Female professors face tenure disparity

By Brian Mellen

According to a report by the Chronicle of Higher Education, over half of all Ph.D.s are received by women across the nation.

Despite this national trend, there’s a disproportionate number of women compared to men receiving tenure at the University.

“It’s a massive problem,” said Cris Mayo, interim director of Gender and Women’s Studies. “There’s no excuse for it.”

Reports from the 2005-06 Campus Profile said that 27.9 percent of women at the University are on track for tenure, and only 17.5 percent are full professors.

That means that 72.1 percent of all tenure-track faculty and 82.5 percent of all professors are men. Mayo said the disparity is even stronger when talking about engineering and other sciences.

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    “Things are a little bit different at this campus,” Mayo said.

    Mayo referred to the fact that since the University is known for its engineering and science programs, it is even more challenging to improve gender disparity.

    Women in Engineering, a campus group, are currently trying to improve female participation in engineering and science through a program called GAMES: Girls’ Adventures in Mathematics, Engineering, and Science Summer Camp.

    According to a recent report by the American Association of University Professors, the tenure problem is not limited to the University of Illinois alone.

    Out of 1,445 colleges surveyed in the report, the proportion of women who are tenure-tracked and full professors were both below 50 percent during the 2005-06 academic year.

    It reported that, nationally, women held 44.8 percent of all tenure-track positions and only 24 percent of all positions as professors. The association also reported that the University of Missouri and North Dakota State University were some of the worst examples of gender disparity in college faculties with numbers well below the national average.

    Stephanie Foote, associate professor with an appointment in Women’s Studies at the University, said she believes there are structural problems within American universities that make it harder for women to advance in their careers.

    “They have tried to be good about things like child care and family leave, but the pressures of those sorts of things fall much more heavily on women,” Foote said.

    LAS is another area lacking in female representation among professors.

    Karen Carney, associate dean of the college of LAS, said the college of LAS is working toward bridging the gender gap, but that it will take time.

    “Obviously there’s always reason to find women who are doing ground-breaking research,” Carney said. “We’re trying to make sure there are no impediments for women.”

    Foote said that although she believes there is a certain amount of built-in sexism at public institutions, the Chancellor and Provost’s Office take this issue seriously.

    Both offices have a committee regarding the status of women at the University.

    “I’m hoping that the raw numbers will help the University to rectify this,” Foote said.