Assessing the Gender Gap in Senior Faculty at Harvard

In a recent article in Harvard Magazine, managing editor Jonathan Shaw reports on the status of women faculty and administrators at the nation’s oldest and, many would say, most prestigious university. There are now 200 senior women faculty at Harvard, a 300 percent increase over the past 25 years.

But Shaw points out that Harvard has had a much better record in appointing women to administrative positions than to tenured faculty posts. Drew Gilpin Faust is president of Harvard University and many of the university’s deans are women. But women make up less than one quarter of all Harvard’s tenured faculty.

The reason for the discrepancy is that the turnover rate for Harvard faculty takes place at a snail’s pace. There is no mandatory retirement age and teaching at Harvard is considered the sweetest plum of the American academic world. As a result, few faculty members who gain tenure jump ship. So each year there are very few open positions for new appointments for women.

President Faust

Shaw reports that the so-called “pipeline problem” is no longer a major concern. There are plenty of women pursuing doctoral studies in most disciplines. Now the problem is a “leaky pipeline,” where it remains difficult to retain women faculty, particularly in the highly demanding scientific disciplines.

In an effort to fix the leaky pipeline, Harvard has taken steps to provide daycare opportunities, maternity leave, and increased mentoring and counseling services for women academics.

In summing up the situation, President Faust stated earlier this year, “We have made progress, but we are not satisfied and it is something that we are continuing to work on.”

Filed Under: FacultyGender Gap


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