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May 27, 2004

Stanford releases findings of three-year study on status of women faculty

By Kate Chesley

A three-year study comparing women and men faculty members at Stanford shows no significant gender differences for the university as a whole in measures of overall satisfaction or in non-salary compensation and support in most parts of the university.

The report also pointed out areas within the university in which some disparities, while not indicative of overall patterns, nevertheless warranted further research.

The study, presented at the May 27 meeting of the Faculty Senate, was conducted by the Provost's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women Faculty, chaired by Deborah Rhode, the Ernest W. McFarland Professor of Law. The committee was created in 2001 by Provost John Etchemendy following a meeting of presidents of nine leading research universities, including Stanford, addressing gender equity for female faculty in the sciences and engineering.

The committee reviewed university policies and practices for faculty recruitment and retention, studied non-salary compensation and support and conducted the university's first "quality of life" survey of all faculty members. (The study did not address statistics on the number or tenure rates of women faculty because the university annually presents a report on these issues. Similarly, base-salary issues are addressed by a separate university process.)

"We are heartened by the progress we are making, but we still have work to do," 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 report showed no significant gender differences in measures of overall satisfaction among men and women, with workplace climate and sense of inclusion being major determinants of the faculty's level of satisfaction for both genders. The report noted, however, that 37 percent of women faculty members felt they had received differential treatment based on gender during the past three years, with descriptions ranging from insensitive behavior to perceived discrimination. In addition, faculty members with children--both male and female--reported deep concerns about their ability to support their families given the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

"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."

The 13-faculty-member committee, which included nine women and four men, credited Stanford in recent years with "impressive progress in increasing the representation and advancement of women faculty, and in addressing issues of gender equity." Committee members noted in particular progress made in regard to women in leadership positions. For example, four of the seven school deans are women.

However, committee members say their findings underscore challenges shared with other colleges and universities nationwide: low representation of women, particularly women of color and among the most highly rewarded full professors; perceived disadvantages due to gender; a sense of undervaluation of women's contributions in certain disciplines and schools; and difficulties of reconciling family and professional needs, compounded by financial pressures and childcare challenges.

"Over the past decade, Stanford has made substantial progress in increasing women's representation in faculty and leadership positions and in addressing gender equity concerns," said Rhode. "But 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 specifically recommends further research into data that suggest that men, in a minority of the university's schools, receive higher initial-offer salaries than women, as well as larger "start-up" packages and laboratory space. Comparisons are complicated, the study shows, because more men are hired at senior ranks than women.

Among the committee's other recommendations:



  • Stanford's schools should adopt "best practice" policies and strategies for the recruitment and retention of women faculty; search committee chairs, department chairs, deans and the Provost's Office should assume responsibility for ensuring diverse search committees and candidate pools.


  • Schools should devise explicit strategies to retain women faculty by providing adequate individual support and recognition and promoting equity among faculty.



  • Schools should establish databases that are shared with the Provost's Office, allowing for comparison of compensation and support.


  • The Provost's Office, deans and other appropriate administrators should study further the experiences of harassment and discrimination that do not result in formal complaints.


  • Stanford should improve its childcare offerings and reassess the adequacy of policies concerning family leave, reducing teaching and clinical assignments, and tenure-review extensions.


  • Stanford should continue to have a faculty panel and senior-level administrative position focusing on gender-equity concerns, should collect data and should participate in research with other universities facing similar challenges.



Besides Rhode and Jones, members of the committee were James Baron, Walter Kenneth Kilpatrick Professor in the Graduate School of Business; Eavan Boland, Professor of English; Phyllis Dennery, Associate Professor of Pediatrics (Neonatology); Patricia Gumport, Professor of Education and Director of the Stanford Institute for Higher Education Research; Stefanie Jeffrey, Associate Professor of Surgery and Chief of Breast Surgery; Monica Lam, Professor of Computer Science and head of the Stanford University Intermediate Format Compiler Project; Milbrey McLaughlin, David Jacks Professor of Education and Public Policy; Sheri Sheppard, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering; David Spiegel, Professor and Associate Chair, Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, and Director, Psychosocial Research Laboratory; Robert Weisberg, Edwin E. Huddleson, Jr. Professor of Law and Special Assistant to the Provost for Faculty Recruitment and Retention; and Gavin Wright, William Robertson Coe Professor of American Economic History.



Kate Chesley, associate director, University Communications, (650)725-3697;


Deborah Rhode, professor, Law School, (650) 723-0319;

Patricia Jones, vice provost for faculty development, (650) 725-4818,

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