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Stanford lags in recruitment, retention of women faculty

STANFORD -- Despite increases in the number of women faculty at Stanford in recent decades, 43 percent of Stanford departments still have no tenured women and almost 40 percent of the departments hiring new faculty in the last five years did not hire a woman.

In a 1992-93 ranking of 21 peer universities, including the Ivy League and Pacific 10, Stanford was 19th in the percentage of women on its faculty and 17th in the percentage of women who are full professors.

These and a host of other similar statistics relating to women faculty show that Stanford is "seriously lagging with respect to recruitment and retention," according to a 73-page report from the Provost's Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Women Faculty.

Because of Stanford's poor record, the report states, the university is "missing out" on many of the diverse ideas, viewpoints and outside networks that women faculty could bring to the Farm.

Moreover, the small numbers make faculty life more difficult for women already here and may make it more difficult to recruit others.

The report, with 16 recommendations designed to improve the situation, will be presented to the Faculty Senate on Thursday, Dec. 2, by Myra Strober, professor and academic associate dean of education, chair of the committee appointed by then-Provost Gerald Lieberman in October 1992.

Provost Condoleezza Rice, a member of the committee until she was appointed provost-designate in May 1993, will respond at the senate. A lengthy discussion is expected, and numerous faculty have informed the Academic Secretary of their desire to attend the session.

Five women senators, led by linguistics Professor Elizabeth Traugott, are sponsoring a resolution urging the administration to treat the report "with the utmost seriousness" and to implement its recommendations.

Recommendations from the Strober committee include increasing the percentage of women faculty, ensuring salary equity, developing recruitment plans for women, assisting faculty to combine work and family, and creating a culture of faculty support.

"A paramount recommendation of this committee is that Stanford develop and maintain a culture of mutual respect, care, trust and support among faculty members," the committee wrote. "Thoughtless, inconsiderate or even hostile interactions are at the heart of many of the problems for Stanford faculty, and such interactions negatively affect Stanford's recruitment and retention of women faculty."

In addition to Strober, committee members are Paul Brest, dean of law; Donald Brown, economics; Steve Chu, chair of physics; Regenia Gagnier, English; Joseph Goodman, chair of electrical engineering; Joanne Martin, Graduate School of Business; W. Richard Scott, sociology; Lucy Shapiro, chair of developmental biology; James Spudich, biochemistry; and Mary Wack, English.

The committee met frequently during its year of study and deliberation, according to Strober.

Members interviewed nine women and eight men who left the university during the past five years (a total of 36 women left Stanford during that period). The committee also conducted focus- group interviews with 37 junior and young senior faculty members; because of scheduling conflicts,19 more responded by questionnaire.

The final report includes 36 pages of tables, appendices and footnotes.

University data show that the percentage of Stanford women faculty tripled in 25 years, from 5 percent of the total faculty in 1967-68 to 15.8 percent in 1992-93.

Data collected for 1992-93 by the American Association of University Professors, which do not include medical schools or part-time faculty members, put women on the Stanford faculty at 14.2 percent, exactly half of Columbia's 28.4 percent. Women make up almost 26 percent of the faculty at Dartmouth, almost 24 percent at Yale and 19 percent at Harvard.

"Ironically, Stanford, which has been coeducational since its founding, has a lower representation of women on its faculty than do Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth, institutions that have had all-male student bodies until recently," the committee wrote.

Among the committee's other findings:

  • Excluding the School of Engineering from Stanford's statistics would move the Farm up only one place - ahead of the University of Chicago, but still behind Cornell.
  • Senior faculty women's salaries generally are lower than those of male counterparts, with the same number of years since earning their highest degree. (The committee did not examine gender equity in salaries for junior faculty.)
  • Some of the problems affecting junior faculty women also affect junior faculty men. Both groups said they feel a lack of regard from senior colleagues and the institution as a whole.
  • Looking at recent national availability pools of women receiving doctorates, Stanford's civil engineering and electrical engineering departments have the best records hiring women. In the past five years, each hired more than three times as many women as would be expected, given the pool from which to draw. By contrast, in English only half as many women were hired relative to what might be expected from the national availability pool.

The committee's full findings and 16 recommendations (abbreviated here) break down into four areas:

Absence of a culture of support


Many current and former junior faculty of both sexes told the committee that the Stanford environment is not collegial and they have not been supported by senior colleagues.

While some schools and departments provide mentoring, it is not widespread. Women especially have trouble finding mentors because some men in their field do not think them intellectually worthwhile and others fear involvement with a junior woman "lest they become sexually attracted or accused of sexual harassment," the report said.

Although the committee did not set out to investigate sexual harassment, "we heard a number of accounts which led us to conclude that sexual harassment problems, where they occur, are not confined to any one part of the university, and are highly detrimental to the academic atmosphere."

In the area of salaries and tenure, junior faculty members complained of not understanding how their salaries were set and of not feeling intellectually and emotionally supported during the tenure process.

Some departments were cited for doing a good job of supporting their junior faculty members. The committee mentioned biological sciences as a department that "reaped considerable rewards from [its] policy of supporting junior faculty."

"In the last two decades, every person (male and female) to whom [it has] extended an assistant professor offer has accepted," the report said. Moreover, every junior faculty who has come here during that period has been promoted to tenure."

This supportive culture apparently does not compromise quality: The department was ranked No. 1 nationally in its field in 1993 by U.S. News and World Report, the committee noted.


1. The provost should hold department chairs and deans responsible for initiating and maintaining a climate of trust and support. Ongoing training should be available, and a handbook should be prepared, be available on-line and be revised regularly. The Provost's Office should provide an annual orientation seminar for new deans and chairs.

2. Deans and department chairs should communicate clearly and regularly with all faculty, and particularly newly hired and junior faculty, about the salary setting process; the availability of funds for summer salary, research start-up and travel to conferences; and the tenure process.

3. Deans and department chairs should develop means of providing intellectual and emotional support, especially to junior faculty. Junior faculty should be treated as colleagues, not as individuals who have to prove themselves in order to be colleagues.

4. Advising and committee obligations should be distributed in an equitable fashion. Women should not shoulder a disproportionate share of duties. Junior faculty should have a lighter service load than others, and the disproportionate amount of informal advising women are asked to do should be taken into account when assigning other duties and allocating awards.

5. Deans and department chairs should institute ongoing programs to educate and sensitize faculty members about sexual harassment, which has no place in a university.

Number and percentage of women faculty


A count of names in the 1967-68 faculty-staff directory showed there were 49 women on the Stanford faculty, composing 5 percent of the total body. Seven years later, in 1974-75, the university began keeping official statistics by gender. That year, there were 75 women, representing 7 percent of the faculty. Of these, 27 - or 4 percent - were tenured.

In 1992-93, Stanford employed 214 women who were members of the Academic Council, for a total of 15.8 percent. Of these, 94.5 women - or 11 percent - were tenured. Women held 16 endowed chairs out of 271.

The distribution of women across schools and departments ranges from no women in 11 departments to more than 40 percent in two departments - Spanish and Portuguese, and Health Research and Policy.

There are no tenured women in 30 out of Stanford's 70 departments, most of them in the sciences and mathematics, but some also in the humanities and social sciences. Women make up one-third or more of the tenured faculty in only eight departments, and six of those are very small departments with fewer than 16 faculty members.

In the last five years, four departments hired no faculty at all, 26 departments hired men but no women, and in eight departments, 50 percent or more or new hires were women.

One factor slowing the increase of women in the humanities and social sciences, the committee wrote, is the "narrow definition of scholarly merit that is used by some search committees." Women sometimes are working on problems that departments or search committees see as "not essential, outside the mainstream or intellectually unimportant. Excluding women who are working on non-traditional scholarship not only unnecessarily limits the pool of potential women faculty, but also limits the inclusion of new ideas at Stanford," the committee said.

In the area of hiring incentives, the committee reviewed data on use of the Faculty Affirmative Action Fund and the new Faculty Incentive Fund.

Between 1972-73 and 1989-90, the provost provided budget base support for 38 women and 19 men through the affirmative action fund. Departments could request the funds to help recruit females of any race or males of African American, Mexican American, Native American or Puerto Rican ancestry. Because departments decided on a case-by-case basis whether to seek the funds, a two-class system was created, the report said.

"Those women for whom additional funds were requested were seen as 'second class' and sometimes felt stigmatized," the committee wrote. Also, departments were unable to move quickly to make offers because of delays in the request process.

In 1991, the Faculty Affirmative Action Fund was renamed and redesigned. Now, when a school achieves a net increase in targeted minorities, it receives from the Faculty Incentive Fund an incremental half billet and an addition to its budget equal to half the average salary for faculty in that school.

To further avoid stigmatizing, the Provost's Office beginning last year took steps to provide schools and departments with regular budget allocations for the salaries of tenured faculty (women as well as targeted minority men) who were originally hired with money from the affirmative action fund.


6. The Provost's Office should annually report to the Faculty Senate the number and percentage of faculty women by department and school; by rank, tenure status and faculty line; and by percentage change over the past five years.

7. The provost should require each school dean to prepare a plan, with specific goals and timetables, for hiring tenured and untenured women faculty, based on likely attrition rates, possible growth of billets and size of the availability pool of qualified women at junior and senior levels.

Many departments believe it is taboo to hire their own Ph.D.s, but in departments where women are underrepresented, women Stanford Ph.D. recipients and postdocs should be viewed as suitable hires.

Where the provost deems it appropriate to help a school increase the number of junior and senior women through full or partial salary support, this should be done in a way that does not stigmatize individuals.

Hiring plans for each school should be made public, along with progress reports that would include information about new hires and attrition. If the school fails to fulfill its plans, and this cannot be explained by unusual circumstances, the provost should find ways to remedy the situation.

Salary and benefits


Last year, Provost Lieberman and three committee members reviewed "scatterplots" - salary data plotted on charts showing years since receipt of highest degree - with the salaries of women circled.

These covered full professors in five areas: humanities, social sciences and education, sciences, clinical fields at the Medical School, and non-clinical fields at the Medical School. (Other categories were deemed too small to maintain the confidentiality of individuals.)

Based on this examination, the committee said women faculty in some parts of the university are underrepresented at the high end of salary scales and overrepresented at the low end, holding constant the years since highest degree. The committee applauded efforts made in the last two years to improve salary equity.

In focus-group discussions and post-exit interviews, both women and men faculty reported that to get equitable merit raises, it was necessary to play the "offer game" - attracting offers from other institutions that Stanford would then match. This was particularly difficult for faculty members with spouses, and most reported a distaste for the game. However, those who had done it found it "can pay off handsomely," the committee said.

Both genders also felt they had little information about salaries and the salary-setting process, making it difficult to determine whether they were fairly paid.

Several women thought that many departments discriminated on the basis of gender in setting bonuses for clinical faculty, and some faculty felt they were unfairly treated with respect to summer support and internally funded research support.

Large numbers of faculty said some aspect of housing was their primary concern at Stanford. Many said salaries were inadequate to enter the local housing market; others said Stanford's assistance programs were inadequate. Still others said they had "demeaning" experiences with university and housing office personnel.


8. Deans should be asked annually to justify or rectify particularly low salaries, or salaries not commensurate with the achievements of the faculty members, especially women. They also should be strongly encouraged to raise low salaries of women with outstanding records. The provost should make funds available to deans to remedy salary inequities.

9. The provost and deans should discourage faculty members from playing the "offer game," which has a disproportionately adverse effect on women. Outside offers should not be required to obtain merit increases at Stanford.

10. The university should designate a staff member who would assist faculty members in determining how their salaries compare to colleagues' compensation, maintaining confidentiality in the process.

11. A committee should investigate possible gender inequities in non-salary compensation, such as salary bonuses, summer support and other internally funded research support.

12. The housing program should be reevaluated and improved to serve its fundamental objective of recruiting and retaining faculty members.

Combining academic careers with family life


The committee found four major problems cited by faculty in combining academic careers and family life: time pressures, inability to find nearby jobs for spouses or partners, difficulties with Stanford's maternity leave policy, and difficulties finding good child care.

In the past, a male faculty member usually combined work and family by marrying a woman who saw helping his career as part of her function, the report said.

"Today, few young faculty have that kind of person in their life," the committee wrote. "Virtually no women have such help-mates."

Coordinating dual careers is particularly difficult. Almost one-third of women and men who have left Stanford said that "their spouse's employment situation was a primary factor in their deciding to leave."

The problems are worse for women, the committee said, because they are often married to men who earn more than they do or believe that the wife's career should not take precedence over the husband's.

In the area of maternity leave, the committee found that Stanford's 1988 maternity leave policy is not well understood by faculty and administrators. The policy needs "thorough review and clarification," in part because of recent passage of the national Family Leave Act, the committee said.

Stanford's policy grants faculty women 13 weeks' full pay after childbirth, plus an additional quarter with no teaching duties, also at full pay. The policy does not state who must find replacement teachers, and the task often falls to the woman who is about to give birth.

"The policy needs to clarify that it is the department chair's responsibility," the committee said.

Faculty members who give birth may request a one-year extension in the tenure process, and this may be done for each of two births.

Among issues raised by the current policy, according to the committee: whether it should apply to adoption, whether it should be limited to two births, what postponement does to third- or fourth-year reviews, and the effect of postponement on the tenure evaluation.

Despite improvements in child care at Stanford in the last 20 years, the committee found several areas of complaint: the need for more child care that does not require parental help in the classroom, the need for more affordable care, and the need for more help with sick children. Parents also said they had difficulty getting children into available facilities.


13. The provost should investigate ways that those with special circumstances (e.g., raising a young child) could obtain additional flexibility in employment, such as a lengthening of the tenure process or temporary part-time appointment or reduction in teaching duties with a concomitant reduction in pay.

14. The Provost's Office should develop a mechanism to facilitate joint consideration of academic couples or partners, and should provide job placement advice and assistance for spouses and partners of faculty.

15. Faculty should not be penalized for taking advantage of maternity and infant leave policies.

16. The Faculty-Staff Benefits Committee should reexamine the maternity leave policy and the availability and affordability of campus child care.

Copies of the full report are available from the Provost's Office, 725-4895.


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