On Hilltop, Male Professors Dominate Tenured Jobs

March 31, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Kamille Carlisle
kcarlisl@smu.edu

At SMU, men still rule. This is particularly true among faculty members.

In 2008, men held roughly 77 percent of the tenured positions, ensuring them job stability and higher pay, according to the Office of Institutional Research. This disparity has not gone unnoticed.

“It’s not really a great example for female students,” junior Audra Ogden said. “The fact that female professors are being paid less is basically like saying they aren’t as of much value as men.”

More than half of the student population at SMU is female, which is becoming a common trend nationwide according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Although the student makeup has transformed over the years, the same is not true of the faculty.

“Having more equality is something that should definitely be a priority,” said Josh Webb, a senior journalism major. “It’s a matter of having more balance and different perspectives in classrooms. Plus, I’ve noticed that female professors tend to be more interactive.”

Women held 54 percent of the less stable, non-tenure track teaching jobs last year.

“It’s a huge problem,” said Dr. Angela Ards, an assistant professor of English who has been at SMU for a year and a half.

“The benchmarks necessary to attain tenure require so much time away from the family,” Dr. Ards said. “I am part of the University’s concerted effort to tackle the disparity.”

The Commission on the Status of Women, a group that has worked to develop policies to assist the needs of women at SMU for 35 years, has also tried to create more of a balance on campus.

“They are working to make it a more family friendly place,” Dr. Ards said. “It’s a process of breaking down social ideas. It’s a transformation from the assumption that men would make more money.”

Dr. Michael Householder, associate professor of English and currently on the tenure track, agrees with Dr. Ards.

“The tenure process here, which is pretty standard across the country, follows a 1950s model,” Householder said.

SMU’s tenure is a six-year process, which entails that a professor be an accomplished and published researcher. They must also be analyzed on their teaching ability.

According to Dr. Householder, who is the main caregiver of his children, it is a stressful period.

“I know I’m an exception to the rule,” said Dr. Householder. “If people want to be able to start families, they should be able to have extra time to complete tenure if they need it.”

SMU administration declined to comment on the issue.

Indiana University, for example, offers faculty seven to 10 years to complete the tenure process, allowing some to advance more quickly than others, depending on their respective lifestyles.

Not everyone on campus thinks gender disparity is an issue. Dr. Judy Etchison, associate professor of engineering, says that she has never worried about being one of the few women in her field.

“I’ve always just done what I wanted and expected to get fairly compensated for my work,” Dr. Etchison said. “I don’t feel that there has been a prejudice.”

There has been a big effort on the part of SMU to recruit women to the engineering program, according to Dr. Etchison, who says that most females overlook all that math and science have to offer.

“With people gradually wanting more of a male-female balance, being a woman has actually worked in my advantage,” Dr. Etchison said.

Some students, like senior economics major Carrie Eldridge, have mixed feelings.

“Things are definitely changing, and especially with what Obama just did,” said Eldridge. “I just think this school could take more of an active role in hiring more female professors and paying them well. It just sets a good example and standard for everyone.”

The first bill Barack Obama signed was Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to begin to end the gap in pay between men and women.

SMU’s Commission on the Status of Women held a reception for Lilly Ledbetter last week.

“We toasted to all of her efforts,” Ards said, who attended the reception even though she is not a member of the commission. “As long as there is an effort to change things, things will change.”