Friday, May 27, 2011

De-Valued Impact in Promotion

In a recent study on promoting women to full professor by Georgia Institute of Technology sociologist Mary Frank Fox and cultural studies and literature professor Carol Colatrella, most faculty members could identify the list of expectations for tenure. However, fewer faculty could identify the list of expectations for promotion from associate to full professor. Because an institution may not establish straightforward expectations, promotion to tenure is based on vague criteria. One finding is that the time to reach tenure is longer for women than men, especially women at research-intensive institutions. Why? University of Pennsylvania education researcher Laura Perna's analysis of National Study of Postsecondary Faculty data find entrenched institutional practices may be disadvantageous to women.

Mission statements of e.g., higher education, give clues to values revered by that institution. Mission statements may emphasize education, research, and public service but often do not list the weight of their value. At research-intensive institutions, research seems to be the only one that matters, although all involve time commitments. In a recent study by Misra, Hickes Lundquist, Holmes, and Agiomavritis (January/February 2011 issue of Academe, Vol. 97, No. 1.), men are found to be more protective of their research time than women. Women devote more time to teaching, mentoring, service, and bridge-building at their institution. These worthy activities may be valued by the woman but they are less-valued by the institution in terms of promotion.

So where does change need to be made? When applying for a job, seeking tenure, and/or seeking promotion to full professor, one should ask for the weighted percentages of what is considered worthy by that institution. After all, impact to the field via service, teaching, and policy may be less-valued or not valued by that institution. Also, women need to be more protective of the research time if they are at an institution that seems to only value research. Or, if a woman values her service and teaching, then she may wish to move to an institution that values her impact to her field. In my opinion, if more women moved to institutions that valued their impact, women are likely to lead happier lives and be promoted in equitable amounts of time.