New study suggests gender gap may have closed in tenure track

Dive Brief:

  • A new paper presented this weekend at the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association finds that there doesn't seem to be strong evidence of divergences in gender on the tenure track at universities, in contrast with other recent studies, according to Inside Higher Ed.
  • The paper examined graduates 10 years after earning their Ph.D., and its authors found that scholarly publications, research and quickly acquiring a postdoctoral appointment were strong indicators of getting tenure-track professorships and receiving tenure.
  • However, the author’s research found that women earn less in salary and take longer to finish doctoral degrees, and said that more gender inequity may become apparent in the second decade after receiving a Ph.D., which the authors did not analyze.

Dive Insight:

Though many dispute the assertion that tenure track professorships have equalized in terms of gender disparity, it is still vital to consider the impact K-12 education is having on women’s opportunity to acquire a degree in the first place. In STEM fields, women’s prominence in the field has not increased since 1990, and the National Girls Collaborative Project found that achievement in science and mathematics in K-12 is roughly equal between male and female students, but gaps start to emerge in terms of the percentages taking AP classes in high school. One statistic found AP computer science were wildly divergent, at 81% male to 19% female.

If many women aren’t enrolling in the necessary courses and getting the education needed to reach the tenure track, how many students are losing the opportunity to compete for those coveted positions? The STEM example is indicative but by no means unique. Those working to close equity gaps must try to ensure the balances are roughly equal at the top, but advocates must also work to make sure everyone can compete in an attempt to reach that height.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
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