equity in higher education

How men benefit from family-friendly tenure policies

Kelly Bedard, University of California, Santa Barbara; Heather Antecol, Claremont McKenna College, and Jenna Stearns, University of California, Santa Barbara

On Friday, August 26, as we celebrate Women’s Equality Day – a day marking the 96th anniversary of the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women the right to vote – it is a time to reflect both on the progress that has been made on gender equality and on how much work still remains.

As academics, we are well aware that gender gaps continue to exist on American campuses. It is true that female students now outnumber male students, and also that more women earn professional degrees compared to men. But it is also true that only 28 percent of tenured faculty are women.

Tenure represents a permanent job contract. It usually takes about six or seven years of being on tenure track – a probationary period during which a junior professor’s publication record, teaching ability and departmental service are monitored and assessed – to get tenure.

In recent years, many research universities have adopted more “family-friendly” tenure rules aimed at helping women balance family and career. Our research shows that despite such policies, gender equality remains elusive in academia when it comes to tenure consideration. Rather, some of these policies are helping men, not women.

Gender-neutral tenure policies

For most people, the tenure process occurs during their late 20’s and early 30’s. These years typically align with women’s prime child-bearing years. This can hinder women’s research productivity and thus reduce their chances of earning tenure.

More generally, having children could reduce the probability of being promoted in a variety of professions. Women’s early career productivity could fall due to the time time spent in child bearing and child care.

However, the problem might be particularly acute at research universities where research productivity during the few years before the tenure decision is especially important.

Women’s productivity in early years of their careers could fall when they have children. John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Follow, CC BY-SA

In response, during the 1990s and 2000s many research institutions adopted “gender-neutral tenure clock-stopping policies.” These policies were intended to make it easier for women who have children to earn tenure.

The policies are gender-neutral: That is, they allow parents of either gender to avail their benefits. They allow new parents to extend their terms as assistant professors. They stop the tenure clock for one year for each new child, up to a maximum of two.

In other words, new parents get more time before they have to go up for tenure. These policies are independent of leave-taking, meaning that assistant professors can continue to work while gaining the extra time on their tenure clocks.

The idea is to allow new parents to make up for lost research time. And also, so women and men should not need to sacrifice family for career, and vice versa.

Are these policies equitable?

We recently conducted a study, “Equal but Inequitable: Who Benefits from Gender-Neutral Tenure Clock Stopping Policies,” on these tenure clock-stopping policies.

Our study focuses on economics professors – a very male-dominated field. A 2014 survey by the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession (CSWEP) shows that in economics, women constitute 30 percent of assistant professors, 23 percent of tenured associate professors and only 12 percent of full professors.

Gender-neutral policies are believed to reduce stigma about use by encouraging male participation, at least with regard to economics faculty. We believe one of the primary reasons universities have adopted gender-neutral policies is that there was low take-up under policies that only applied to women.

However, we found no evidence that they have helped women earn tenure.

In fact, we found the policy – designed to help women get tenure – instead raised male tenure rates, at least in top economics departments.

The probability of a man getting tenure in his first job increased by 19 percentage points after such a policy was adopted. By contrast, the probability of a female academic getting tenure fell by 22 percentage points.

We believe male publication rates rise with the extra time, but female publication rates do not.

So, these gender-neutral policies are equal in the sense that they give the same benefit to women and men who have children. But they are inequitable in that the time cost (or productivity loss) experienced by men and women is quite different.

For example, it is women who become pregnant, experience morning sickness, give birth and breastfeed. As such, we believe, giving an equal extension without an equal productivity loss might better be described as unequal. And it is certainly less than clear that it will level the playing field in terms of tenure rates.

Why there is a need to rethink

Although our results represent a single discipline, they certainly raise concerns that this could be a problem across a broad range of fields. Female tenure rates are lower across almost all academic disciplines. In science disciplines, men who have children before tenure are 24 percentage points more likely to earn tenure compared to women with children. And in the humanities and social sciences, men with children are 20 percentage points more likely to earn tenure.

Our results suggest we might want to rethink these policies. One of the arguments in favor of “gender-neutral clock-stopping” policies stems from women having been discouraged – by their male colleagues – from taking advantage of policies that apply to mothers only.

Why extending the same benefits to men and women is not equitable. Penn State, CC BY-NC

Our research findings, based in the discipline of economics, do raise the question whether extending equal benefits to men and women is equitable in practice. We also don’t know if these policies had a similar effect in other disciplines with different publication requirements.

While it is easy to instruct the people making tenure decisions to ignore the additional time on the tenure clock, it is not as easy to know how it actually affects their thinking about the tenure case and hence their evaluation.

Need family-friendly policies

In theory, gender-neutral policies that attempt to level the playing field by adjusting measures of productivity to account for early child-rearing sound promising. However, as our research shows, such policies could have unintended consequences that actually hurt women.

We believe university administrators need to reopen the discussion on tenure policies, and the extent to which these benefits are extended to men and women.

But universities are not the only places where family-friendly policies may have unintended consequences. Lawyers, financial professionals and doctors are also likely to be promoted based on early measures of success. Evidence shows family gaps in each of these professions, especially among top earners.

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, let us emphasize the need for more family-friendly policies to create a more level playing field for high-skill professionals who face rigid and important promotion decisions early in their careers.

The Conversation

Kelly Bedard, Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Barbara; Heather Antecol, Boswell Professor of Economics, Claremont McKenna College, and Jenna Stearns, Ph.D. Student, University of California, Santa Barbara

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Minority faculty revisited: Why is America so disproportionate?

If America is the land of opportunity, then earning a college degree is the key to really tapping the potential of that opportunity. In the last century going to college has transitioned from something reserved for the elite to something that everyday citizens can aspire to do (with enough financial aid). There’s certainly a case to be made for the need for more diversity on college campuses, but overall our nation’s university system is improving the variety of students on campus and making the experience attainable to all class levels. It’s not perfect; but there’s a push to improve.

One area where colleges and universities consistently fall short, however, is in the number of minority faculty they employ. There are not enough professors of color. There are not enough women. There are not enough who represent the LBGTQ+ community. If we truly want our student body to be diverse and feed into a diverse workplace, we need to start where those students are earning their educations.

Not an accurate representation

Compared to the general U.S. population, diversity in college faculty is much lower. This isn’t to say that all the professors are white, of European descent (though that number is high) though. A recent report from Mother Jones found that:

At some schools, like Harvard, Stanford, the University of Michigan, and Princeton, there are more foreign teachers than Hispanic and black teachers combined.

So we are hiring diverse faculty members on a global stage, but not a national one. There are an estimated 41.7 Black Americans, and an estimated 54 million Hispanic ones, according to the 2010 U.S. Census numbers. That comes out to about 13.2 percent and 17 percent of the total U.S. population, respectively. To put this in perspective, there are student protests going on at Michigan public universities, demanding that 10 percent of faculty members be African American. When you take urban areas like Detroit (where 84.3 percent of the population is Black) into account, asking for 10 percent is a drop in the bucket – yet students are rallying to get the support to make it happen.

Can we change?

So the real question in all of this is not so much “is this happening?” but “what can we do to change this?” The first part is awareness which it seems we are achieving.

The second part is for schools to take on the responsibility and step up to change it. That isn’t happening on as wide a scale as it should, but there are glimmers of hope that adding more minority faculty members is on the horizon for a good number of schools. A few good examples include:

  • Brown University, which has announced that it is dedicating $100 million to look into diversity and race issues on its campus in the next decade. The faculty at the Providence campus is overwhelmingly white and male.
  • Lewis & Clark College in Oregon planned a diversity forum for December 7 after a Rwandan student reported being assaulted because of his skin color. The school’s president Barry Glasner has also said an action plan is being put in place to improve diversity in faculty and students, as well as race relations at the school.
  • The University of Connecticut plans to hire a Chief Diversity Officer who will works towards improving diversity of the student population AND of faculty and staff. UConn’s president Susan Herbst has said publicly that she was disappointed in the lack of diverse faculty members when she first arrived on campus four years ago and that UConn is severely lacking in an area where it really should shine. The trend of hiring Chief Diversity Officers is a positive one, as long as these executives are really empowered to make changes.

In the end, more minorities on college faculty only serves the benefit of everyone. It gives minority students realistic role models and gives non-minority students the chance to work with professors who may not look like them. Even the colleges themselves benefit from the added life experiences these minority faculty members bring to the table. In order to tap into the potential of a truly diverse, truly experience-rich college experience, we need to pay just as much attention to the variety in our faculty as we do to our students.

Change is Here: Why Higher Education Needs the Hispanic Community to Succeed

The face of higher education is rapidly evolving as more middle- to low-class young people find ways to obtain a college degree or technical training. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is no exception as the number of college applicants and enrollees increase every year. While these strides benefit this specific group of students, everyone stands to benefit from Hispanic higher education success.

The Numbers

The U.S. Census reports that the estimated Hispanic population in the nation is 52 million – making residents of Hispanic origin the largest minority in the country. In fact, one of every six Americans is a Hispanic. That number is expected to rise to over 132 million by 2050 and Hispanics will then represent 30 percent of the U.S. population. Children with Hispanic roots make up 23 percent of the age 17 and under demographic — making future higher education legislation critical for this growing and thriving minority group.
The Issues
Young people of Hispanic origin face specific challenges when it comes to higher education. Many prospective students are first-generation Americans, or even undocumented residents, and do not have the first-hand experience or guidance from parents regarding the college experience in the U.S. Like all other ethnic groups, Hispanic youth face financial difficulty when trying to determine if college is a possibility. Many young Hispanics may feel overwhelmed by the social and financial pressure associated with college attendance and are in need of the right guidance. While higher education initiatives are changing to address these issues, only 13 percent of the Hispanic population over the age of 25 had a bachelor’s degree or higher in the 2010 Census.

Federal Initiative

The Obama administration recognizes the rapid growth of the Hispanic community, specifically as it impacts higher education, and has put several pieces of legislation into motion including the DREAM Act. First introduced in the U.S. Senate in August 2001, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act was designed to reward children in good standing that came to the country illegally. Temporary residency is granted for a six-year time frame for young people that seek out higher educational pursuits with an option for permanent residency after completion of a bachelor’s degree or beyond.

The bill went through several iterations before President Obama announced in June 2012 that his administration would stop deporting undocumented immigrants meeting DREAM Act criteria. While this legislation applies to more than Hispanic immigrants, they are the group that stands to benefit the most from its enactment. With no fear of deportation, Hispanic youth with higher education aspirations are free to pursue them and work toward a better individual and collective future.

What’s Ahead?

Increasing higher education opportunities for Hispanics has obvious positive benefits for the demographic itself, but the influence will be felt even further. Think of it as a ripple effect, where the Hispanic community represents the initial splash and all other ethnic groups feel the impact too. The Obama Administration has made known its goals to make the U.S. the leader in college degrees earned in proportion to population. In order for this goal to be met, Hispanics (specifically those of Latino descent) will need to earn 3.3 million degrees between now and 2020. The economic success of geographic areas, specifically urban areas, is directly affected by the number of college graduates that study and stay there. In states like Texas, this is an especially poignant point where a one-point college graduate rate increase can result in $1.5 billion more in annual economic activity for cities like San Antonio. Without the help of Hispanic youth, these numbers are difficult, if impossible, to achieve.

Legislation like the DREAM Act is just the start of changing the culture of higher education to be more welcoming to Hispanic youth. Individual colleges and universities must also step up and offer academic and financial aid programs with specific Hispanic needs in mind. The future achievements of higher education in the U.S. are dependent upon the inclusion and success of Hispanic students and the same is true of a stable economic climate. The sooner that federal and state initiatives, along with colleges and universities, embrace these inevitabilities, the better.