Cynthia Leonor Garza
WASHINGTON—While women have continued to play a greater role in higher education instruction in the last half-century, progress in faculty diversity has not kept up with student diversity, according to an American Federation of Teachers report released today that recommends ways to make positive changes on campuses.
The report, “Promoting Gender Diversity in the Faculty: What Higher Education Unions Can Do,” calls on colleges, universities and faculty unions to do a better job of promoting gender diversity on their campuses by addressing and eliminating barriers in educational attainment, hiring and retention.
Women make up 57 percent of all college students, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Education, yet women represent about 40 percent of the full-time instructional workforce and about 50 percent of the part-time staff, the AFT report says. Also, on average, women earn less than their male counterparts, in general as well as in specific disciplines. For instance, women faculty in the life sciences earn on average $13,226 less than men earn.
“Role models make a difference in student success. Research shows a direct correlation between female undergraduates’ success and the percentage of women faculty members. We must do better to ensure equity and excellence on our higher education campuses,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.
The report offers specific recommendations, including correcting inequities in compensation, expanding family-friendly campus policies, providing more flexibility in tenure and promotion policies, fostering opportunities for women in math and science, and ensuring women have a voice in their workplaces and in their unions.
“Even in times of budgetary cuts, our colleges and universities have an obligation to make sure that the people who teach at these schools reflect the great diversity of our students and nation,” said Derryn Moten, co-chair of the Alabama State University Faculty-Staff Alliance and vice chair of AFT Higher Education.
“To get ahead, women must overcome the fact that often their childbearing and caregiving years are some of the most demanding years of their professional career,” said Sandra Schroeder, chair of AFT Higher Education, president of AFT Washington and an AFT vice president. “Faculty can play a leading role to help ensure that their campus is welcoming and to eliminate any barriers to women’s success in their chosen field.”
The report also highlights a number of activities already under way to break down these obstacles, and proposes steps unions can take on their campuses, including:
- Educating hiring committees about gender diversity;
- Using collective bargaining as a way to ensure equitable compensation for new hires;
- Encouraging family-friendly policies, such as adding time to the tenure clock for junior faculty with young children or creating a travel fund for faculty with small children to bring a child along to a conference; and
- Strengthening the preK-12 college connection.
The report also notes that women of color face a double challenge. As was detailed in an AFT report released last year, “Promoting Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Faculty: What Higher Education Unions Can Do,” people of color are underrepresented in the faculty ranks and face a number of barriers in pursuing the tenure track. That report also included recommendations for ways faculty could promote racial and ethnic diversity on campus.
Both diversity reports can be found at: