AAC&U News: March 2016
Facts & Figures

No Longer a Pipeline Problem: An Update on the Status of Women in Higher Education

The American Council on Higher Education

Women complete more bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees than men—so why do men hold so many more full professorships and college presidencies? As the American Council on Education notes in a new infographic report titled Update on the Status of Women in Higher Education, this is “no longer a pipeline problem.”

The report shows that men earn more than women across all faculty and administrative ranks in higher education, and that men are far more likely to hold senior positions. Furthermore, women administrators are more likely than their male colleagues to report having made sacrifices in their careers in order to accomodate their family obligations.

For additional analysis of these figures, see Kathryn Peltier Campbell’s blog post “Rising Early and Pushing Barriers: Women’s Leadership in Higher Education,” and see the campus feature in this issue, “Developing the Next Generation of Leaders at Women’s Colleges,” to read about how women’s colleges are preparing their students to overcome these challenges and take on leadership positions in business and civil society.


The Pipeline Myth

  • Women have earned more bachelor’s degrees than men since 1981, and since 2011 they’ve earned more doctorates than men—103,000 to 98,000 in 2011.
  • Women also slightly outnumber men at the assistant professor rank—comparable with women’s slightly higher attainment of doctoral degrees.
  • However, women comprise only 44 percent of associate professors, and they comprise just 30 percent of full professors.


Women in the Faculty Ranks

  • Over all, men hold more tenured or tenure-track faculty positions than women across all sectors and institutional types—57 percent to 43 percent.
  • Women make up a higher percentage of non-tenure-track faculty positions such as lecturers (55 percent) and instructors (57 percent).
  • Women of color often outnumber men of color in lower-ranking faculty positions, but men of color are more likely hold full professorships—black men are 50 percent more likely than black women to hold full professorships, and Hispanic men are 90 percent more likely to hold full professorships than Hispanic women.


Administration and Board Leadership

  • Women hold fewer college presidencies than men across all sectors and institutional types—women are most likely to be presidents at private two-year colleges (45 percent), while at every other institutional type less than a third of presidents are women.
  • Women are also slightly less likely than men to be chief academic officers (CAOs)—44 percent across all sectors, and 38 percent at private institutions.
  • While the gender gap for CAOs is smaller, it may pose a particular problem for women aspiring to presidencies, as 43 percent of women presidents were promoted from CAO positions (compared with 31 percent of male presidents). Men are also more likely to become college presidents without having a PhD or EdD.
  • Women remain a minority on college boards as well, comprising just 32 percent of board members, and less than one-quarter of board chairs.


Compensation and Family Life

  • Women also earn less than men at every faculty rank; at public institutions, men earn an average of 20 percent more than women, and at private institutions men earn 23 percent more than women.
  • Women presidents are more likely than men to report having altered their career for family concerns—27 percent of women had made such choices, compared with 19 percent of men.
  • Both women presidents and women CAOs are less likely to be married or have children than their male counterparts.


Did You Know?

  • Women earn more doctorates and hold more assistant professor positions than men, but they comprise only 30 percent of full professors.
  • Men earn an average of 20 percent more than women at public institutions and 23 percent more at private institutions, across all ranks.
  • Women presidents and CAOs are less likely to be married or have children than their male colleagues, and more likely to change their career for family concerns.

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.


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