Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Disparities in the Professional Development Interactions of University Faculty as a Function of Gender and Ethnic Underrepresentation

Academic journal article The Journal of Faculty Development

Disparities in the Professional Development Interactions of University Faculty as a Function of Gender and Ethnic Underrepresentation

Article excerpt

This study explores the interpersonal faculty development interactions of university faculty as a function of their demographic representation (with regard to gender and ethnicity) in their home departments. For one academic semester, a small sample of 30 tenure-track junior faculty participated in a weekly diary checklist study in which they logged all their mentoring and professional development communications, noting the status of those involved in the interaction and the content. Demographically privileged faculty (whose gender and ethnicity were not underrepresented in their departments) reported more interactions overall, more with higher status colleagues, and more on content critical to retention. Extrapolating from the disparities revealed in this single semester (which benefitted demographically privileged faculty with an average of 13 more faculty development interactions), a gap amounting to 130 faculty development interactions could accumulate favoring privileged over underrepresented faculty by the end of a typical 10-semester tenure probationary period. Results warn of the need to attend to subtle accumulating privilege in the interpersonal professional development opportunities available in the academy.

It must be a question of the well-being and opportunities not of a few but for all.

-Paul Robeson, 1949

Effective mentoring has been increasingly recognized as an important professional development resource (Blackwell, 1989; Boice, 1992; Frierson, 1997; Gonzales, 2003; Holloway, 2001; Moss, 2008; Santos & Reigadas, 2002). The faculty development interactions that socialize faculty into the academy involve more than just a mentoring relationship in the traditional sense. To "survive", faculty members may receive mentoring and professional development advice from a wide range of interpersonal interactions, covering a range of content. One of the strengths of mentoring is its highly varied, interpersonal, and often informal nature (Boice, 1993; Bova, 1995; Johnsrud & Atwater, 1993; Sorcinelli, & Yun, 2007; Turner & Thompson, 1993; Ragins & Scandura, 1997). In its broadest sense, mentoring is interpersonally communicated professional guidance on a wide range of professional topics through interaction with fellow junior colleagues, in social get-togethers, and in consultation with senior colleagues, chairs, administrators, and mentors (Gaskin, Lumpkin, & Tennant, 2003; Johnson-Bailey & Cervero, 2002; Sandler, 1993; Turner, 2003). As a boost to professional development, access to a wide range of mentoring interactions can help level the playing field for women and ethnic minority faculty, providing necessary information to help encourage productivity, retention, and advancement (Sorcinelli, & Yun, 2007; Williams & Blackburn, 1988).

Regretfully, research suggests that faculty development via interpersonal interactions may occur unevenly across faculty demographic groups, putting certain faculty at a serious disadvantage. For instance, women in male dominated environments report difficulties in accessing mentoring (Feist-Price, 1994; Gibbons, 1993; Gibson, 2006; Gilbert & Rossman, 1992; Noe, 1988b; Rios & Longnion, 2000). This is partly due to women being less likely to develop a comfortable rapport with potential senior ranking men over shared hobbies or interests (Ragins & Scandura, 1997) or senior men's fears that informal crosssex interactions might lead to gossip or rumors (Burke & McKeen, 1996; Clawson & Kram, 1984; Hansman, 1998, 2002, & 2003). The availability of mentoring via other faculty women may be delayed if senior ranking women simply do not exist or if those women who are senior fear over-identifying with junior women or are already overextended (Hansman, 1998, 2002, & 2003). Similarly, ethnic minority faculty may lack mentoring experiences (Cabezas, Tan, Lowe, Wong, «Sc Turner, 1989; Crawford & Smith, 2005; Evans & Cokley, 2008; Guanipa, Santa Cruz, & Chao, 2003; Sands, Parson, & Duane, 1991; Smith, Smith, & Markham, 2000; Thomas, 1990; Turner, 2003; Turner, Gonzalez, «Sc Wood, 2008). …

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