Women make up essentially half of the students at CMC, but only 30% of our faculty. This disparity is unacceptable and awful in comparison to the percentages of similar liberal arts institutions. It is an issue that we have to recognize,understand, and work to improve.
Now, I am sure that some of you have the initial gut reaction to retort something along the lines of, “but obviously we should hire the best professors, regardless of their gender.” So, despite what biased evaluations may suggest, let me just say I am fairly certain that men are not twice as likely to be better professors than women. I also believe that the rest of my article will further respond to your critique, so please continue reading (and if you still disagree, catch me at the Ath and we can chat about it).
My view that this disparity is a real issue goes beyond my intrinsic belief that it is important for students to feel equally represented among the faculty who are supposed to be shaping their intellectual journeys. Hiring more women professors will likely increase the variety of perspectives and issues that students study in CMC classrooms, which can only improve the quality of our educations. How can we grow intellectually if we are not reading feminist critiques of dominant philosophies, learning about the history of Black women during the Civil Rights Movement, or conducting research on labor economics that account for entrenched gender roles in most households? Note that this also means that CMC should focus not only on hiring white women professors, but also on attracting more female faculty of color as they are especially underrepresented at CMC.
In addition, the role that professors play as mentors is quite significant. Having more female faculty influences female students to study in fields where women are traditionally underrepresented, such as economics. The role of faculty at CMC also extends outside the classroom, to the committees on which they serve, the hiring decisions that they influence and the future connections they provide to students. More women voices within our faculty would strengthen different perspectives, lessen the burden on our wonderful existing professors, and hopefully help CMC better address pervasive issues like gendered harassment and the strenuous Title IX reporting process.
However, simply recognizing the problem is not enough. We must first find the cause of the issue because we can begin to fix it.
The Robert Day School of Economics and Finance and the Government Department explain 63% of the gender disparity within our entire faculty. This means that, of the additional 80 male professors at CMC (140 men to 60 women), 50 of them are located in these two departments. This concentration matters because the improved gender balance should not come solely from the History, Languages, and Psychology Departments, which already have as many women as men, or even more. If we allow RDS, Government, Literature, Math, and Philosophy, to continue on their current departmental tracks, then I would argue that we will not have addressed the entire issue.
We must also consider specific departments when analyzing the hiring process. Departments choose their own chairs, which to little surprise leads to men often leading those five departments. So, hiring searches and promotion decisions are likely made by committees that are comprised mostly of and largely led by men,. This is especially worrisome because our tenured professors are also more likely to be men, even after accounting for the overall gender disparity, which possibly deters women from wanting to work here. Add in the fact that 14 of the 17 members of the Board of Trustees’ Academic Affairs Committee are men, and it is not difficult to understand why women are continually underrepresented among CMC faculty. This disparity occurs even as Dean of Faculty Peter Uvin and Chief Civil Rights Officer Nyree Gray continue to work with search committees to try and ensure diverse candidate pools.
Though it is evidently true that this is a nationwide issue, this is not an impossible problem for CMC to address. The other 5Cs (even Mudd!) all have a higher proportion of women professors , as do other liberal arts colleges like Amherst and Carleton. It will not be an immediate turnaround as the process will require a sincere commitment to review our hiring practices, understand where in the hiring pipeline we are failing, and put in the effort to attract and recruit more women.
Students also need to be intentional when giving feedback on potential professors who visit campus, and be upfront about what we expect from new faculty. But the administration has to show their dedication as well. It’s quite easy to form a committee about faculty diversity–it’s much harder to actually fund the creation of endowed seats for faculty (primarily women and persons of color) to research and teach courses that highlight underrepresented perspectives. If, however, we want to make a concrete showing of “our commitment to achieving institutional diversity,” that is what we have to do.
Obviously, we have a tall task ahead of us as we attempt to shift some of the defining features of CMC as an institution. But, it is certainly possible and is definitely a worthwhile endeavor.
Lastly, I should note that CMC did hire as many women as men in 2014, so perhaps we are on the path to correcting the balance. But, at the same time, 33 of our 43 visiting professors in the fall of 2016 are men. So, there is certainly still plenty of room for improvement.