28% of university women say they have been ignored
About three in 10 female faculty and staff say they have been passed over for a promotion or other job advancement opportunity because of their gender. That’s compared to 11 percent of male workers, according to a new Gallup Survey of some 10,500 American scholars in two- and four-year institutions.
Some 33% of Hispanic women and 30% of Asian women surveyed said they had been ignored professionally because of their gender, compared to 28% of white women (and 28% of women overall). Black women were the group of workers least likely to say they had lost a job opportunity or advancement because of their gender, at 24%; Gallup attributes this more to a sample size issue than any major challenge, what is known about how gender and race intersect in the workplace.
The last time Gallup asked this question of working women in general, in 2013, about 15% of respondents said they had been ignored professionally because of their gender. This is a much lower share of women than in the university sample.
In this most recent survey, female faculty and staff were also less likely than their male counterparts to strongly agree that they have the same opportunities for advancement at their institution as other employees, 23% women versus 32% men. Understating the previous finding that black women were least likely to report being held back because of their gender, black, Asian, and Hispanic women were all less likely than white women to say they had had the same opportunities than other employees: compared to 25%. of white women, only 15% of black women, 16% of Asian women and 18% of Hispanic women strongly agreed that their workplaces were fair in this sense.
When asked about pay, about 35% of female faculty and staff agreed or strongly agreed that they were paid fairly for the work they did, compared to 47% of men. These rates did not differ much by racial group.
Stephanie Marken, executive director of education research at Gallup, wrote in an analysis that the findings have particular implications for all university workers in the COVID-19 era, for whom burnout is a real threat — and especially for women.
Call to action
“Working women have experienced higher levels of burnout than their male colleagues (even controlling for having children at home), and women are leaving the workforce at a staggering rate compared to their male peers,” Marken said. “A series of policy changes are needed to ensure employers give women a reason to stay and come back.”
Among those recommended changes are access to remote and hybrid work environments and flexible working hours “that offer all women, especially working mothers, a chance to balance work and personal responsibilities.” Yet even meaningful policy changes will amount to “fronting” if workplaces are otherwise inequitable and appear to favor men, Marken said.
“The 28% of women working in higher education who feel they have been ignored because of their gender is a call to action for higher education institutions that have been silent on pay equity and progress,” Marken said. “Many factors push women out of the workforce – the promise of an inclusive workplace is an important way to bring them back.”
Marken said in an interview that while the figure of three in 10 women is concerning in itself, many more women have likely seen or know of female colleagues passing up gender-based opportunities. Some women may also have been repeatedly passed over for opportunities or promotions, even at different institutions, with cumulative effects on their career paths and perceptions of the academic workplace, she said.
All of this “has a huge impact on the culture and the long-term challenges we will have in creating a fair workplace,” Marken continued. “A big part of the national conversation about women in the workplace is, ‘How do you create a truly flexible work schedule? How do you give working mothers the opportunity to balance their personal and professional lives given the impact of the pandemic? And these are all important conversations – I don’t want to diminish them. But if the cultures they were already in were consistently inequitable places, it won’t be a culture that people will make great sacrifices to return to.
What will motivate people to return or stay in an academic workplace? Marken suggested “transparency around things like pay and opportunities so people don’t have to wonder if they’re part of an organization where their gender will become a barrier to advancement and opportunity” .
On pay transparency, a recent study on this topic and the productivity of 100,000 US academics found that the gender pay gap tended to narrow when institutions adopted pay transparency measures. The same study suggests that the link between performance and compensation weakens as transparency increases, but that can be a significant trade-off.
The new survey asked respondents to describe their experiences in detail or otherwise show evidence of being ignored based on gender, so these results are of course open to some interpretation. But many studies of different types have looked at gender bias in college promotions, and many support the experiences women have reported to Gallup. A 2021 qualitative study of 52 women at 16 medical schools in the United States found that processes for the academic promotion and tenure of female participants were “poorly defined and inconsistently executed” and lacked recognition or reward for women’s measurable achievements, for example. compared to those of men.
Leah Hakkola, associate professor of higher education at the University of Maine, recently published a study in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education explore how the status and social identities of professorial research chairs impact the dynamics of interpersonal committees and decisions about hiring diverse candidates. Citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Hakkola said Wednesday that the U.S. faculty remains largely homogeneous, with 53% white men, 27% white women, 10% men of color combined and 5% women. of color. Hakkola said this overrepresentation of white men becomes even more evident when examining faculty by rank, with white men being particularly concentrated in senior faculty positions.
In his own study, Hakkola found that research committees – regardless of the current chair – tended to adopt or defer to traditional faculty hierarchies, and this resulted in the perpetuation of the “status quo” in diversity, equity and inclusion. . Hakkola also found that research chairs who did not center DEI in their process expected other institutional actors, not themselves, to ensure a fair process.
“Ultimately, professor status helped sustain biased hiring practices,” she said. “A more centralized and transparent accountability system must be operationalized in order to break the current institutional power structure that implicitly supports these outcomes.”
When asked if these findings would apply to tenure and promotion committees, Hakkola said that faculty review committees do not have the same job as hiring committees, but that their functions and their quirks certainly overlap.
Both are “subjective and variable, and review criteria can often be vague, inviting implicit biases to seep in,” she said. “The review process is filled with deeply held assumptions and beliefs about what it means to be a collegiate colleague, a productive scholar, and an excellent instructor.”
Beyond bias, numerous studies have documented how women and people of color outperform their white male colleagues in terms of internal service work, even if that service work is not rewarded the way research is in the tenure and promotion process. Victor Borden, professor of higher education and student affairs at Indiana University Bloomington, co-authored such a study in 2017, finding large and significant differences in women’s service loads compared to men’s. men, even controlling for various “cultural” factors within the departments.
Borden said Gallup’s findings were consistent with hers in that “generally female faculty are relied upon for the more mundane and less glorious service activities necessary to the operation of the program”, such as service at the program, school or campus. He, however, took issue with Gallup’s comparison of promotion processes within academia and out of it, as “there is no other promotion process quite like tenure or promotion”. [in academe]so making a comparison with promotion in the corporate world doesn’t sound right to me.