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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Cause of Higher Tenure Rates for Men: Productivity or Sexism?

Inside Higher Ed, Productivity or Sexism?:

In discussions about the gender gap among tenured professors at research universities, there is little dispute that there are far more men than women with tenure in most disciplines. But why? Many have speculated that men are outperforming women in research, which is particularly valued over teaching and service at research universities. With women (of those with children) shouldering a disproportionate share of child care, the theory goes, they may not be able to keep up with publishing and research to the same extent as their male counterparts.

A study presented here Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association finds that those assumptions may be untrue in some disciplines. [Kate Weisshaar (Stanford), Measuring the Glass Ceiling Effect: An Assessment of Discrimination in Academia.] The study compared tenure rates at research universities in computer science, English and sociology -- and then controlled for research productivity. 

Not only are men more likely than women to earn tenure, but in computer science and sociology, they are significantly more likely to earn tenure than are women who have the same research productivity. In English men are slightly (but not in a statistically significant way) more likely than women to earn tenure. ...

In sociology, she found that the odds of a woman earning tenure were 51 percent lower than for men, when controlling for research productivity. In computer science, the figure was 55 percent. Those gaps are "highly significant," she said. These figures suggest, Weisshaar said, that it's not that women have to find ways to become as productive as men, but that women must be more productive than men if they want to earn tenure at a research university.

The gap may be particularly striking given that studies have in the past found that female faculty members tend to face larger service burdens than do their male counterparts and that they spend more time on teaching. So in theory, men who do better in the tenure process should be doing so on the basis of research output.

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The tenure system essentially bases your career on your performance between ages 28 and 45, more or less exactly the time most professional women have children. So we're asking whether it discriminates? Of course it does.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 19, 2014 4:23:02 AM

Biology is cruel.

Posted by: terry malloy | Aug 19, 2014 5:44:42 AM

You're wrong on this, mike and terry. Her study controlled for research productivity. That means that there was a gap even only comparing women and men who published the same amount. This isn't even about childbearing.

Posted by: Lilly Irani | Aug 19, 2014 10:30:39 AM

Not convincing. It could mean that it is harder for them to write and that leaves less time for other activities. You can't "control" for everything.

Posted by: mike livingston | Aug 20, 2014 4:44:29 AM

Sure, it controlled for research productivity, but did it control for research quality?

Posted by: Bruce Russell | Aug 20, 2014 4:47:11 AM

Academia is run by progressive Democrat men. Progressive, Democrat men don't consider women to be equal. Hence women don't get equal compensation in institutions controlled by progressive Democrat men even when they objectively do equal or superior work.

Posted by: Bill Lawrence | Aug 20, 2014 5:36:50 AM