Blog Post #4: The gap in women’s leadership positions is still exist!!

In my previous blog post, I discussed the pay gap as one of inequality issues between women and men that refers to the difference in wages and salaries between them. In this post I discuss women positions in higher education. White women and women of color in higher education experience discrimination across multiple dimensions, and it is well documented that academia itself is gendered (Morton, 2018). For example, according to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (2020), women’s salaries are lower at all ranks and in all types of institutions. Women are also much less likely to be tenured (Morton, 2018) or promoted. Also, women are less likely to be full professors (NCES, 2020).

Although there has been a slight change in the number of women in leadership positions, still the growth towards equity is slow. It is believed that the presence of females in higher education positions can have extreme impact on the institution and the scope of knowledge.

First of all, according to NCES, women earn more degrees than men. For the year of 2016–2017, women earned more than half of bachelor’s degrees (57.3%), master’s degrees (59.4%), and doctorate degrees (53.3%). While women have earned more degrees than men, they are less likely to hold high-ranking academic positions.

According to NCES, in 2017, the 1.5 million faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions, 53% were full time and 47 % were part time. Faculty include professors, associate professors, assistant professors, instructors, lecturers, assisting professors, adjunct professors, and interim professors. 41% were White males; 35% were White females; 6% were Asian/Pacific Islander males; 5% were Asian/Pacific Islander females; and 3% each were Black males, Black females, Hispanic males, and Hispanic females. Those who were American Indian/Alaska Native and those who were of Two or more races each made up 1% or less of full-time faculty. (see the figure below)


Also, 30% of college presidents are women while about 56.5% of college students in the U.S. are women (Samsel, 2017).

In 2018, according to Department of Education (2018), the percentage of female Full Professors represented 27% of white women, 3% Asian/Pacific Islander women, 2% black women, 1% Latinas, and less than 1% of full professors reported more than one race. Also, the percentage of female Assistant Professor represented 38% white women, 6% Asian/Pacific Islander women, 4% black women, 3% Latinas, and again, less than 1% of Assistant Professors claimed more than one race (Department of Education, 2018).

Even though, the percentages of female in different positions in 2018 has been increased, women are less than men to achieve tenure among tenured faculty at four-year institutions, women held just 22.7% non-tenure-track positions, compared to 17.3% of men faculty.

It is clear that women are more likely to be in lower-ranking academic positions especially women of color and women from different races are more underrepresented in academia. The numbers mentioned above are sufficient indicators of lack of diversity among women and men which means that white women and women of color struggle to attain the tenured and the rank of full professor. I was surprised for the low involvement of women in color in higher academic administration, despite the ever-growing number of students of color. Consequently, not considering the issue of inequality can indicate that there is less opportunity for women to pursue these positions and thus discourage them from making an impact.

I found a research article that exploring the issue indicated inequality in higher education leadership positions among different genders. The article written by Blithe and Elliott (2019). The authors aimed in their study to examine gender inequality in the academy and women experiences in workplace. This study draws on stress process theory to identify stressors and supports for academic women. Through analysis of focus group data, the results revealed that women in academia continue to experience extreme workplace hostilities micro-aggressions, work- life conflict and that these stressors vary by rank. Also, they found low levels of institutional support. So, they also discussed some strategies from the participants of successful supports that may improve equity in the higher education. The study concluded with a discussion of how higher education institutions can implement some approaches for white women and women of color by reducing existing stressors and increasing supports for them. According to Blithe and Elliott (2019), the suggested strategies include research about gender inequality, (2) mentoring, (3) communication, (4) training, (5) research support, (6) university policies, and (7) hiring.

(1) The research: some topics could be discussed in future research such as observing faculty meetings, productivity, teaching loads, research support funds, letters for annual evaluations and promotion, and teaching evaluations.

(2) mentoring: forming a ‘Women’s Faculty Network’ that can connect women to mentors.

(3) communication: if a university creates the Women’s Faculty Network, it could be included a social media and newsletter that could promote, spotlight faculty, announce awards, publications, etc.

(4) training: training programs related to Safe Zone or Ally training for LBTQI+ faculty, creating male advocates, and to learn about gendered communication.

(5) research support: such as support for conferences, especially for mothers taking children to conferences, specific grants and awards for gender research.

(6) university policies: included leaves of absence, same sex partner benefits, work-life policies (like flex time), wellness policies for disabilities, face time expectations.

(7) hiring: targeted hires of women at higher ranks.

Actually, I certainly think these strategies are very helpful. Something came to mind when I read this article related to finding balance between work and family. While there is no lack of enthusiasm and efforts from female faculty to perform in academia, some of these women may get demotivated and discouraged because of the rigorous requirements to perform especially with tenure position. Also, insufficient maternity leaves, no considerations for female employees with children, and unsupportive environments may lead them to not take up such academic positions from the start. Thus, I think providing support to a diverse workforce will ensure retention of diverse faculty members. I hope would be that higher education institutions would provide equitable resources for recruiting, hiring and retaining diverse faculty members.

Thank you!!


Morton, S. (2018). Understanding gendered negotiations in the academic dual-career hiring process. Sociological Perspectives, 61(5), 748-765.

Blithe, S.J. & Elliott, M. (2019). Gender inequality in the academy: Micro-aggressions, work-life conflict, and academic rank. Journal of Gender Studies, 1-14.

4 Replies to “Blog Post #4: The gap in women’s leadership positions is still exist!!”

  1. Blog #4 Response #4

    This is definitely a huge problem! I have seen this happen numerous times in our own department and it is one of the things that first dissuaded me from going into academia, which you seem to focus on a lot. I understand this is a problem everywhere, but I have many reasons for disliking academia, this is just one. Even as a student, I purposefully avoided certain professors because they have a reputation for being sexist and belittling to women. It is so unfortunate that we still have to deal with this in the workplace or in an academic setting because it can have a prolonged impact. I really liked the strategies you presented in your blog for combatting this issue. My favorite is the mentoring strategy. I think that having a network of women to discuss and get advice from is so important for fighting the problem. I also really liked the training aspect. I think that faculty stay in their positions for WAY too long, and these older men have no concept of creating a welcoming environment. They put others down because in their day, they worked until 4am and never slept and got everything done while their wives were at home with the kids. Having updated training to bring these types of people into the current reality is very important for the work environment and for advancing society in general. Lastly, research support was another aspect that I think would work well. I have been told that getting grants at first is hard because they award based on name recognition and being well known in the field, so I imagine being a woman coming into the field and trying to get grants is quite difficult. If there was a way to take gender out of it all together that would be great, but if they must see the names, it would be great to have some sort of support for women. This is an ongoing problem obviously, but maybe one day our daughters will have the same chance as our sons to become whatever they want to be.

  2. Blog #4, Comment #4
    I am really glad that you wrote on this topic because it is a very important issue and definitely one that needs to change. When I read the part about how the study by Blithe and Elliott (2019) found that women identified certain stressors such as micro-aggressions, work-life balance and such, it took me back to a survey that I took which was very similar to this one. That survey I took made me very angry, because the only options it gave me were very similar – microaggressions, work-life balance – and yet there was no “other” option that would allow me to fill in where I could share why I thought was causing gender inequality. What was also annoying about the survey was that I couldn’t advance to the next question without picking one of the predetermined answers that did not truly match what I felt was the issue. At the end of the survey, there was a section for “other” comment, and this is where I explained that in my opinion it wasn’t the microaggressions or work-life balance, instead it blatant systematic support shown to white males, also known as the good-ol’ boys club, that is the problem. When you sit on hiring committees where the female is clearly the best candidate, but she is not selected because the supervisor has privately “groomed” his future replacement that happens to be a white male made in his image – that is the problem.

    Now I know I am biased, but I truly feel that most women have been hit with microaggressions probably since their pre-teens. It’s a reality of life, and it completely BLOWS, but most women, I think, have figured out how to cope with it. Women who seek a career and have a family, I truly believe, go into those decisions with eyes-wide open, knowing that work-life balance will not happen, or at least not immediately, and yet women cope. Yes, in all those examples of stressors, they can have truly negative impact, but those stressors happen to females whether we are in a job or just grocery shopping. And this goes back to the fact that instead of universities owning the fact that they have created a good-ol’ boy environment that constantly pushes women and under-represented people down, they are pushing the blame on the victims for not being able to emotionally handle it, there will no be change. I will end my rant now – thank you for an interesting topic!

  3. Blog #4 Comment #1
    Thank you for writing about this – it’s an extremely important topic and something that should get more attention. It is terrible that women face all these obstacles just to get to the same place as their male counterparts. Also, even once they get to similar levels, they are often valued less. I think a lot of the methods you mentioned for solving this problem are great and hope that workplaces and academic environments can start implementing them more. During my brief period of associating with academia I have found certain professors and departments much less welcoming than others. I have even avoided taking some classes because of the notoriety of some professors on how they treat their female students. It is unfortunate that anyone has to go through this, and I wish it was different. It is also extremely frustrating and I know I should not have avoided classes but I just did not want to have put the energy into sitting through months of a professor that actively works against people like me being there. Even though I do not want to have kids I get frustrated when male colleagues act like their female counterparts with kids deserve less respect or that they do not work as hard. Some female workers are not given a promotion or hired just because of the fact that they may have kids, which is ridiculous. There is no reason children should be a reflection of your work ethic. If anything, working parents of all genders deserve respect for balancing working and parenting, both of which require a lot of effort.

  4. I agree that there is a discrepancy that exists between male and females in leadership roles and tenure positions in academia. I, myself, am in a department made mostly of men. While my own advisor is a minority, he still has some traditional values as far as how women should be treated and what they should “prioritize” if they want to be successful. It’s an attitude that needs to change. Without a change in attitude or mindset there will be no actual change occurring in these positions. First, women do need more resources available to them so that they are more able to “do it all” as some would say. Daycare, for one, would be a HUGE help! I don’t even think that would be so hard to implement. One daycare per campus is simply not enough. There needs to be multiple on campus dispersed at convenient locations for female employees. And it should be very affordable, if not free. Lord knows this school makes enough money already they could use some of the money they are making off of us students and give it back in some way other than sports and other unnecessary activities. Women need more freedom to pursue their careers with families. There should be no need to prioritize one over the other. I’m not sure how much I agree with other strategies you mentioned to help women, such as mentoring and training. I guess I’m a little biased. As a woman, I don’t feel like I should need a mentor in order to be successful in my job. It irks me to think that’s a resource I might need.

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