Report: Female professors seeking leadership roles face inherent biases

Dive Brief:

  • Female faculty members at colleges and universities who hope to achieve greater professional success and leadership are consistently stymied in male-dominated environments where they must work far harder than men to receive similar awards, according to a new study conducted by a professor at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.
  • The study examined appointments to named professorships by gender using a sample of 511 faculty from research universities throughout the country, finding women were less likely to be awarded such positions and are inadequately appointed to endowed chairs in return for their significant scholarly work.
  • The biases will be difficult to excise because they are so embedded in the college culture, according to the researchers, but they are hopeful that the study will lend more insight into the issue.

Dive Insight:

The continuing equity gap for women in positions of leadership on college campuses is so challenging because of its embedded nature, but there are ways colleges and universities can help to stem the problem. Freeman Hrabowski, the president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, detailed the school’s ADVANCE program in a recent interview. The program works to elevate the career tracks of female professors in STEM fields, and Hrabowski said that similar outreach to female professors could help establish pipelines to leadership that may guard against some of the discriminatory pitfalls female professors face on their way to positions of college leadership.

In a recent review of ways to better prepare college presidents, the analysis suggested that outgoing presidents select two or three individuals from campus staff, with an emphasis on highlighting diversity, to "groom" them for possibly taking over the position of president. This could be an approach that the heads of faculty and disciplines at colleges and universities could take, and if more institutions begin placing more responsibility on faculty to encourage diversity, one gauge to measure professors’ acuity in this respect could be to consider how well those faculty members support female professors on paths toward leadership.

Filed Under: Higher Ed
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