s findings on the success of female faculty in obtaining tenure may relate to the particular focus on scientists and engineers at the most research-oriented universities. Alternatively, these results may reflect an improved climate for women scientists and engineers in RI institutions, given that our data examine a relatively recent period (2002-2003 and 2003-2004).
The findings on women’s relative success in the tenure decision process relate importantly to our findings on time in rank. The greater time in rank as assistant professor among female faculty who are currently associate professors compared to men can be partly attributed to women’s greater use of stop-the-tenure-clock policies.