Study of women faculty in the humanities and social sciences cites successes, points to areas for improvement

Princeton continues to make gains in the hiring and retention of female scholars in the humanities and social sciences, but substantial recruiting efforts will be necessary to further increase the representation of women in the decade to come, according to a recent faculty study.

The report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Princeton was released by the Office of the Dean of the Faculty Oct. 6 as part of the University's continuing efforts to improve the representation of women on the faculty.

The report showed the University made some gains from 1992 to 2002, as the percentage of female faculty members in the humanities and social sciences increased from 23.2 percent to 26.9 percent. However, progress in hiring women varied greatly across the 20 departments in the humanities and social sciences, where the percentage of faculty vacancies that resulted in female hires ranged from 9.1 percent to 100 percent.

"While there has been progress, there is still much work to do," said David Dobkin, Princeton's dean of the faculty. "I look forward to the day when the pool attracted to every faculty search has a profile similar to the talent pool in the discipline."

Princeton Psychology Professor Joan Girgus drafted the study of women faculty in the humanities and social sciences to continue the work of a 2003 report released by the Task Force on the Status of Women in the Natural Sciences and Engineering at Princeton. That report led to Girgus' appointment as special assistant to the dean of the faculty to oversee gender equity issues.

"I think the most significant finding is the remarkable parallels in the data between this report and the report on the status of women in the natural sciences and engineering," Girgus said. "There is a tendency to think that the situation that was described in the natural sciences and engineering report is unique to those fields where women have traditionally been represented in low numbers, but, in fact, the data are actually quite similar, particularly between the social sciences and the natural sciences and engineering."

Both reports found little difference between salaries or the length of time for male and female faculty to attain tenure. Like the natural sciences and engineering report, the humanities and social sciences report explored the University's practices in regards to hiring, promotion and retention from 1992 to 2002, tracking the number of women in untenured, tenure-track and tenured positions.

The percentage of women in individual departments varied greatly in 2002, from 10 percent to 57.1 percent, and the women in half the departments made up less than 30 percent of their overall faculty.

The report stressed the need for better utilization of the available pools of women applying for faculty positions. The findings showed that 13 of 18 departments that hired new faculty in the humanities and social sciences over the 10-year period took low or moderate advantage of the available pool of female Ph.D's.

"I am already incorporating the findings into my work," Girgus said. "The chairs of all the departments have had an extended discussion about how to encourage more women to apply for assistant professor positions at Princeton based on what we have learned about how much better women are represented in the Ph.D. pools than they are in the applicant pools for our positions."

The next step, Girgus said, is to improve the recruitment and hiring of women at both the junior and senior levels, as well as to increase the retention of tenured women. Several measures already in progress -- including two spawned by the initial task force on women faculty in the sciences and engineering -- should help with this effort.

The University has adopted a policy that allows faculty members to automatically extend their tenure period if they have children, and Princeton is proceeding with efforts to develop a jobs database that will help spouses of faculty find jobs near the University.

In addition, Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman has charged a working group with planning for a significant expansion and improvement of child care at the University. Girgus said that it is generally accepted that women bear more of the obligations associated with parenting than men do.

Tilghman, who also appointed the initial task force to study women faculty in the sciences and engineering, said these studies provide important data to consider when making decisions about ways to improve the climate for women faculty on campus. The result, she said, will be a better environment for all employees.

"The goal is not only to assure that there are no gender-based professional inequities, but also to provide a continued commitment to improving the quality of life for all Princeton employees so that they may maintain better work-life balances," Tilghman said.

The full report on the Status of Women Faculty in the Humanities and Social Sciences at Princeton is available online.