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From the President and Provost

Gender Equity: Third Annual Report

The issue of gender equity in academia, an issue of enormous importance to the University, has received substantial media attention recently. At Penn, a joint faculty/administration committee on gender equity published a report in Almanac (December 4, 2001) four years ago that dealt with this issue in detail. That initial 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. 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 some indication that increases had slowed or ceased in some areas. Reports since 2001 have sought to scrutinize data that bear on the issue of gender equity.

Faculty Census

In the Second Annual Report on Gender Equity, published in the December 16, 2003 issue of Almanac, discrepancies were noted between faculty composition as reported by the individual schools over the summer and those tallied by the Office of Institutional Research and Analysis in September. Closer examination revealed that most of the discrepancies resulted from personnel activity that continued well into the fall semester. The December 2003 Report committed the Administration to using a January faculty census as the basis for the year-to-year comparisons.   Because of this, there was an update to the Second Annual Report, using January 2004 faculty census data, published in the April 27, 2004 issue of Almanac. Table 1 gives comparisons using the September 2003, January 2004 and January 2005 faculty censuses. As indicated, for the University as a whole, the percentage of the standing faculty that is female increased from 26.70 percent to 27.32 percent from January 2004 to January 2005. If the School of Medicine is excluded, the percentage of females increased from 28.70 percent to 29.77 percent.

In considering whether the percentage of females in a given school has increased, it is necessary also to consider the pattern of recruitments and “defections.” Table 2 gives the year-to-year comparison by school. Overall, the number of men being recruited is just slightly more than those leaving the standing faculty. In comparison, the number of women being recruited is substantially higher than the number of women leaving.


In 2003, the Provost’s Office began requiring 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. A template was developed to provide this information on a uniform basis for each search and is sent to the Provost’s Office in July of each academic year.

The Second Annual Report discussed the tracking system utilized by the Provost’s Office and noted some inherent limitations that must be recognized, most notably that 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 for a given discipline, whereas Penn typically does not hire from the entire pool but rather from a subset of select peer institutions here and abroad. In addition, some sub-specialties and areas do not map neatly against a reported Ph.D. pool. Table 3 presents the analysis of searches that occurred in the 2003-04 academic year. In nearly all schools, the number of offers made to females was equal to or greater than the number of expected offers to females based on the applicant pool.

Faculty hiring at Penn is usually done at the departmental level. As a result, progress with regard to the hiring of females demands that departments be committed to this goal. During this academic year, the Associate Provost has paid particular attention to those searches where the actual applicant pool was unusually small, where the number of females in the actual applicant pool was lower than expected or where internal candidates were selected for appointment. Discussions with department chairs have focused on the need for a widespread, open search and the necessity of setting forth the rationale for the selection of the successful candidate.

Other Actions

As a concrete demonstration of the University’s commitment to faculty diversity and equity, the President and Provost in spring 2004 established a new position, Assistant Provost for Gender and Minority Equity. In April 2004, Professor Loretta Sweet Jemmott of the School of Nursing was named to this post.

Gender pay equity has long been deemed a fundamental aspect of female equality. The 2001 Gender Equity Report recommended that the equity of faculty salaries in all schools be reviewed with special attention to salaries of female faculty. During the 2004-05 academic year, the Provost’s Office has provided data to the Faculty Senate Committee on the Economic Status of the Faculty that compares male and female salaries. The Senate Committee is currently analyzing this data prior to discussions with the Provost’s Office on this subject.

The Gender Equity Recruitment and Retention Fund continues to be tapped to assist schools in recruiting and retaining tenured women. In FY 2004, $1,040,954 was expended, while $1,200,225 has been allocated for this year.

In April 2004, Penn and several peer universities met to consider progress made as a follow up to the MIT report on women in science. At this meeting, the universities compared data on the gender composition of science, engineering and business school departments. Penn’s profile did not differ in any significant way from those of the other universities. Nonetheless, all present recognized that while progress had been made, women still represent a small fraction of the total faculty in these areas. Attention focused on barriers to further progress. Among those identified was the length of training in some areas now that postdoctoral fellowships have become the norm in some fields, making it impossible for many women to postpone childbearing until after tenure. Another was the difficulty for those engaged in lab-based science of maintaining a semblance of family life. These factors were seen as causing the “leaky pipeline,” the label given to the phenomenon that the percentage of women in the relevant pool declines at every stage (from bachelor’s degree to doctoral degree to postdoctoral fellowship to assistant professor appointment). For instance, if one considers the percentage of undergraduate chemistry or accounting majors who are female and then one considers the percentage in the doctoral pool, or the percentage of assistant professors who are female, one sees a substantial drop-off. 

Results from a survey of faculty in the University of California system undertaken by Mary Ann Mason have been reviewed. Mason’s findings indicate that being female per se is not the factor that explains the leaky pipeline; rather, it is childbearing and childrearing because the time burdens of these activities fall disproportionately on women. During the 2004-05 academic year, work has begun on examining the causes of the leaky pipeline and how Penn can best support women in their progress on the academic track. Two ad hoc committees have been formed. One is focusing on difficulties female doctoral students confront when they have babies and young children and how Penn can act to reduce the burdens these students face. The other is looking at career-family balance, particularly the impact of current Penn policies on the career progress of junior faculty.  

The Faculty Senate’s Committee on Faculty Development has initiated a survey into the practices of the various schools with regard to mentoring of junior faculty. The Provost’s Office has supported this effort, and anticipates that a report identifying best practices will be forthcoming in 2005-06.


Discussions with academic deans, faculty leadership, junior faculty women and female doctoral students reveal not only a broad-based commitment to gender equity but a willingness to grapple with difficult issues relating to career-family balance. This latter effort will be needed if further progress is to be made in improving the success rate of women in academia. We anticipate that committees now working will produce recommendations for our consideration in 2005-06 that will identify specific actions that can be taken to further gender equity. We remain firmly committed to faculty gender equity and urge all faculty to share in this institutional commitment.



  Almanac, Vol. 51, No. 29, April 19, 2005


April 19, 2005
Volume 51 Number 29


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