Monday, June 17, 2019

Today's Granola Post: A Study on Women's Advancement in British Universities.

Granola posts are good for you!  I'm the parent who is making you eat your granola, because it will help you grow big and strong and smart.

A British study examined why male faculty members in the UK tend to rise higher in the academic hierarchies than female faculty members.  The study controlled for (1) variables which roughly measure the idea that women's advancement is hampered by the traditional gendered division of labor within households, and it also controlled for age (as it takes time to climb to the top) as well as research output (papers published in peer reviewed articles, grants obtained and conference papers presented,  all in the last five years).  The study abstract:

This paper fills in a research gap in what concerns gender and academic rank at UK universities, where women are not far from reaching the 50% share of all academic and research staff, but not even close to reaching such a share at (full) professorial level. 
Using an ordered logit model and the results of a survey conducted in 2013 with 2270 responses from academics from all fields of knowledge at the 24 Russell Group universities, we find three consistent results. 
First, being a woman has a negative and significant association with academic rank, except for the case when parenthood is timed with career considerations in mind. 
Second, the percentage of time spent on teaching and teaching-related activities has a negative and statistically significant association with academic rank. This association is more pronounced in the case of women, who spend a higher percentage of their working time on teaching and teaching-related activities than men, as do those in lower academic ranks. Since women tend to be in lower ranks, the percentage of time spent on teaching and teaching-related activities may be considered both a cause and a result of the gender gap. 
Third, we find a positive and significant association between the number of children under the age of 18 years and the academic rank of both men and women, as long as babies were timed with career considerations in mind, and a non-significant association when they were not. A possible explanation for this is unlikely to be that children have a positive impact on academic rank, but rather that they arrived after a certain rank had been secured. We conclude with some policy recommendations to help reduce the gender gap.

Bolds are mine.

The authors write in their conclusions:

Put simply, two people who have similar, or even identical credentials and personal circumstances except for one being a man and the other being a woman, are likely to have different academic ranks, with the man having a higher rank than the woman. One explanation for this phenomenon may be discrimination against women.
The bolded bit in the top quote is of special interest:

Teaching is labor-intensive, and takes time away from research.  Teaching large introductory courses is what lower-level faculty members are expected to do, and women in those ranks teach and advise more than men in those ranks (2).  And whatever universities might say about the importance of teaching, the fact is that people get promoted and/or tenured on the basis of their research output.

This means that one way to discriminate against female junior faculty is to make sure that they have giant teaching loads.  But it's also possible that women either choose to do more teaching, on average, than men, or that they don't fight back such assignments as often as men do.  — This would be good "further research" topic.

Other ways of getting discrimination done naturally exist, because faculty evaluations and how research funds are allocated, for instance,  can be used for that purpose. 

But of course it's theoretically possible that some invisible productivity differences are driving these findings (not likely in my opinion, given all the control variables for publications), or that women don't fight as hard for promotions. (My research proposal in the previous paragraph would also look at this.)

(1) "Controlling for" variables means that the method used in the analysis can look at how the academic paths of two imaginary people, identical except for the variable of interest (here gender), might differ.  This means that the two individuals would be equally old, equally productive and "encumbered" by the same number of family responsibilities.

Because the above three variables also affect the speed of promotion in academia, taking them into account in this manner allows us to focus on the remaining difference, possibly explained by sexism.

(2) This question how tasks are allocated at work, and what that allocation means about who it is who gets promoted faster has wider relevance in the study of possible sex and race discrimination in the labor market. 

Similar occupational categories still allow room for differential allocation of tasks.  Think of the occupations "janitor" and "housekeeper," essentially the same job, but differentiated by location (and thus tasks) and labeling.  That the job of a janitor is male-dominated and pays more than the job of a housekeeper which is female-dominated and pays less may well partly be a consequence of such task allocations (and also the steering, or self-steering of men and women into different job categories with roughly equal tasks).