The lamentable lack of female professors


The lamentable lack of female professors

Promotion and self-promotion

Women may fail to win chairs because they do not cite themselves enough

ONE of academia’s deficiencies is that, though its lecture halls and graduate schools are replete with women, its higher echelons are not. Often, this is seen as a phenomenon specific to the sciences. A report published in 2008 by America’s National Science Foundation, for example, found that in most fields of science and engineering male full professors outnumbered females by nearly four to one. In fact, the disparity applies to the whole grove. Another report from 2006, by the American Association of University Professors, found the same ratio in the faculties of arts, humanities and social science, too.

Observers are divided about the cause. Some think the system’s androcracy simply perpetuates itself, as powerful men promote other men to positions of power. Others believe that because women more often step off the career ladder to raise children, they thereby put themselves at a disadvantage in the cut-throat competition for preferment when they return to work.  

A few even cling to the idea that at the highest levels of some subjects (maths, physics and engineering are those usually cited) male brains are more likely to be attuned to what is required than female ones are—though most keep quiet about that particular opinion, having seen the public roasting dished out to Larry Summers, then president of Harvard University, in 2005, when he dared to suggest some research supported it.    [Read more]


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