Columbia University Releases Equity Report on the Status of Women Faculty

After a two-year study on its faculty, Columbia University has released an equity report on the status of women faculty at the university. The report focuses on three divisions (Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences) of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

In the Natural Sciences Division, the report found that 55 percent of women reported that they had experienced harassment and 65 percent reported discrimination by colleagues at Columbia. Overall women faculty members reported being less satisfied overall and more stressed than their male peers. Women also were less likely to believe that their colleagues valued their research and service. Women were less likely to hold department chair positions. Women were underrepresented relative to their department demographics in 50 percent of searches and represented only 12 percent of search committee chairs. Additionally, women faculty in the 25 years or less post-Ph.D. cohort were, on average, paid less than their male peers.

In the Humanities Division, 27 percent of women reported experiencing harassment and 63 percent reported experiencing discrimination from their Columbia colleagues. Additionally, 32 percent of women reported experiencing harassment from their students. None of the women faculty respondents who experienced harassment or discrimination filed an official complaint. Forty percent of women had issues with the division climate, such as “paternalism,” “an old boys’ club,” and “aggressive” behavior by colleagues. Additionally, there are very few women who serve as department chairs.

In the Social Sciences Division, 78 percent of women reported being either “very” or “somewhat” satisfied about being a Columbia faculty member. However, women were less satisfied than men about research funds, salary, research space and support, committee responsibilities, departmental climate, and the time they have for scholarly work. Nearly a quarter of women faculty reported experiencing harassment and 46 percent reported experiencing discrimination at least once during their time at Columbia. Of the 19 percent of women who filed formal complaints of harassment of discrimination, only 25 percent were satisfied with the outcome and 12 percent believed they suffered retaliation as a result of their official complaint. Additionally, only 58 percent of women agreed that their departments foster a respectful environment. In their individual departments, women more often than men felt a lack of recognition, excluded from informal networks, and that the environment was not supportive.

“We have been able to address some of these issues even before the report was finalized, but others will require concerted and dedicated efforts over time,” said Maya Tolstoy, interim executive vice president, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and a professor in the department of earth and environmental sciences. “I hope that faculty will read the report thoughtfully and have discussions in their departments. This can’t be a top-down effort.”

Tolstoy continued, “I think one of the things that’s important about this report is that this is not merely a Columbia problem, it’s an academic problem at many universities. I hope this will help change the conversation in higher education.”

The full report can be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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