The Experience of Being a Junior Minority Female Faculty Member

Article excerpt


According to the 2010 Almanac of Higher Education (published by the Chronicle of Higher Education), in Fall 2007 there were 703,463 faculty members of all ranks, both tenured/tenure-earning and non-tenure-earning. Of that number only 119,906 (17%) were minority faculty; among the minority faculty, 53,661 (7.6%) were Asian, 37,930 (5.4%) were black, 24,975 (3.55%) were Hispanic and 3340 (.47%) were Native American. Among senior tenured faculty (Associate Professor and Professor) the numbers are even bleaker; of the 317,087 faculty at those ranks, 23,321 (7.35%) were Asian, 13,694 (4.3%) were black, 8842 (2.8%) were Hispanic and a mere 1132 (.35%) were Native American. Collectively, tenured, senior minority faculty (not including foreign nationals) comprise a paltry 6.68% (46,989) of the professoriate. Without exception, men outnumber women in every racial category in the senior ranks; minority women account for only 15,347 senior, tenured faculty, which equals only 4.8% of the senior faculty and an abysmal 2.18% of the professoriate (Almanac 2010).

For minority women who are tenure-earning (Assistant Professors), these numbers are daunting, and the numbers at their own rank are not encouraging either. In Fall 2007 there were 168,508 assistant professors, 79,767 (47.3%) of them women. Of those 79,767 women, 7253 (9.1%) were Asian, 6035 (7.6%) were black, 3064 (3.8%) were Hispanic and only 381 (.48%) were Native American (Almanac 2010). Not only do minority women who are tenure-earning have few contemporaries with whom to form friendships and support networks, there are even fewer senior minority women faculty to serve as professional exemplars, mentors or advisors.

This lack of senior faculty who are minority females has been well documented in recent years through national surveys such as the National Survey of Post-Secondary Faculty (NSOPF) in 1988, 1993, 1999 and 2004 and the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) Surveys. Trends over the last 20 years show that women persistently: earn less than men; hold more part-time and non-tenure-earning jobs; are less likely to be tenured and less clear about tenure and promotion criteria; spend more time on teaching and service, and less time on research; are less satisfied with their departments and their institutions; and are more likely to be employed at teaching institutions, particularly community colleges (Nettles, et. al. 2000; Bradburn, Sikora and Zimbler 2002; Cataldi, et. al. 2005; Trower and Gallagher 2008; COACHE 2008; Lee 2001; Chait 2002; Aguirre 2000; Glazer-Raymo 1999). Similar discrepancies also persist for minority faculty, including: lower salaries than white faculty; being less likely to be senior faculty and less likely to be tenured; less clarity about tenure and promotion criteria; spending more time on service activities (except Asian faculty); being less satisfied with the climate in their department and the collegiality of their fellow faculty members; and being more likely to work at a community college (Nettles, et. al. 2000; Bradburn, Sikora and Zimbler 2002; Cataldi, et. al. 2005; Trower and Gallagher 2008; COACHE 2008; Lee 2001; Aguirre 2000).

In 1992, only 15% of women in the professoriate held the rank of full professor compared to 39% of male faculty (Nettles, et. al. 2000); in 2007 the percentage of women in academe who had achieved the rank of full professor was only 15.6%, while the percentage of men who held that rank was 31.2% (Almanac 2010)--still double the percentage of women. For black faculty, 21% held the rank of full professor in 1992 (Nettles, et. al. 2000); by 2007 that percentage had slipped to 15.4% (Almanac 2010).

It would seem we still lack either the information or the will--or both--to remediate the problem of poor minority female faculty retention effectively. The information presented above, while meticulously researched and excruciatingly descriptive, tell us what the current faculty situation is, without telling us why or how it came to be that way. …


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