Faculty Diversity Developments

The annual report on faculty development and diversity shows gains for women, but slow progress for black and Latino professors. Further progress, ironically, may come from senior-faculty retirements.

Women now hold 26 percent of the ladder-faculty positions (professor, associate professor, assistant professor) at the University—395 positions out of 1,507—and minorities 17 percent—258 positions—according to the 2009 annual report of the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity (FD&D), published today. The report and accompanying exhibits are posted at the FD&D website. 

According to the report, the number of ladder faculty members rose by 96 (7 percent) during the past six years; senior appointments rose from 888 to 997, and the junior-faculty census declined from 523 to 510. Two-thirds of Harvard’s ladder faculty members are full professors, and just one-third are in the junior ranks (assistant and associate professors), where women and minorities are much more heavily represented.

The data, published under the auspices of FD&D’s director, senior vice provost Judith D. Singer, show that within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), women hold 22 percent of the senior professorships, but 37 percent of the junior appointments. By division, women hold 23 percent of the full professorships in the social sciences, 32 percent in the humanities, 12 percent in the natural sciences, and 9 percent in engineering. The representation of women in the junior-faculty ranks is a different story entirely: 46 percent of junior-faculty members in social sciences are women, 40 percent in humanities, 28 percent in natural sciences, and 22 percent in engineering.

In the professional schools, the proportion of women in the full-professor ranks ranges from a low of 14 percent in the dental school, 16 percent in the medical school Quad (excluding the faculty in the affiliated hospitals), and 17 percent at the law school, to highs of 22 percent in public health, 36 percent in divinity, and 37 percent in education (where Singer herself is Conant professor of education).

The population of minority faculty members remains small, with Asian/Pacific Islanders accounting for 168 ladder positions (and accounting for two-thirds of the growth in the past six years), and black, Latino, and Native American professors as a whole holding just 90 positions—representing, respectively, 3 percent, 3 percent, and 0.2 percent of the University faculty overall.

The report notes that in the University’s faculty ranks, the number of women has risen by 55 (or 16 percent) during the past six years. The number of black faculty members has risen by just five since 2003-2004, and is in fact down by two compared to last year. From 2003-2004 to the current year, the share of junior-faculty appointments held by women has risen from 34 percent to 36 percent, while the proportion of senior-faculty appointments has risen by 3 points, to 21 percent.

In the current economic circumstances--with new hiring slowed significantly in FAS, the largest faculty (about 47 percent of the University total), and retirement incentives looming for senior professors--the most significant changes in the future composition of the faculty may, ironically, come from shrinkage, rather than continued growth. Given the proportionally higher representation of women among the junior professors, retirements among a faculty skewed toward the senior ranks would tend to make the professoriate more diverse, all other factors held equal. Given the very limited number of black and Native American junior professors, the effect of retirements on further diversifying the faculty among these underrepresented groups would be negligible.

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