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National Research Council Reports Women Faring Better in Hiring and Tenure in Mathematics

June 10, 2009

Although women are still underrepresented in the applicant pool for faculty positions in mathematics, science, and engineering at major research universities, those who do apply are interviewed and hired at rates equal to or higher than those for men, an exhaustive report from the National Research Council concludes.

National surveys of faculty showed, for example, that women accounted for 28% of interviewees for math positions at colleges and universities—and received 32% of job offers. These percentages also held true for tenured math positions, even though women made up only 20% of applicants.

The surveys of tenure-track and tenured faculty in six disciplines—mathematics, biology, chemistry, civil engineering, electrical engineering, and physics—at 89 institutions across the United States, were conducted in 2004 and 2005.

Titled "Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty," the congressionally mandated report also elucidated gender differences in salary (women earn 8% less than male counterparts); climate and interaction with colleagues; access to institutional resources; and so-called outcomes (grant funding; nominations for awards and honors; offers of positions at other institutions; and so on).

"Our data suggest that, on average, institutions have become more effective in using the means under their direct control to promote faculty diversity, including hiring and promoting women and providing resources," said Claude Canizares (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). "Nevertheless, we also find evidence for stubborn and persistent underrepresentation of women at all faculty ranks."

"Overall the newly released data indicate important progress, and signal to both young men and especially to young women that what had been the status quo at research-intensive universities is changing," said Sally Shaywitz (Yale University). "There is a movement toward more gender equity than noted in previous reports or often publicly appreciated. At the same time, the findings show that we are not there yet."

Source: National Academies, June 2, 2009.

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Start Date: 
Wednesday, June 10, 2009

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