Successes, challenges seen in report on women faculty


Pat Jones

A three-year study comparing female and male faculty members shows no significant gender-based differences in measures of either overall satisfaction or in non-salary compensation and support in most parts of the university.

The report of the Provost's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women Faculty [PACSWF], delivered Thursday to the Faculty Senate, also pointed out some disparities that officials acknowledge need further study. The representation of women is still low, especially women of color, in certain fields and among the most highly compensated full professors. Women reported feeling excluded and undervalued in certain disciplines and schools and reported experiencing difficulty reconciling personal and professional needs that are compounded by financial pressures of living in the Bay Area and inadequate childcare options.

"We are heartened by the progress we are making, but we still have work to do," Provost John Etchemendy said. "The study provides us with a fairly detailed snapshot of that progress as well as the challenges that remain. It offers both solid statistical data and anecdotal information that will be critical in helping us address issues that need improvement. President Hennessy and I are absolutely committed to ensuring that any needed changes will be made. The goal is simple: a community in which equity, fairness and mutual respect are a matter of course in every regard."

The committee, chaired by law Professor Deborah Rhode, was established in 2001 by Etchemendy to explore how the university could enhance its efforts to increase the number of women faculty and improve conditions for those already on the faculty. As of September 2003, 394 of the university's 1,744 faculty were women-or 22.6 percent. Five years ago, women composed 18.9 percent of faculty.

Rhode credited the university with making substantial progress over the past decade in increasing women's representation in faculty and leadership positions and in addressing gender equity concerns but said "further progress remains to be made. This report identifies ways for the university to make good on its commitment to equal opportunity in practice as well as principle."

The committee was formed shortly after Stanford and eight other universities held a conference to address gender equity for female faculty in science and engineering. Although Stanford had several women as part of its pioneer faculty, they remained a small group until their numbers were first scrutinized beginning in the 1970s. A report in 1971 noted that women made up 5 percent of the faculty and two percent of full professors. The report noted that women were less represented at Stanford than other peer institutions and recommended several reforms on recruitment, retention and family policies that were gradually implemented.

In 1993, a Provost's Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Women Faculty found that the ranks of female faculty members had swelled to 11 percent, but almost half of all departments had no tenured women and the university's record in appointing and promoting women still lagged behind other peer institutions. That committee's report recommended a series of reforms aimed at ensuring equal treatment, building a supportive climate, and reducing work/family conflicts.

The present committee, which consists of nine women and four men, collected data that had never been examined before through the work of subcommittees on recruitment and retention; quality of life; and compensation, resources and recognition.

The report noted that progress on gender equity has been constrained by the relatively low rate of faculty turnover and the slow growth in faculty. It also said that some fields continue to be dominated by men, especially the physical sciences and engineering, and competition for top female scholars is intense. But the committee noted particular progress made in regard to women in leadership positions, with four of the seven schools currently headed by female deans.

Engineering Professor Eric Roberts praised the spirit of collegiality present during the various stages of the PACSWF report, a marked difference from the mood he said was present during many of the same discussions with former university administrators in the early 1990s.

"That, I think, is the most important change that we've seen," Roberts said. "We have a long way to go, and these issues are tremendously important."

Law Professor Deborah Hensler suggested that future studies focus on the ways in which university policies and common school practices affect men and women during different stages of their careers and sometimes compete with desires to start a family. She also urged the senate, school administrators and the committee to continue the dialogues beyond the report so that many of the recommendations could be addressed.

"I think it's really important to figure out some kind of process in which people ... could really engage in a conversation about what these data tell us," Hensler said. "Unless these kinds of data serve as a basis for having that conversation, much of this very good work will not have the kind of effect it could otherwise have."

Subcommittee on Recruitment and Retention

The Subcommittee on Recruitment and Retention examined the formal and informal practices related to search committees and retention efforts at individual schools.


The committee found inconsistent practices among the schools as to the composition and procedures of search committees, with only some reporting efforts to ensure diversity in committee membership. The School of Engineering and the Graduate School of Business made no mention of concerns about gender diversity in search-committee membership, and the School of Earth Sciences explicitly indicated that search-committee diversity was not a priority.

Some schools reported that they had only occasionally asked a search committee to reopen a search that had not produced a sufficiently diverse candidate pool, while others reported that they could not recall ever having done so.

Retention efforts also varied, particularly in how schools responded to outside offers. The general norm, according to the report, is that deans will try to respond when a highly valued faculty member gets a credible outside offer. Some deans expressed concern that a response to competition for a faculty member might require compensation adjustments for others to avoid the perception that outside offers are the only effective way of gaining appropriate compensation.

Although some schools reported no evidence of gender differences in the retention process, others reported that women were less likely to engage in strategic bargaining or were less likely to be sufficiently mobile to consider outside offers. In effect, the report said, women are less likely to want to or be able to relocate; they are more likely than men to have family responsibilities that tie them to the Bay Area; and they are less likely to have partners who are willing and able to move in response to an outside offer.

Subcommittee on Compensation, Resources and Recognition

The Subcommittee on Compensation, Resources and Recognition compiled detailed quantitative data on non-salary forms of compensation and support. The committee did not look for gender disparities in base salary information because the university has systematically reviewed that information since the late 1990s.

The subcommittee obtained detailed information from each school concerning offer salaries, start-up offers, research accounts, laboratory space and moving-rental allowances, and also reviewed limited information concerning summer salaries, retention packages and special arrangements with teaching loads and housing subsidies.

Many categories, such as research funds and moving and rental allowances, revealed no significant disparities based on gender in most schools. Some schools showed varying disparities between men and women, with a few male "high outliers" receiving higher initial offer salaries and larger start-up funding for research or supplies. Those data might reflect the different seniority levels at which male and female faculty are hired, or the fact that small numbers of women are in certain fields, the report noted. But that statistic also emphasizes the deeper problem of the relative infrequency of senior female hires, the report said.

The report recommended further analysis to examine why, if a disparity exists, it almost always involves men receiving higher compensation than women. The report also said that in cases in which all of the mostly highly compensated faculty are men, that pattern may unintentionally reflect and perpetuate gender stereotypes.

Subcommittee on Quality of Life

The Subcommittee on Quality of Life designed a questionnaire for all faculty that explored professional satisfaction, workload, academic climate, perceptions of discrimination and harassment, and work and family concerns. In developing the questionnaire, the subcommittee benefited from similar studies reported by other universities; links can be found on a website developed by the committee,

The survey results showed that, for the faculty as a whole, there are no significant gender differences in measures of overall satisfaction. In fact, male and female respondents reported similar feelings about many of the positive and negative aspects of working at the university, including the quality of students and peers, the desirable location and the stress about cost of living.

Women generally reported more concerns about their quality of life than their male counterparts, and they rated their work climate less favorably than men. Women also said they experienced greater workload pressure and were more likely than men to report work/family stress, with many citing concerns about the availability and affordability of childcare. Female faculty who had considered leaving the university cited concerns about their dual-career households, feelings of under-appreciation and financial worries.

For men, the top three factors that influenced their sense of overall job satisfaction are work climate, financial stress and a sense of feeling included in their department. For women, their sense of inclusion and work climate were the major determinants of their level of satisfaction.

According to the report, the findings suggest that, in general, the university has made progress in addressing many of the factors typically associated with differential satisfaction between female and male faculty, particularly those related to pay equity and access to resources.

Women in engineering, law and the natural sciences reported the most satisfaction while those in social sciences and clinical medicine reported the least satisfaction. Qualitative responses suggested that one factor that contributed to unhappiness with the work climate for some women was the perception that their scholarship was not valued.

Male faculty in general reported a significantly greater sense of inclusion overall than did female colleagues, but female Law School faculty reported the greatest sense of inclusion among all university respondents. That figure could have been heightened by the absence of junior faculty among the women Law School respondents. Women in social sciences and education reported lower levels of inclusion than their male counterparts.

A higher percentage of women than men in the clinical sciences reported that they did not feel fairly compensated in relation to their colleagues. The differences in responses by gender in the other schools were not statistically significant, the report noted.

Women and men reported the same workload in terms of hours spent on teaching, advising, research, administrative and committee work, but women were more likely to perceive their workload as high or much too high (68 percent compared to 53 percent). Women may perceive their workload as too high because of conflicts with family obligations, the report noted.

In general, faculty reported low levels of differential treatment based on specified characteristics. Fewer than 20 faculty members out of the 839 who completed the survey reported that they had been discriminated against or denied something because of sexual orientation, gender identification, disability, religion or physical appearance. Thirty-four respondents (split evenly among men and women) indicated that they felt they had been, on one or more occasions over the past three years, discriminated against or denied something because of race.

When asked about differential treatment based on gender, 37 percent of women faculty who responded to the question said they felt that they had been discriminated against or denied something at some point over the past three years (68 out of 184 respondents). That perception was shared by women in all three ranks (29 percent of assistant professors, 49 percent of associate professors and 35 percent of full professors) and in most schools except law and education. One female respondent said an "old boys club" with ingrained attitudes still existed, and another said her male supervisor would ignore suggestions from women until a man made the same suggestion.

When asked to describe the situation of perceived harassment in an open-ended response, respondents cited a wide range of behavior. The report noted that perceptions of discrimination and harassment were not a major factor in determining the overall satisfaction of the university's women faculty.

Both male and female faculty reported that they felt that they had been discriminated against or denied something based on their research area and/or approaches, although that perception was more prevalent among women than men for research area (31 percent compared to 13 percent) and research approaches (21 percent compared to 11 percent).

Women reported that they felt they had been discriminated against or denied something because of family responsibilities more than men did (14 percent to 5 percent). Some women wrote in their qualitative responses that they believed they had been passed over for important positions because they had young children.

Faculty reported low instances of verbal harassment based on personal characteristics, but women were two to three times more likely than men to report verbal harassment based on their race/ethnicity, gender, research area, research approach and politics. Ten women and four men said they felt they had been sexually harassed in the past three years as a faculty member at Stanford and more than half indicated that they had reported the incident.

Committee Recommendations

The committee issued several recommendations for recruitment and retention practices, compensation, faculty quality of life, and resources and recognition.

* Officials who oversee search committees should ensure that the committees and candidate pools are diverse and should employ special outreach efforts and use targeted funds to increase appointments of women in departments and divisions where they are underrepresented. Attention should be given to the adequacy of hiring practices in areas that pose special concerns for women, such as childcare, spouse/partner employment, family leave and reduced schedules.

* Schools should devise explicit strategies for providing adequate individual support and recognition and for ensuring some measure of horizontal equity among faculty. The university should also take steps to dispel perceptions that outside offers are the only way to gain appropriate rewards.

* The provost and deans should monitor salary and non-salary forms of compensation and support to ensure appropriateness and equity. Schools should establish databases for information on non-salary compensation and support, and it should be evaluated on a regular basis.

* Further attention should be paid to the concerns raised by the Quality of Life survey results, including experiences of harassment and discrimination that do not result in formal complaints. The Provost's Office should provide administrative and financial support for a Faculty Women's Forum that would offer opportunities for women across the university to discuss shared interests and concerns, including gender-related issues and research.

* The university should improve its childcare options. The Provost's Office should establish and publicize a dependent care fund to subsidize temporary childcare expenses for travel related to research, conferences and related professional development needs. The university should also reassess the adequacy of its policies for new faculty parents, including family leave, reduced teaching and clinical load and tenure-clock extension.

* The university should continue to have a faculty panel and senior level administrative position that focus on gender equity concerns, and data should be collected on a regular basis. The university should also encourage and participate in collaborative research with other institutions to gain better understanding of gender equity challenges and responses.

"It is gratifying to learn from the survey that, in most parts of the university, women faculty feel as respected, recognized and involved in academic decision-making as do men," said committee member Patricia Jones, biological sciences professor and vice provost for faculty development. "This study has accomplished what we hoped it would-to help us understand the climate for male and female faculty and to indicate where there are issues that need to be addressed."