Sunday, 27 August 2017

Biased Evaluations Contribute to Gender Gaps in Tenure Promotion

Amber Joy Powell on August 15, 2017 Katherine Weisshaar, “Publish and Perish? An Assessment of Gender Gaps in Promotion to Tenure in Academia,” Social Forces, 2017 Photo by Stewart Butterfield, Flickr CC Women have made many strides towards equality in the workplace. Yet, studies continue to show that women are frequently paid less than men, women are expected to perform more secretarial tasks, and women are less likely to be promoted to higher-level occupations within organizations. And academia is no exception — while attaining tenure and promotion is the key to a long academic career, universities are less likely to grant it to women. A recent study by Katherine Weisshaar explores why female academics have a harder time achieving tenure promotion than their male peers. The author developed a unique longitudinal dataset that includes department information and characteristics (e.g. prestige ranking, gender composition) from the National Research Council (NRC), Google Scholar citations, personal websites, and CVs. From 2000 to 2004, Weishaar documented the names of former assistant professors in 330 departments within sociology, computer science, and English. She examines three possible explanations for the 7 percent gender difference between male and female assistant professors in sociology departments: scholarly productivity (i.e. publications, awards, research grants), organizational differences (i.e. gender composition, prestige, public or private) and inequality in evaluations (i.e. gender bias, differences in recommendations). Increases in women’s individual productivity in the workplace will not likely lead to equal representation in higher occupational positions. The results indicate that women are less likely to receive tenure than their male peers across all three disciplines, though sociology and English maintain the greatest gender inequities in tenure. When women do secure tenure, the process takes longer than for male academics. Female assistant professors in sociology were less likely to publish in the discipline’s most prestigious journals (e.g. Social Forces, American Sociological Review, and American Journal of Sociology), obtained lower numbers of citations for their publications, and secured promotions in less prestigious departments. Overall, productivity differences accounted for approximately 34 percent of the gender gap, while time differences accounted for approximately 20 percent of the gender gap. The largest contributing factor to the gender gap (roughly 40 to 45 percent), however, lies within the assistant professor evaluation process that includes subtle biases and discrimination against women. Thus, increases in women’s individual productivity in the workplace will not likely lead to equal representation in higher occupational positions. Employers must also evaluate the ways in which gender discrimination both explicitly and implicitly hinder women’s promotion opportunities, despite equal rates of productivity. Publish and Perish? An Assessment of Gender Gaps in Promotion to Tenure in Academia Katherine Weisshaar Social Forces, Published: 28 June 2017 Article history Abstract In academia, there remains a gender gap in promotion to tenure, such that men are more likely to receive tenure than women. This paper tests three explanations of this gender gap in promotion: (1) contextual and organizational differences across departments; (2) performance/productivity differences by gender; and (3) gendered inequality in evaluation. To test these explanations, this project uses a novel dataset drawing from a sample of assistant professors in Sociology, Computer Science, and English, across research universities. This dataset combines data from sources including curriculum vitae, Google Scholar, and web archive employment data, resulting in a dataset of assistant professors’ publication records, department affiliations, and job positions. Analyses examine the gender gap in the likelihood of promotion to tenure and in early career trajectories, while accounting for publication productivity and department/university context. The results demonstrate that productivity measures account for a portion of the gender gap in tenure, but in each discipline a substantial share of the gender gap remains unexplained by these factors. Department characteristics do not explain the tenure gender gap. Further, when women do receive tenure, they do so in lower-prestige departments than men, on average. These findings suggest that gendered inequality in the tenure evaluation process contributes to the gender gap in tenure rates. Issue Section: Original Article © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: