Persistent Sex Bias Found in Colleges

Times Education Writer

Discrimination against women seeking faculty jobs continues to be a serious problem in the nation's colleges and universities, despite a widespread perception to the contrary, according to a study released today by the University of California.

Because the number of women in the pool of eligible applicants for teaching posts has increased visibly in the last few years, the public has assumed that if appropriate screening procedures are followed, there is no longer an "affirmative-action problem" for women--but that is simply not the case, the study contends.

Women continue to be concentrated in women's colleges, community colleges and small liberal arts colleges, rather than in major research universities, the study says. They are clustered in the lower academic ranks or in part-time or non-tenure-track positions. And they tend to be found in fields traditionally associated with women: that is, education, English, foreign languages, nursing, home economics, fine arts and library science.

Wherever they teach, women faculty members continue to be paid less than their male counterparts. They rise through the academic ranks more slowly, and they receive tenure at lower rates than men, the study found.

Similar problems face minority groups, and in some ways their problems are even worse, since so few minority students ever make it through college, let alone graduate school, the study says. For that reason, the study notes, relatively few minority members are in a position to consider college teaching as a career.

Those minorities who have completed the requisite graduate programs tend to be employed by certain kinds of institutions--that is, the smaller, less prestigious colleges. Typically, the study found, blacks are in historically black colleges in the South and Latinos are in Catholic colleges and small state universities in the Southwest.

And, like women, minority teachers are clustered in the lower ranks, in part-time and non-tenure positions and in those fields, such as education and the social sciences, that have low visibility and little prestige. Blacks and Latinos are simply not to be found in high-demand scientific and technological fields, the study notes.

The study, conducted by Joyce Bennett Justus, one of the highest-ranking black or female administrators in the UC system, found that the University of California, in comparison to other comparable research universities, such as Harvard, Stanford and the University of Michigan, has done "as well or better" in the hiring and promotion of minority faculty. Indeed, the nine-campus UC system as a whole has the highest overall proportion of minority faculty of any of the nation's major research universities included in the study.

But UC's success in this regard is relative: Only 4.4% of UC's tenured faculty and 7.9% of its non-tenured faculty were members of under-represented minority groups, the study says.

By contrast, UC has done less well than at least half the competition in hiring and promoting women. With women accounting for 10.1% of its tenured faculty and 28.6% of its non-tenured faculty, UC ranks about midway in comparison to other major research universities, the study says.

Slow Progress

UC's affirmative-action progress has been slow at best, and at times non-existent, throughout the nearly two decades that federal and state governments have mandated special efforts to recruit and promote minorities and women in academic institutions.

But this study is harder hitting than most, the authors say, because UC, like other colleges and universities in the country, is at a turning point. Having hired the bulk of their faculties during the educational expansion of the 1960s, universities are now expecting a surge of retirements over the next decade, which will result in a huge turnover in their teaching staffs.

"In this period," the UC report says, "it is projected that approximately 40% of the current (tenured or tenure-track) faculty members will retire; simultaneously, enrollments are expected to increase, indicating further demands for additional faculty. Thus, the next two decades present an unusual opportunity for the university to improve dramatically the representation of women and minorities on its faculty."

Few to Choose From

Part of the reason that has always been given for universities' poor record in hiring women and minority groups has been that there have been so few women and minorities in the academic pipeline. Such excuses will not suffice in the current hiring situation, the UC report contends.

Indeed, the report argues, the university as a whole, and the faculty in particular, must take "extraordinary actions" to ensure that teaching faculties become substantially more diverse over the next few years.

For example, the study argues, the onus of hiring more women and minorities must fall squarely on the shoulders of department chairmen. Not only should department heads be given orientation lessons to sensitize them to affirmative-action issues, they should be asked to fulfill certain goals in regard to the hiring and promotion of women and minorities. Those departments that are particularly successful or creative in their approaches to finding and hiring under-represented groups should be given rewards in the form of additional teaching posts, the study suggests.

The study, entitled "The University of California in the Twenty-First Century: Successful Approaches to Faculty Diversity," includes assessments of the affirmative-action programs and records of 15 universities. Along with UC, the study covers Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, MIT, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Stanford, the State University of New York, Texas, Wisconsin and Yale.

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