Cover Image


View/Hide Left Panel

2002). Moreover, “while new cohorts of Ph.D.s entering the academic marketplace are increasingly female, each new cohort is only a small proportion of those currently employed. Consequently, the move toward parity in the representation of women must occur slowly” (NRC, 2001:132). Hopkins (2006:16) gave an example in the case of MIT:

In part, the small number of women faculty in [the Schools of] Science and Engineering can be explained by (1) the fact that the “pipeline” began to fill only about 40 years ago; and (2) faculty turnover rates are slow, with many faculty who achieve tenure staying at MIT for 30-40 years. Only about 5% of the MIT faculty leaves each year due to retirement, failure to achieve tenure, or other factors. At this rate, and assuming a 50% tenure rate, it would take approximately 40 years for a department that had no women faculty to have a faculty that has the same percentage of women as the Ph.D. pool.

As the NSF (1999:99) notes: “many of the differences in employment characteristics between men and women are partially due to differences in age. Women in the science and engineering workforce are younger, on average, than men: 18 percent of women and 12 percent of men employed as scientists and engineers were younger than age 30 in 1995.” Since women faculty are younger, they have had, on average, less opportunity to receive tenure or a promotion, making career age a vitally important factor to control for in assessments of gender disparities in rank and tenure status (see e.g., NRC, 2001a; Olson, 2002).

Family Issues

Marital status and the presence of children were often mentioned as critical to assessing gender differences.6 Rosser (2003) surveyed women who received an NSF POWRE award between 1997 and 2000. She found that “overwhelming numbers of survey respondents found ‘balancing work with family’ to be the most significant challenge facing women scientists and engineers. Interestingly, the responses remained remarkably similar across disciplines: balancing work with family responsibilities was the major issue for women from all the fields of study covered by the survey.” Spouses and children presented competing demands for time on the part of a faculty member and might bring additional actors or considerations into decision making. These competing demands may have meant that some faculty had less human capital, experience, or productivity; or that applicants for academic positions were more constrained in where they applied because of family or the spouse’s employment considerations (often referred to as geographic mobility or the two-body problem).

Did these factors affect men and women similarly? Research suggests that the answer was no. Women were more likely to be negatively affected by mar-


Interestingly, research is adding care of older family members—for similar reasons as care of children (e.g., Sax et al., 2002).

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement