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Female Professors Promoted Less Rapidly Than Male

By CityTownInfo.com Staff
April 28, 2009

A study released this week by the Modern Language Association indicates that English and foreign language departments in colleges and universities promote male associate professors to full professors far more quickly than females.

The study, called "Standing Still," concludes that it takes an average of 8.2 years for women to be promoted to full professors, compared to 6.6 years for men. The findings are based on a March 2006 survey of 401 English and foreign-language professors.

"You would have thought persistent inequity would have vanished by now," noted Dr. Kathleen Woodward, the report's lead author, who was quoted in Diverse Issues in Higher Education, "but it hasn't."

Time notes that the findings indicate that promotions for women lagged behind men regardless of whether the women were single, married, divorced, with children or without--challenging the conventional notion that childrearing is responsible for slowing down women professionally. In fact, the study found that surprisingly, women with children were promoted more rapidly than those without children.

One theory explaining the latter phenomenon suggests that being a parent helps people complete tasks more efficiently. "Women become highly focused when they have so many different things to do," explained Woodward.

Inside Higher Education reports that the survey found significant gender differences regarding use of time. While women, on average, spent more time than men on teaching-related duties, men spent more time on research. The authors attribute these and other "microdifferences" in time spent on various personal and professional activities to the disparity between what men and women accomplish.

Additionally, the report noted that academic rewards are largely bestowed by men, which is unlikely to change until more women become professors.

The MLA recommended several steps to help close the gender gap in promotion, such as creating mentorship and leadership training programs specifically geared to women and establishing clear guidelines and paths for promotion.

"Institutions should promote people based on their values," said Rosemary Feal, MLA executive director, who was quoted in Time. "So if they value service to the college community and they value teaching, they should find ways to evaluate professors' entire profile when they consider them for promotion."

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