Tenure at UA harder for women to achieve

By Thuba Nguyen
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 15, 2004

Female profs less likely to get tenure, study says

Female professors at the UA are less likely to receive tenure promotion than their male colleagues, according to a Harvard study released Monday.

The study, conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, measured the satisfaction of male and female full-time, tenure-track faculty at six universities, including the UA. It found that junior faculty women are less satisfied than men in academia when it comes to research, mentoring and other work responsibilities.

According to the study, 19 percent of women surveyed found the tenure process to be "very clear," and 26 percent of the men surveyed found the tenure process to be "very clear."

The study also stated that 53 percent of the women were unhappy with the amount of time they have for research while only 39 percent of the men surveyed were unhappy.

"Right now, the tenure system is quite rigid and inflexible," said Cathy Trower, a senior research associate and principal investigator for the "Study of New Scholars."

Trower said she thinks universities need to be more flexible, changing the tenure period to accommodate working faculty who have family needs, and formalizing mentoring.

"Right now, mentoring of junior faculty is left to chance," she said. "A lot of people get left out of that process."

Naomi Miller, co-chair of the Millennium Report Oversight Committee, a committee formed to improve equity for female and minority faculty, said women generally have family care responsibilities that may decrease the time they have to devote to academics, even though they are interested in taking leadership roles.

In fall 2003, there were 838 tenured male faculty, compared to 287 tenured female faculty, said Anna Elias-Cesnik, senior associate to the vice provost.

According to the 2003-2004 Fact Book, there are 1,157 male instructional faculty and 493 female instructional faculty at the UA.

Despite the disparity, Juan Garcia, vice provost for academic affairs, said equity for female faculty has been improving.

Garcia said the number of tenure-eligible women faculty hires increased from 30 percent in 1999 to 40 percent in 2003.

"Although the disparity remains, the gap is beginning to close and will continue to do so as more women are recruited to the ranks of the faculty," Garcia said. "Greater awareness, commitment to diversity and gender equality, sensitivity, and pressure from interest groups and society will also ensure that we do more to recruit and retain women."

Astronomy professor Marcia Rieke said although she did not feel discouraged from earning tenure, she believes there are roadblocks that some female professors must overcome.

A major roadblock is that professors working toward their tenure have six years to do it, and some female professors feel they do not have enough time to balance family life and work, she said.

Anthropology professor Barbara Mills said the academic environment in her department was supportive of her tenure promotion.

Mills, who was reviewed at the same time as one of her male colleagues, said she did not think there were any inequities in the process.

"I felt that I was on equal footing with my colleague ... in part because of the mentorship that I had received," Mills said.

Mills said both senior male and female faculty members in her department provided information on what was expected of her in order for her to earn tenure.

In 2000, the UA also conducted its own study, called the Millennium Report, that explored inequities among gender, race and other groups on the UA campus.

The Millennium Report Oversight Committee was formed to oversee the changes recommended by the report and to improve the academic climate for female and minority faculty.

The report indicated the number of women faculty has increased from 365 to 407 since 2000, but women still only represented 27 percent of the total tenure-track faculty.