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BOOKS BY AND FOR WOMEN IN GOVERNMENT.

MANAGING GENDER INEQUITY IN ACADEMIA

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“There is no better time than today to discuss and address gender inequity in higher education,” writes Gina Scutelnicu Todoran in the introduction to her important new book Managing Gender Inequity in Academia (Routledge, 2024). “While the faculty members in our discipline study, teach and research about managing diversity and equity in multiple organizational settings, we are generally not well informed, trained or mentored to manage diversity in our own work environments.”


This is, the author notes, “the first book to provide an evidence-based guide for university administrators and faculty interested in building all important gender equity in public affairs and related programs.”


The book not only provides concrete guidance to academics who seek career advancement, but also addresses many of the same issues that women in government face in their own careers. These include the challenge of balancing motherhood with an intense public sector job; the persisting problem of a “parenting penalty”, leaky pipelines that challenge women in career progression, and different perceptions and expectations of how women should act.


The author lays out powerful numbers that demonstrate the depths of the gender inequity problem for faculty and administrators in public affairs programs. For example, 64% of faculty Tenure Track (TT) positions are held by men, compared with 36% by women. Within tenured positions, gender inequality accelerates with promotions. At the assistant professor level, 47% of positions are held by women and 53% by men; for associate professor positions, 42% are women and 58% are men, and only 26% of full professors are women compared to 74% men.


As the author writes, “statistics suggest that women in public affairs programs take longer to advance through the academic ranks when compared to men.”


Is the problem that there are fewer women than men who can move forward in this field? Apparently not. The slower pace of promotion reflects the presence of a “glass ceiling” or “glass walls”. Women also appear to be subject to a “leaky pipeline” in which they leave academia or tenured faculty positions, first “when they are not tenured and promoted from assistant to associate professor, and second, when they are not promoted to full professor at the sane rates as men.”


One of the issues the book delves into in some detail is the disparity between genders in their rates of published research.  This is particularly the case at earlier career levels, with the rate of women assistant professors publishing book chapters at 62% of the rate of men. One explanation may be that men “are more successful at prioritizing research over teaching and service.” As careers progress, the gap begins to disappear, with women who are full professors publishing at 95% of the rate of men. 


The consequences of the publication gap are harsh.  As Todoran explains, “Due to their high research productivity men are more likely than women to apply for tenure and promotion early and they are supported in such decisions by their colleagues and supervisors. Therefore, their advancement in the academy happens faster than that of women.”


A particularly interesting finding of the author’s many interviews conducted for the book was a measurable difference in the way men and women were evaluated by their students. “Specifically,” she writes, “women were evaluated by students based on their personal warmth and appearance rather than their knowledge. Students were reported to treat women faculty differently when compared to men because the former were expected to be the student’s confidant.”


Not only does this appear to be an outdated and unfair approach to these evaluations, but it also impacts the way women go about their work. “Women contribute a significant amount of emotional labor when compared to men,” she writes. That work “is unaccounted for in tenure and promotion decisions in spite of its contribution to student retention and satisfaction.”


As noted earlier, only 26% of full professors are women. In general, promotion to full professor “Is not as transparent and objective of a process as the tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor,” the author writes. While there are both research and service standards, the guidelines can be vague.


Todoran quotes a woman who helps to explain some of the obstacles women face in achieving the rank of full professorship:


Once faculty are promoted to associate and tenured, particularly women and women of color end up having tremendous service responsibilities and they are willing to take on a lot more. And therefore, they don’t have the opportunity to focus on things like their scholarship.  So, where that really makes a difference is at the promotion to full professor. And then there’s one woman of color who is a full professor and an awful lot at the associate level who have been there for twelve years. To me there seems to be this glass ceiling there.  There are service expectations for women but not for men and women are somewhat penalized if they don’t do that whereas maybe men aren’t. 


Managing Gender Inequity in Academia goes on to make a series of recommendations to help support both individuals and universities as they seek to help retain and advance women who hold mid-career faculty positions:


  • “First universities should have clear standards for the promotion to the rank of full professor and avoid bias in internal and external evaluations of faculty members. . . “

  • “Second, faculty members should pay attention to the amount of time they spend on service and either delegate or step down from administrative roles that take up too much of their time.”

  • “Third, gatekeepers such as senior colleagues, journal editors and reviewers could be more inclusive and diversify the type and method of published research, and top journals could consider allowing access to more than just ‘eminent scholars.’”

  • ‘Fourth, faculty members could collaborate more often in their research and publication.”


Taken in its totality, “Managing Gender Inequity in Academia” does a wonderful job of taking prose that’s gritty with data and turning it into a powerful book. 

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