Butler’s gender imbalance among tenured faculty not likely to last

Men significantly outnumber women in the tenured ranks of Butler University.

Institutional data released in the fall of 2011 indicates that 61 percent of Butler’s tenured full-time faculty is male and 39 percent is female, but university officials said that may change in coming years.

Typically, professors and associate professors are tenured while assistant professors are un-tenured, interim provost Kathryn Morris said.

Because Butler has more male than female professors and associate professors, the number of tenured men is higher than tenured women.

But at the assistant professor level, there are more female than male faculty members — almost none of whom possess tenure. In other words, a great deal of faculty on track to earn tenure are women, who upon achieving tenure will offset the current imbalance.

Morris said as time passes, the percentage of male and female tenured faculty should balance out.

“My sense is 60 to 40 is not atypical, and in the next five to seven years we’re likely to see that even out even more,” Joel Martin, associate professor of psychology, said.

Institutional research from Creighton University, a private university of comparable size located in Omaha, Neb., shows a wider gap between male and female full-time tenured faculty members—65 percent to 35 percent, respectively.

Creighton also has 33 percent of its total full-time faculty tenured, compared to Butler’s 51 percent.

Margaret Brabant, professor of political science, said what causes the gender imbalance is difficult to determine.

“There are a whole host of variables— social, economic, political variables—that come into play,” she said. “We see this historical shift in the number of women who have gone into the professoriate, into the academy, and with time’s passage we may be seeing that gender imbalance minimally begin to balance.”

Martin said that as times change and senior (tenured) faculty members retire or leave, junior (un-tenured) faculty, of whom women are the majority, are brought up to replace them.

While these statistics highlight male and female tenured faculty, Jason Goldsmith, associate professor of English, said they don’t take into account women who are in positions of power, such as deans, the provost and various chairs of departments and programs.

Brabant said eliminating the tenured gender imbalance may not be a realizable goal for the university.

“You can often have equally desirable but ultimately incompatible moral goals,” she said. “And sometimes you just can’t hit all of your variables and take care of all of the problems all at once. That would be a perfect world.”

To achieve tenure, faculty members must submit tenure dossiers, which is a file of detailed records, to their department or program in the beginning of the fall semester, Morris said. The candidate’s dossier is then reviewed at the departmental or program, college and university levels, and the Board of Trustees chooses whether to give final approval at its meeting on March 1.

According to the academic affairs calendar on Butler’s website, President Jim Danko then will provide written notice on April 1 of the board’s decision to the faculty member being considered for tenure.

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