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From the President and Provost

Gender Equity: Fourth Annual Report

On December 4, 2001, a joint faculty/administration committee on gender equity published a report in Almanac that, for the first time, dealt with this issue in detail. That initial report addressed the distribution of women among the Standing Faculty and Standing Faculty–Clinician Educator  (CE) 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. Reports since 2001 have sought to analyze data, and report on data that advance gender equity at Penn.

Faculty Census

Because personnel activity continues well into the fall semester, in December 2003 it was decided that an annual census of the faculty would be taken in January, and that this would be the basis for year-to-year comparisons. It should be emphasized that the census is essentially a snapshot of the composition of the faculty on a certain day rather than a complete picture of what has happened in a given year. That snapshot only includes counts of positions that were filled as of January 31, 2006 and does not include allocated slots that had not yet been filled.  This new system was instituted in January 2004, and at this point we can compare data for three years. Table 1 gives comparisons using the January 2004, January 2005 and January 2006 faculty censuses. The data reveal that, for the University as a whole, the percentage of the standing faculty that is female increased from 26.7% to 27.1% in the two-year period from January 2004 to January 2006; however, there was little movement in the past year. At the School level, the picture is more varied

In addition to determining whether the percentage of females in a given School has increased, it is necessary also to consider the pattern of recruitments and departures. Table 2 gives the year-to-year comparison, by School. During the past year, more women and more men have left Penn than have joined the faculty. Once again, there is variability among the Schools. In the Standing Faculty-CE track, the School of Medicine has experienced net losses for women and men. In contrast, the School of Medicine has increased the number of women on the non-CE Standing Faculty by six whereas the number of men has declined by seven. In the tenure/tenure-track Standing Faculty, the School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Dental Medicine have seen net losses for both men and women, with the decrease being disproportionately larger for women.

Schools with Standing Faculty-Clinician Educators, stayed essentially the same size except for the School of Medicine. To a large extent, this reflected the migration of some School of Medicine Clinician Educators to the recently created Academic Clinician track. For the non-CE Standing Faculty, the size of the faculty in ten of the twelve Schools stayed about the same. The School of Dental Medicine is an exception, which plans to re-seed junior faculty positions. The School of Arts and Sciences, which aims to grow the size of its faculty, experienced a larger number of departures than expected and the decrease shown in Table 2 reflects the time lag that occurs when new faculty have been recruited, but not yet formally appointed.


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 a uniform basis for reporting the details of each search in a report that is sent to the Provost’s Office at the end of each academic year. 

The Second Annual Gender Equity Report (Almanac December 16, 2003) discussed the tracking system utilized by the Provost’s Office.  The Report noted some inherent limitations in the system, most notably that the “expected” number of women applicants is highly dependent on information concerning the pool of available Ph.D. candidates.  Most of the availability data available to Penn reflect the entire pool of Ph.D.s produced in the United States for a given discipline. Generally, Penn faculty members are hired from the most highly ranked doctoral programs in the U.S. 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 2004-05 academic year.  With the exception of the School of Medicine, the number of offers made to females was what would be expected based on the applicant pool. 


Other Actions

The 2001 Gender Equity Report recommended that the equity of faculty salaries in all Schools be reviewed with special attention to salaries of women faculty.  During the past year, the Provost’s Office sought to compare male and female salaries.  This effort was greatly hampered by the inconsistent entry of academic base salaries into the payroll database.  Work is now being undertaken to construct an integrated faculty database, as part of  phase II of the design and implementation of the Faculty Information System which is already underway. Particular attention is being paid to the definition of fields such as “academic base salary” to enable the University to conduct more thorough analyses of pay equity issues.

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 traditionally male fields.  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.  Most barriers to greater progress are directly related to family obligations, which fall disproportionately on women. On November 21, 2005, the presidents of the nine leading research universities who have been meeting on this topic pledged that their universities would develop academic personnel policies and institutional resources, and take steps to improve campus cultures to better support family commitments.

Last fall, graduate students with infants pointed out the difficulties they have when they bring their child to campus, for example the lack of changing tables or private areas for nursing mothers in most buildings.  Alerted to this oversight, the Deans committed to installing changing tables and identifying spaces that might be used by nursing mothers. High traffic areas such as the Graduate Student Center and Houston Hall were among the first to have changing tables installed.

Academic Policies

Making academic careers compatible with family responsibilities is essential if universities are to achieve gender equity.  Over the past year, substantial time and attention has been directed at revising Penn’s policies to achieve more robust family accommodation policies.

In 2004-05, a group of female doctoral students and faculty, dubbed Women in Academe, began meeting to discuss some of the difficulties they faced in attempting to combine career and family.  In April 2005, then Associate Provost Janice Bellace convened a working group of Associate Deans for faculty and faculty women to discuss the various Penn policies relating to career-family balance, and in particular, to the impact such policies have on the career progress of junior faculty when a new child enters the home. Both groups identified the time at which a woman gives birth and the period when the child is very young as being the most disruptive to career progress. Both groups expressed dissatisfactions with Penn’s policies because they lacked certainty with regard to application and left new mothers at a significant disadvantage.

Ph.D. Students. In fall 2005, GAPSA and GSAC followed up on the work of Women in Academe by focusing on difficulties doctoral students confront when they have babies or young children.  They began working with Deputy Provost Janice Bellace, the Council of Graduate Deans and the Graduate Council of the Faculties to determine how Penn could reduce the burdens on our students. Throughout the fall term, proposals were drafted and submitted for consultation.  In February 2006, these proposals were approved (Almanac February 28, 2006). The new policy on Childbirth Accommodation for Ph.D. Student Mothers stipulates that a student who anticipates giving birth shortly before or during the academic term, or during the period covered by stipend support, is eligible for a “Time Off” period, typically six to eight weeks, for late stage pregnancy, delivery, and post-natal recuperation. During the “Time Off” period the student remains enrolled full-time; continues to draw stipend support; and is entitled to academic accommodation, including relief from academic requirements.

Under the newly revised policies, a Ph.D. student now may take an unpaid family leave of absence for the birth or adoption of a child, for childcare, or to care for an immediate family member with a serious health condition.  An approved family leave of absence, which may be for one or two semesters, “stops the clock” on the student’s academic requirements, and allows the student to remain active at Penn. Upon paying a fee, students on approved family leave will retain their PennCard, e-mail accounts, library privileges, and building access. 

Faculty.  The Working Group on Career-Family Balance focused particularly on the impact of current Penn policies on the career progress of junior faculty.  It was widely agreed that the arrival of a new child into a family, either at the time of birth or adoption, typically requires that one parent devote substantial time to childcare duties, often of such a nature that the duties cannot be delegated to another adult. The Working Group recommended several modifications to Penn policies. In fall 2005, these recommendations were discussed with various consultative bodies, including the Council of Deans, the Academic Planning and Budget Committee, and the Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity of the Faculty Senate. The proposed amendments to the policies in the Faculty Handbook became effective on February 24, 2006 (Almanac February 28, 2006). 

To eliminate confusion over the applicability of relief from teaching and the timing of any time-off period, the faculty maternity policy was revised. Under the new Faculty Parental Policy, a member of the Standing Faculty who is the primary caregiver of a child newly arrived in his/her home is entitled, without reduction in pay, to a reduction in teaching duties amounting to a 50% reduction in a given academic year. The primary caregiver will have flexibility in selecting the period without teaching duties, which will commence within six months of the baby’s birth or the child’s arrival in the home.

The policy on Extension of the Probationary Period was revised.  Since the aim of this policy is to level the playing field for junior faculty with significant family obligations, members of the Working Group believe that it defeated the purpose of the policy if all new parents, regardless of time spent on child care, received an extension to the probationary period.  They also noted that some faculty were fearful that if they took an extension, it might be viewed negatively. The new policy maintains eligibility for both male and female faculty members but limits it to those who are “the primary or co-equal parental caregiver” and defines this as a parent who undertakes 50% or more of the parental caregiver duties. To underscore the fact that eligible faculty have a right to a one-year extension, the newly revised policy states that Deans and department chairs should ensure that eligible faculty know of this policy. To invoke the policy, eligible faculty member must notify his/her Dean of the extension of the probationary period. Finally, to dispel any negative effect of taking an extension, the newly revised policy directs the Dean, when soliciting external review letters in the case of a candidate who has had one or more extensions of the probationary period, to state explicitly that the candidate has received such an extension by virtue of the University’s policy and to direct the reviewer not to take the additional time granted into consideration when evaluating the candidate’s productivity.


In 2005, the Faculty Senate’s Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity initiated a survey into the practices of the various Schools for mentoring junior faculty. In March 2006, the Committee, chaired by Professor Sherrill Adams, issued its report which identifies best practices in place at Penn  The Provost’s Office will work with the Deans, the Faculty Senate and senior faculty members to develop guidelines with a view toward ensuring that all junior faculty will receive appropriate mentoring supportive of their career development.

During the past year, discussions with academic Deans, faculty leadership, junior faculty, and doctoral students demonstrated a broad-based commitment to gender equity and a willingness to grapple with difficult issues relating to career-family balance. The new policies approved this February should position Penn to make further progress in improving the success rate of women in academia and to giving needed support to those with family responsibilities. We remain firmly committed to faculty gender equity and look forward to continuing to work with the Deans and Department Chairs to realize this commitment.



  Almanac, Vol. 52, No. 31, April 25, 2006


April 25, 2006
Volume 52 Number 31


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