The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

92° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Female faculty on the rise

Female faculty on the rise

Tenure-track female faculty members remain in the minority in 11 of the 14 colleges at the UA.

However, a review of data by the Arizona Daily Wildcat found that in the past 10 years there has been a rise in female faculty members on campus. In 1999, there were 402 female tenure-track faculty members, and in 2009 there were 508.

Growth of female faculty in the more science-oriented fields continues to lag behind. The College of Engineering is second to last in female faculty members with 14, or 12 percent of the college’s faculty. But Mary Poulton, the college’s first female head of mining and geological engineering, said “”there isn’t a bias in the hiring process.””

“”It’s just a symptom of the hiring pool available,”” Poulton said, “”and the college has really made great efforts during my career here to attract women to the faculty ranks as well as department head positions.””

When asked to rate her overall experience as a female faculty member in the College of Engineering, she had only one word: “”challenging.””

“”Parts of the job have been extremely positive and rewarding and other parts less so,”” Poulton said.

She would not comment on if she is treated equally and fairly with her male counterparts at the college. The college has almost doubled its number of female faculty members since 1999 from eight to 14 women.

Katherine Creath, a research professor of optical sciences who is taking time off, said she believes that, while the numbers of female faculty are low, they are growing.

“”One thing I can say is that over the last 25 years, since I got my Ph.D., the situation has gotten so women are much more integrated in what’s been going on,”” Creath said. “”There is a dearth of women who can act as mentors, older women faculty members.””

In 1999, there was only one woman out of the 25 faculty members in Creath’s college. In 2009, there were three out of 28 faculty members. The College of Optical Sciences has the lowest percentage of tenure-track female faculty members.

“”I didn’t seek help from other women in other departments at the university until probably the last 10 years,”” Creath said.

Creath believes women are not faculty members because of the amount of time required for the job.

“”In general, I think it’s important what I have found in the past with women colleagues is … 40 hours a week doesn’t exist,”” she said. “”Being a junior faculty member is a day and night and weekend job.

“”And friends I’ve had who decided to start families have dropped out of the academic world because they can work 40 hours a week and make more money and have time to be with their families.””

She said that women often choose to work in government labs, private companies or run their own business rather than academia.

Kelsey Palmer, a civil engineering junior, said she doesn’t know any of her female classmates who plan to go into teaching.

“”I want to be an engineer for either the government or a private company.””

The ones who choose to become faculty often have a strong support system.

“”A lot of these guys who work day and night (in academics) have someone who is at home buying groceries, fixing food,”” Creath said. “”The Ph.D. students have had their husbands who have supported their wives’ careers. They have done this because they know that their wife’s career will bring in more money or (be) more lucrative, so I’m seeing more non-traditional kinds of relationships that women are able to flourish within their professional careers.””

Jennifer Barton, a biomedical engineering professor, agrees that having support at home is beneficial but that the lifestyle does not appeal to all women.

“”I have an extremely supportive husband who does more than his share of household work,”” she said. “”And I have long hours — there’s travel involved. It’s, by nature, a competitive field for grants, publications. And I think that, to some extent, that that type of lifestyle is not appealing to a lot of women.

“”The UA has looked at ways to ease that burden, but a certain part of that is inherent.””

Barton found the UA to be very open to female faculty members.

“”I have great things to say. I’ve had an excellent experience here at the College of Engineering,”” Barton said. “”Both the dean and the previous dean really made it a priority to bring in female faculty, and the number of female faculty have really gone up drastically since I joined here.””

 

Jeff Goldberg, dean of the College of Engineering, said losing female faculty to other schools plays a role in the numbers.

“”We’ve lost some key ones,”” he said. “”There’s been a bigger increase in hiring, but they left because they got offers at other locations.””

The College of Engineering’s increase in female faculty members can be attributed, in part, to a new culture within the work place, Barton said.

“”I think you can just look at our upper administration — our provost is a woman, our vice president for research is a woman,”” she said. “”In Western culture, you prove yourself through your abilities and your background, and your gender is less important. I would never say it’s completely unimportant, but it reflects well on the UA and the state.””

Goldberg said that, when hiring, the department tries to combat “”unconscious bias.””

“”When we hire, we hire based on quality number one,”” he said. “”What’s important is you don’t use standard networks you have and to go outside your comfort zone and look at their resume. You can look at quality in a lot of different ways — it‘s not just publications.””

Goldberg also said that diversity is not about quotas, which the UA does not use, but about making the college stronger.

“”It’s important to have a diverse faculty to have a diverse set of opinions in curriculum design,”” he said. “”You don’t want the students seeing everyone who sounds and looks the exact same.””

Tenure-track female faculty members make up almost one-quarter of the faculty in the College of Pharmacy, the fourth fewest at the UA. Out of 33 tenure-track faculty members, eight were women in 2009.

In the four years that Marie Chisholm-Burns has been department head at the UA College of Pharmacy, she has hired seven women.

“”They rose up to the top,”” she said, citing that an increase in female students has diversified the hiring pool.

“”In pharmacy, surprisingly enough over the last 10 years, if you look at your class typically you see more females than males (students),”” Chisholm-Burns said. “”I think it’s more about letting people know what a wonderful career it can be in terms of academia, and it’s more about mentoring and encouraging.””

Chisholm-Burns was the first female to get promoted from the rank of assistant professor to full professor at the University of Georgia, she said.

“”Now I’m in a different role … you look at it in a different point of view,”” she said. “”There is certainly room to do greater things and to promote diversity, not only female diversity but diversity in general.

“”But that’s easier said then done.””

More to Discover
Activate Search