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December 24, 2007
Volume 85, Number 52
pp. 44-46

Small Increase In Women Faculty

C&EN's annual survey shows women making slow progress

Linda R. Raber

DESPITE SOME PROGRESS gained over the past year, women continue to suffer from low representation on chemistry faculties in the U.S. At the 50 chemistry departments that spend the most on research, the proportion of women on chemistry faculty rose to 15% from 14% last year. Representation of women at the assistant and full professor ranks increased slightly at these universities while holding steady at the associate professor rank.

Universities in the second tier, those ranked 51-100, which were surveyed for the first time this year, have a considerably smaller proportion of women at the associate professor rank than do universities in the top 50; otherwise, there is little difference in the representation of women among the first- and second-tier university chemistry departments.

These are some of the results of C&EN's most recent survey of chemistry departments in the U.S. This fall, C&EN surveyed the 100 universities identified by the National Science Foundation as having spent the most on total and federally funded research in chemistry during fiscal 2005, the latest year for which data are available.

C&EN contacted the universities by e-mail and asked them to provide the number of male and female tenured and tenure-track faculty holding full, associate, and assistant professorships with at least 50% of their salaries paid by the chemistry department in the 2007-08 academic year. These numbers exclude emeritus professors, instructors, and lecturers, as well as any faculty and endowed professors whose salaries are not paid by the chemistry department. The response rate was 98%; nonresponding departments' data were taken from the faculty listings on their websites.

For 2007-08, women make up just 11% of full professors and 22% each of assistant and associate professors at the top 50 chemistry departments. These ratios have changed little from last year (C&EN, Dec. 18, 2006, page 58). This year, there are a total of 1,616 chemistry faculty in this tier; of them, 235 are women.

The second-tier departments were surveyed this year on the chance that the proportion of women on their faculties might be different at this level. There was very little difference. Overall, women at departments in this tier also make up 15% of all faculty, including 11% of full professors, 18% of associate professors, and 23% of assistant professors. In these 50 universities, women held 169 of 1,149 faculty posts in chemistry.

FOR THE TOP 50 schools, there is a tie this year for the school with the highest proportion of women faculty between Rutgers University, which shared top honors in last year's list, and a newcomer to the list, the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center; each has 25% of its chemistry faculty who are women. Coming in second in the top 50 is the University of California, Los Angeles, where 24% of the faculty are women. UCLA joined Rutgers University at the head of the list last year. In third place this year is Purdue University, with 23% of its chemistry faculty who are women. In absolute numbers, Purdue has the most women in the top tier, with 12 on its chemistry faculty.

In the second 50 universities, Virginia Commonwealth University leads its cohort with 44% of its chemistry faculty who are women. Coming in second in this tier is the City University of New York, Hunter College, with 35% women, and third, the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, with 30% women. In absolute numbers the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, with 12 on its faculty has the most women.

At an October hearing in the U.S. House of Representatives, University of Miami President Donna E. Shalala reiterated what is becoming an often-heard but little-heeded call to action.

Along with others testifying before a subcommittee of the House Committee on Science & Technology, Shalala called on "faculty, university leaders, professional and scientific societies, federal agencies, and the federal government" to unite to ensure that "all of our nation's people are welcomed and encouraged to excel in science and engineering in our research universities."

Shalala, who was testifying as chair of a 2006 National Academies study, "Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering," told lawmakers that women scientists and engineers are impeded "because of gender and racial/ethnic bias and outmoded 'rules' governing academic success." She called women's underrepresentation on academic science and engineering faculties "deeply troubling and embarrassing."

The study, which is available online at www.nap.edu, discusses the concept of attaining a "critical mass" of women within individual departments. The theory is that if the number of women in a department grows to about 20%, a social tipping point occurs and women "start to perceive their common interests and join together to press for improvements in policies relevant to their needs." Given this definition, only 11 departments in the top 50 and 11 departments in the second 50 have the gender diversity to reach this critical mass. Many chemistry departments are likely lonely places for women faculty.

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Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
Copyright © 2011 American Chemical Society

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