Women achieve gains in faculty, but few in the upper admin.

by Carl Burnett | 11/6/02 6:00am

Thirty years after the first coed class matriculated at Dartmouth, the gender ratio among students is nearly 50-50. But only about a third of Dartmouth's professors are women.

And while Dartmouth has one of the highest percentages of female faculty in the Ivy League, none of its top administrators are women. Three Ivies -- Brown, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania -- have female presidents.

"I hope it's just bad luck," Russian and linguistics Professor Lenore Grenoble said of Dartmouth's recent string of male appointments to high positions.

"The pattern that emerges is very clear and uniform -- that men emerge at the top," she said.

Female professors interviewed by The Dartmouth, including Grenoble, agreed that there has been a strong and well-intentioned push by both the faculty and administration to recruit women. They disagree, however, on the level of gender equity that effort has resulted in.

Grenoble, who serves as associate dean of the faculty for the humanities, pointed out two commonly cited disparities: the variation between academic fields, and the difference between the number of tenured and untenured female professors.

At one end of the spectrum, 55.9 percent of junior (tenure-track and non-tenure) faculty in the humanities are women, according to the College's 2001-2002 Affirmative Action Plan.

On the other hand, just 13.8 percent of senior (tenured) College science professors are women.

The gender gap between junior and senior faculty exists in the sciences, humanities and social sciences, but nowhere more so than in the social sciences, where women make up 42.9 percent of all professors but only 25.6 percent of the senior faculty.

"We need more women at the full professor level," Grenoble said.

One of the biggest barriers to attracting the best professors to Dartmouth -- male and female -- is the so-called "two-body problem."

Whenever the College is seeking to lure a new professor or administrator, one key is often offering a job to the candidate's spouse or partner as well. Such incentives are especially necessary in Hanover, where there are relatively few jobs available in the specialized fields of education and business that employ many faculty partners, professors said.

Government Professor Linda Fowler, who also serves as director of the Rockefeller Center, said the government department hired four new professors last year, all of them women. Three have since left because "the College couldn't meet their needs with the spouse situation," Fowler said.

For women, Grenoble speculated, the problem is worse than it is for men.

"In our culture, it's certainly more acceptable for a woman to move for a man's job" than the reverse, she said.

If any female professor at Dartmouth is used to sticking it out in a male-dominated world, it's probably physics department Chair Mary Hudson.

Hudson was the only woman in her field throughout most of her undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral career at universities in California. Three years after her initial appointment at Dartmouth in 1984, she became the College's first permanent physics professor in 1987 and has chaired the department for the past seven years.

"I have been used to this for so long that I'm not even conscious of it, as other women might be," she said.

Hudson was generally optimistic, pointing out that two other science departments at Dartmouth -- earth sciences and biology -- are led by women, as are the school's Board of Trustees and its graduate studies programs.

Fowler, though, questioned the administration's ability to make progress on the gender-equity issue while praising its intent.

"I don't think that it's possible to say what the dean of the faculty's office is doing," Fowler said. "I don't know what Jamshed [Bharucha, former dean of the faculty] was able to do in a year, and I don't know what [current dean] Mike Gazzaniga will be able to accomplish, either."

She also pointed out that Susan Prager, who was Dartmouth's provost for two years, left amid private dissatisfaction with some aspects of Dartmouth despite her publicly stated reason of wanting to pursue a university presidency.

Neither Gazzaniga nor Prager could be reached for comment.

Fowler cited two lessons from the political world that she said also apply to women in academia. First, she said, women in both fields see themselves as needing to be better qualified than men to even consider running for an office or applying for a job. Second, women politicians and professors still often need to juggle family obligations that men have traditionally ignored.

Fowler said women in academia are especially likely to have young children to care for because they tend to be younger than their male counterparts -- a reflection of a society in which less than a generation ago it was unusual for women to become academics.

"I wouldn't do this job if I still had children," Fowler said.

Hudson said gender inequity persists at Dartmouth "not for lack of encouragement by our president," whom Grenoble and Fowler also agreed is among Dartmouth's biggest supporters of gender equity.

"I would be pleased to have more women in the senior administration and I will look for every opportunity to make that happen," President James Wright told The Dartmouth.

Still, Grenoble was doubtful about the possibility of a woman succeeding Wright.

"Realistically, I think it's a long shot. I think we'd have another woman provost or dean before we'd have a woman president, but it might happen."