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From the President and Provost

Gender Equity: Penn's Second Annual Report

The issue of gender equity is one of enormous importance to the University. Ensuring that women are afforded equal and fair employment opportunities, at all faculty ranks, is essential if the University is to maintain a world-class faculty, recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest in each discipline. It is also required by anti-discrimination laws, which provide that it is unlawful to make employment decisions on the basis of gender. For these reasons, and in order to assess the status of women at Penn, a joint faculty/administration committee on gender equity published a report in Almanac (December 4, 2001) two years ago that dealt with this issue.  The report addressed the distribution of women among the Standing Faculty and Standing Faculty-Clinician Educator ranks, their retention and promotion rates, the number holding leadership positions and endowed chairs, possible salary inequities, and quality of life issues. The data showed that although the University had made gains in many of these areas, there was considerable variability among schools and departments; furthermore, there was an indication that increases had slowed or ceased in some.

In response, the President and Provost laid out a series of steps designed to improve gender equity among the faculty. They made gender equity a priority of the University's strategic plan and asked the deans to make it a priority in their school plans. The President and Provost also committed to developing policies that would hold all academic departments accountable for gender equity and pledged to report back each year to the community on Penn's progress. Their first annual report was published in the November 19, 2002 issue of Almanac and provided an overview of the steps they had put into place. 

Since that first report, Penn has made progress overall in the hiring and retention of women. The new tracking system that was put into place has provided data that can now be used prospectively to measure success and accountability; departments have actively sought out targets of opportunity for women in fields where they are underrepresented;  and the Faculty Senate Executive Committee has been working closely with the President and Provost to ensure that gender equity is a priority of the faculty. The Provost also met individually with each of the deans—and with faculty or with department chairs in most schools—to stress the importance of increasing the number of women and underrepresented minority members on Penn's faculty and the need to have members of those groups actively involved in the search process. 

Concrete Incentives to Promote an Increase in Women Faculty

The initial Gender Equity Report pointed out that although many academic departments do a superb job of recruiting, hiring, supporting, and promoting women faculty, there are others that still do not. The committee concluded that gender equity problems "reside primarily in individual departments rather than at the University level." They suggested that the President and Provost work more closely with the deans to develop ways to correct those problems. Following are some of the steps that were taken. 

School Strategic Plans

The University's new strategic plan makes faculty excellence a primary goal and stresses the importance of Penn being proactive in hiring and retaining its best and brightest faculty at all levels, paying particular attention to gender and minority equity and to the development of new mechanisms for appropriately enhancing and expanding recruitment efforts in key areas and key populations. 

Since the publication of the University's plan (Almanac December 4, 2001), the twelve schools have developed their own strategic plans; all affirm the goal to expand and support a more diverse faculty. In addition, the schools have committed themselves to mentoring and nurturing these faculty at all points along their career path.

  The School of Medicine, for example, has established the Gender Equity Council, whose role is to advise the dean and department chairs on the recruitment and retention of outstanding women faculty as well as to develop ideas and policies to make the environment of the school more collegial and supportive. Department chairs have been asked to report progress with respect to gender and minority equity as part of their annual reports (beginning with the FY 2002 annual report) and in their three-year academic plans. The school also continues its financial support for the FOCUS Leadership Mentoring Program for Women in Academic Medicine, a group whose mission is to promote advocacy, education, and research in women's health and to support the advancement and leadership of women in academic medicine.

Gender Equity Recruitment and Retention Fund

Substantial funds have been expended to support the recruitment and retention of senior women faculty (associate professor or above). Although much of this funding has come from the schools, almost $1.3 million has been granted through the Gender Equity Recruitment and Retention Fund established by the Provost over a year ago. In FY2003, $440,137 was expended, while $842,931 in support has been allocated for this year.

Tracking Systems

During the past year the Provost's Office has required that the schools, working with their departments, collect information regarding the number of women in the applicant pool for each faculty search, the number who are interviewed, the number who are offered positions, and the number who accepted, as well as the number of women who served on each search committee. They also were asked to report on faculty resignations. 

A template was developed to provide a uniform basis for reporting the details of each search. Table 1 is an example of a completed template for one school. These collected data are submitted to the Provost by July 1 of each academic year.

Data submitted by each school were then analyzed further by the Associate Provost. The percentage of women candidates in each Ph.D. pool was used to calculate the number of women who could be expected to apply for a given position. The number of actual applicants was used as a basis for calculating the number of women who could be expected to be interviewed and to be offered a position. These expected numbers were then compared to the actual departmental data in each category. As can been seen in Table 2, the internal template provides a clear picture of the departmental search process. 

Table 3 provides this analysis for the entire University. The data show that several of the schools actually received more women applicants than might be predicted on pipeline data alone. All but one school interviewed more women than would be predicted. Most of the schools also made proportionally more offers to women than would be expected from the applicant pools. All these observations suggest that the faculty are working hard to identify the best women candidate available in each applicant pool, and are encouraging these applicants to continue moving through the search process.

Although a great deal of effort has been spent in obtaining, validating and tabulating the data that is used in this report, there are some inherent limitations that must be recognized. The "expected" number of women applicants is highly dependent on information concerning the pool of available Ph.D. candidates. Most availability data reflect the entire pool of Ph.D.s produced in the United States per a given discipline. Penn, however, does not hire its faculty from the entire pool, focusing instead on graduates from a select number of peer institutions both here and abroad. Departments may also recruit new faculty in particular subspecialties for which there are no availability data (although this is rapidly changing). Where the only data available are for a broad discipline, one cannot assume that gender distributions of Ph.D.s in sub-specialties are necessarily proportional to the discipline as a whole. Finally, for some departments, disciplinary data are only approximate matches. Despite these caveats the availability data do provide an approximate basis for assessing the recent efforts for gender equity  by Penn's departments and are useful in suggesting areas of possible vulnerability.

As a result of these tracking efforts, data now exist that can promote accountability for results. For example, the data indicate that all of the schools included women on most of their search committees. Both Engineering and Wharton, for example, had women serving on each of their committees. However, a few of the other schools were not as successful. The Provost has discussed these reports with the deans with the aim of ensuring that all future search committees include women.

  The new monitoring process and the incentives that are in the pipeline have focused attention on those departments that are making progress in all aspects of this effort and those that are not. The deans have been asked to work with the latter departments to make necessary improvements and to consider how such departments can benefit from the experience of others in their school who have proven successful at finding and recruiting talented women faculty.

Overall Status and Changes in Faculty Composition

The data indicate that Penn has made progress overall in the hiring and retention of women. The 1999 census data used in the initial Gender Equity study showed that women accounted for 23.8% of the faculty. In 2002 that percentage had grown to 25.6% and this year stands at 26.5%. Based on the data set that has been used in the past for inter-institutional comparisons such as the Stanford and MIT studies, which excludes schools of medicine, these percentages are even higher—26.9% in 2002 and 28.3% in 2003.

As Table 4 demonstrates, nearly every school showed a general improvement from last year to this with respect to the percentage of women on their faculty. Of particular note are the data from the School of Arts and Sciences, which show that the fraction of new appointments was over 37% women, and in the Wharton School, where women constituted over 30% of the new appointments. For the University as a whole, women accounted for 38.7% of new faculty appointments.

Increasing the percentage of women among the faculty is a slow process; that is why Penn needs to remain vigilant in its recruitment efforts of women and, once they are here, take steps to help ensure that they remain.   Indeed, one reason that the total percentage of women increased this year is the fact that Penn was more successful and proactive in retaining its women facutly members than in the past.

Time Frame for Future Reports

An initial attempt to understand the results of the schools' efforts to increase the percentage of women on the faculty was made over the summer of 2003, when schools were asked to report on the changes in their faculties since last year. These reports indicated clear increases in the number of women faculty members in almost all schools. Since these reports arrived at different times and were based, in some cases, on tentative appointments, a comparison was made with the changes shown in the faculty census data for September 2002 and 2003. The census data showed the same general trends, but with minor differences in actual numbers. 

A name-by-name comparison showed that both comparisons had serious shortcomings. The September 2003 census did not include the names of newly recruited faculty members whose appointments—either for September 2003 or January 2004—had been approved after that date. It also included many names of faculty members who had left the University, but whose departure had not yet been officially sanctioned. The data from the schools was much more accurate on departures, but in some cases reflected optimism on pending appointments that proved to be unjustified.

Neither the data reported from the schools nor the September faculty census data provide a precise measure of the changes in the standing faculty between Academic Year 2002-2003 and Academic Year 2003-2004.  Efforts to bring these two comparisons into alignment are continuing. The school reports will continue to be refined during the next two months.  Those data will then be compared with the census data for February 2004, which should accurately reflect all appointments effective in 2003-2004 as well as the changes from 2002-2003. An update to the Gender Equity Report will be published in March reflecting the final data. In order to maximize accuracy and lessen confusion in the future, all subsequent annual Gender Equity reports will be published in March.

Looking Ahead

During the past academic year, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee has worked closely with the President and Provost to make gender equity a priority of the faculty. The Tri-Chairs have reminded their colleagues that increasing the number of women on the faculty and retaining them must be a shared university goal. It is the faculty, after all, not the department chairs, nor the deans, nor the President or Provost, who make the hiring decisions. 

In March, the Senate Executive Committee created an ad hoc Committee on Faculty Development to examine the means of improving faculty mentoring, to investigate the possibility of clarifying the issue of quality versus quantity in faculty promotions, and to study best practices at Penn and elsewhere with respect to achieving equity—including gender and minority equity—across the university.

The hope is to make this ad hoc committee a standing committee, which requires the approval of the entire Senate membership. In the meantime, the ad hoc committee, under the leadership of Debra Leonard in the School of Medicine, has begun its work.

Although it is far too soon to see any dramatic changes, it is anticipated that increasing the numbers of women in departments where there have been few women faculty will effect a culture change that will make the department more attractive and help to successfully recruit new women faculty. Certainly the goals that the schools had put forward for mentoring and nurturing faculty, with a particular focus on women and minority faculty, should result in an environment conducive to successful recruitment and retention.

As was noted in last year's annual report, meaningful change will come incrementally. The University must, of course, always be mindful of legal requirements that preclude discrimination on the basis of race or gender. Schools can and must, however, be encouraged to continue to aggressively identify all of the most qualified candidates in the pipeline, ensuring that their processes are designed to include women; encourage women to apply for open positions; and monitor the recruitment process to make it attractive to women. Penn will remain vigilant in its recruitment of women and, once they are here, take steps to help ensure that they will remain here. All of Penn's schools are urged to share this institutional commitment.


  Almanac, Vol. 50, No. 16, December 16, 2003