Professor Reports Gender Bias in UC
Martha West, a professor of law at the University of California, Davis, recently released a report revealing possible gender discrimination in UC hiring practices for professorships.
West received much of her statistical information from the UC Office of the President.
According to the information from the UCOP, from 1984 to 2004, 698 men and 294 women obtained tenures at UC Irvine. Overall, 5,922 men and 2,554 women were tenured within the UC system during this time period.
During the 2003-2004 academic year, the UCOP reported that 42 men and 29 women were hired at the tenure level at UCI.
‘We’re very concerned,’ West said. ‘The UC is in the middle of a hiring surge, yet the percentage of women [hired at the UC] is down.’
According to West, the newly-hired UC faculty will represent the structure of the faculty for the next few decades. If women are not hired at the same rate as men, West fears a lasting gender discrepancy.
West’s report stated that the problem with hiring practices stems from the fact that ‘all the talk about gender equity had been at the top,’ and decision-makers at lower levels are not kept informed about policies.
West would like the UCOP to increase communication with all levels of UC administration.
‘Each chancellor should know about this,’ West said. ‘Every faculty member should receive a letter that shows these statistics. … Unless we call attention to it, [the hiring practices] won’t be known.’
West cites perceived gender roles as a possible reason for discrepancies between male and female hiring rates.
‘[In our] society, women are seen as less competent than men,’ West said.
Herbert Killackey, associate executive vice chancellor and professor of neurobiology and behavior at UCI, did not see the differences in hiring rates between male and female professors as a sign of discrimination.
‘To me, discrimination implies something active,’ Killackey said. ‘I don’t think there is something active. I would say that there have been places of neglect, and I do think there is a lot of effort going into correcting the neglect.’
Killackey cited the UCI Advance Program, which promotes gender equality, as one way in which UCI has worked toward fixing this problem.
‘We have a very large grant from the National Science Foundation that is aimed at institutional transformation and gender equality across the campus,’ Killackey said.
This grant has provided the Advance Program with ‘effective models for successful recruitment, retention and advancement of women faculty,’ according to a program brochure.
‘We have hired a lot more female assistant professors,’ Killackey said. ‘It’s probably true that it’s easier to find women as assistant professors. … It’s a lot harder to go out and hire [female] senior professors. At the same time, certain other units on campus have done a good job about that. The math department, which you sort of think of as a [male-dominated field], last year and maybe the year before … hired two distinguished women as professors, and I think that’s really great.’
Killackey concluded that the neglect is ‘a problem we’re very aware of, and one this campus is working to correct.’
Students reacted to West’s claims with some skepticism.
‘Correlation doesn’t mean causation,’ said Patrick Staley, a second-year history major. ‘It seems like this researcher is jumping to conclusions.’
Donya La Haye, a third-year international studies major, would like more information before deciding whether the claims are valid.
‘It depends on how many male and female applicants there are. If there are an equal number [of qualified candidates], then I’d see it as a problem,’ La Haye said.