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Winter 2011

Volume 39
Number 3

40 Years of PSEW



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In Brief

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New Study Links Women’s Service with Delayed Promotion

The January­–February 2011 issue of Academe includes the results of a new study on service and promotion conducted recently at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. The study’s findings confirm that women faculty engage in more service than men, with correlating adverse effects to their promotion timelines.

Using data collected in 2008–09, the study’s authors found that “by cohort, women are less likely to be promoted than men, and when they are promoted, the process takes longer.” In seeking a possible explanation, they discovered that women professors stepped into service roles earlier than their male counterparts, with 75 percent of female associate professors (compared with only 50 percent of male) having filled “major service roles” in the university. In addition, although male and female associate professors reported spending approximately the same amount of time working each week, they allotted that time in very different ways, with women devoting only 25 percent to research compared with 37 percent spent by men.

The study also identified important differences in the types of service in which men and women engaged. At the associate professor level, women were more likely to have served as undergraduate directors (one-third of women versus 17 percent of men) and as departmental chairs (15 percent of women versus no men at all). But while serving as a departmental chair seemed to make no difference in time to promotion, “women who served as undergraduate directors were promoted significantly more slowly” than average. The correlation suggests that different types of service may receive different recognition in the academic community.

The study, which includes a set or recommendations, was authored by Joya Misra, Jennifer Hickes Lundquist, Elissa Holmes, and Stephanie Agiomavritis. The complete article is available at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2011/JF/feat/misr.htm.

Psychological Interventions Reduce Gender Gaps in Physics

Findings published recently in Science magazine suggest that psychological interventions can help reduce both short- and long-term gender gaps in physics. In an experiment involving two groups of introductory physics students at the University of Colorado, researchers found that a writing exercise in which students affirmed their own values had positive effects on women’s performance both on course exams and on tests of conceptual mastery (1237).

Over the course of the semester, students participated in a writing exercise in which they affirmed either their own values or those of a hypothetical individual. Women students whose writing exercise affirmed their own values showed measurable improvement in both their in-class exam scores and their performance on tests measuring their conceptual mastery (1237). The effects were particularly notable for women who subscribed to the view that men are better than women at physics (1236), suggesting that the exercise was an effective way to counter stereotype threat. The benefits appeared both shortly after the writing exercises were completed and later in the semester (1236).

In contrast to their female peers, male students tended to earn lower test scores shortly after participating in the affirmation exercise. However, these effects did not persist, and by the end of the semester no overall effect on men’s scores was measurable (1236). The findings of the study, conducted by Akira Miyake, Lauren E. Kost-Smith, Noah D. Finkelstein, Steven J. Pollock, Geoffrey L. Cohen, and Tiffany A. Ito, were published in the November 26, 2010 issue of Science. To purchase access to the article, visit www.sciencemag.org.

Law Student Survey Reveals Gender Differences

The 2010 Law School Survey of Student Engagement, released in January 2011, reveals troubling differences between male and female students at the nation’s law schools. Based on survey responses from students at 164 law schools, the report points to variations in academic motivation that may have detrimental consequences for female students in particular.

Disaggregated data showed that a higher percentage of women than men expressed being motivated by positive factors (or “mastery” factors) such as a “desire to perform to the best of your ability” an “inherent interest in the material.” However, female students were also more likely to indicate that they were motivated by what the survey termed “avoidance factors”: “fear of failure” and “avoiding embarrassment in front of your peers” (12).

The data related to avoidance factors is particularly troubling given the correlations between motivation and certain engaged behaviors. First-year students motivated by mastery factors “were more likely to ask questions in class, e-mail faculty, and discuss assignments with faculty members” than those who cited avoidance factors as their primary motivation (12). The female students who compose the majority of the latter group thus appear to be more likely to show signs of disengagement, and the authors note that “female students were less likely than male students to ask questions in class frequently” (7).

The report’s authors draw attention to these correlations with a call for more research and data on the topic. To download the full report, visit http://lssse.iub.edu/pdf/2010/2010_LSSSE_Annual_Survey_Results.pdf.

Growth in Science and Engineering Doctorates Fully Attributable to Women

In November 2010, the National Science Foundation released an InfoBrief analyzing the results of the 2009 Survey of Earned Doctorates. The report indicates that the entirety of the 1.9 percent growth in science and engineering doctorates between 2008 and 2009 is due to growth in women’s receipt of these degrees (1).

Between 2008 and 2009, women’s receipt of science and engineering degrees grew by 4.8 percent (corresponding to an additional 622 degrees). In comparison, men earned fewer degrees in science and engineering than in the previous year (4). Women’s total representation among science and engineering degree recipients was 40.6 percent, compared with 59.7 percent in non-science and engineering fields (2).

In addition to analyzing gender differences, the report examined patterns by race and ethnicity and citizenship status. Between 2008 and 2009, US citizens who are members of racial or ethnic minority groups earned 6.4 percent more doctorates in science and engineering, and 10.3 percent more in non-science and engineering (2-4). In contrast, doctoral recipients holding temporary visas dropped 3.5 percent during this period (5).

Findings also include a discussion of doctoral recipients’ employment plans for the coming year, with analysis suggesting an increase in postdoctoral positions and a decrease in employment prospects since the previous year (1). The brief, written by Mark K. Fiegener, is available for free download at http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/infbrief/nsf11305/nsf11305.pdf.

New Guidelines for Inclusion of Transgender Athletes

In October 2010, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Women’s Sports Foundation released On the Team: Equal Opportunity for Transgender Student Athletes. The report sets out to fill a void in policy and practice by suggesting standard policies for including transgender student athletes in high school and college sports.

Emphasizing the importance of consistency across educational sectors, the authors suggest clear guidelines for stakeholders encountering student athletes whose gender identity does not align with their sex at birth, whatever their current stage of transition. They provide suggested policies, guidelines for implementing those policies, and a set of resources for people wishing to learn more.

The report’s guiding aim is to create inclusive cultures that allow all students to fully participate in athletics, regardless of their gender identities. Written by Pat Griffin and Helen J. Carroll, the full report is available for download at http://www.nclrights.org/site/DocServer/TransgenderStudentAthleteReport.pdf?docID=7901.



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