Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology

Academic Employment of Women

Academic Employment of Women in Anthropology

By Michael Burton (California-Irvine), Patty Jo Watson (Washington-St Louis),
Naomi Quinn (Duke) and Cynthia Webster (UCLA)

In the February 1992 AN, we published a summary of gender composition and salary trends for full-time tenure-track positions drawn from the AAA 5-year study (1983-87). We conducted a follow-up study in 1992. Each year between 1983 and 1987, approximately two-thirds of the departments listed in the AAA Guide to departments responded to the survey. Regarding the 1992 survey, to date, 57% of 394 departments have responded. Here we present data on gender composition, salary differences, faculty retention, promotion and hiring from both studies.

Gender Composition and Salary Differences

Gender Composition. Data here pertain only to tenure-track faculty. Between 1983 and 1987 the percentage of assistant professors who were female increased from 39% to 48%; the 1992 figure was 46%. Between 1983 and 1987 changes at the tenured levels were much smaller: from 27% to 30% female at associate professor and from 17% to 18% female at full professor. In 1992 the associate professor ranks were 34% female and the full professor ranks were 21% female. Hence, gender composition among assistant professors appears to have stabilized at close to 50%, and slow increases in the representation of women at the tenured levels have continued. Across all ranks 31% of faculty are now women.

Salary Differences. According to the 1992 results, there are no statistically significant differences at any rank. We have done preliminary regression analyses that do not yield the structural patterns found in our earlier study. This is not surprising, given the very different economic conditions in 1992 from the economic boom times of the mid 1980s. We will present reports on these analyses in a later publication.

Retention, Promotion and Hiring

To help us understand the apparently slow changes in gender composition at the higher ranks, we tabulated data on retention, promotion and hiring.

Retention. Our data for the first five years indicate that departments lost 360 individuals. The gender composition of individuals lost corresponds approximately to the gender composition of the three ranks. Of those lost, women were 46% of the assistant professors, 23% of the associate professors and 24% of the full professors. However, we find strong gender differences in the reasons for leaving.

Retirement. Men were more likely than women to retire. This is not surprising, given that there are many more senior men. In the first five years, 83 men and 23 women retired, accounting for 35% of male departures and 19% of female departures.

Temporary Positions. Men were also more likely to leave because the job was a temporary position. Thirty-one percent of men and 23% of women who left the assistant professor level gave this reason. At the other two ranks, the numbers were too small for meaningful comparisons. Overall, 35 men and 22 women left because the position was temporary.

Outside Offers. Among assistant professors, men and women were equally likely to leave for outside offers. However, male associate professors were more likely than female associate professors to leave for outside offers: 26 out of 31 of the faculty leaving for outside offers were men. This pattern reverses at full professor, where 18 women and 21 men left for outside offers. Since more than 80% of full professors were men, individual women who were full professors had nearly 4 times the chance of leaving for an outside offer. These data support our earlier finding of structural differences between the positions of men and of women at the associate professor level.

Personal Reasons. Women were more likely than men to leave for personal reasons. Among Assistant Professors, 22 women and 11 men left for personal reasons. Among Associate and Full Professors, 5 women and 10 men left for personal reasons. Because there were more than three times as many men as women at these ranks, however, it follows that individual women were more likely than men to leave for personal reasons.

Tenure. Among junior faculty, men were more likely to leave because they were denied tenure, but this is an artifact of the fact that more junior women leave for personal reasons. Among all faculty considered for tenure (318 cases), we find 82% of men and 79% of women were granted tenure. The difference is not statistically significant (p = .69).


Associate Professor. In some departments, a tenure decision is made independently of the decision on promotion to associate professor. Between 1983 and 1987, 256 faculty in the study group were recommended for promotion to associate professor with tenure, of whom 35.2% (90) were women. Of these, 88.9% of the women and 81.5% of the men received promotions. By 1992, 22 out of 48 (46%) of all individuals recommended for tenure were women.

Professor Between 1983 and 1987, 331 faculty were recommended for promotion to professor. Of these, 31% were women. Eighty percent of the women and 72% of the men were granted promotions. In 1992, 46 faculty were recommended for promotion to professor. Of these, 26% were women. The change in this figure between the two time periods is not statistically significant.

In both periods the gender composition of those recommended for full professor is about the same as the gender composition of the associate ranks.

Besides asking whether men and women are equally likely to attain promotions once recommended for promotion by their departments, we can also assess whether women have to wait longer than men to be recommended. One hypothesis that has frequently been expressed is that departments are more likely to identify men as "stars," and to push them ahead faster than comparable women.

To assess the speed of promotions we can use two kinds of data: 1) the number of years since the PhD before being recommended for promotion, and 2) the number of years an individual spends in a department before being recommended for promotion.

Waiting Time. In 1983 to 1987, women waited longer than men for promotion to associate professor. These results parallel those found by E A Hammel and his associates in 1993. Measures of years since PhD and years in the department were virtually identical, indicating that most faculty obtained their jobs shortly after receipt of the PhD. By 1992 there were no gender differences in waiting time. However, both women and men waited longer after the PhD than in the earlier period (increases of 2 years), but were recommended for promotion with fewer years in the department (decreases of 2 years), suggesting that they have more publications when hired than in the earlier time period. This is a clear index of the increasing difficulty young faculty have in obtaining academic positions.

There are no gender differences in either time period with respect to waiting time for promotion to full professor. Again, the waiting time after the PhD increased by 2 years for both men and women, while the waiting time within the department was unchanged.

Together, these data show that women are catching up with men in waiting times, but that all faculty lost a full two years of waiting time between the early 1980s and 1992: a striking index of the worsening academic job market.


In Favor of Women. The hiring data revealed biases in favor of women. Fewer women than men applied for jobs, with only 37% of the total job applications between 1983 to 1987 coming from women. However, those women were favored at every step of the hiring process. Of those candidates who made short lists and asked for interviews, 46% were women. Women were offered 48% of the jobs, and 47% of all those hired were women.

One-Year Jobs. While 2.5% of female applicants for a position obtained the position (compared to only 1.7% of male applicants), what types of jobs were they taking? A total of 531 positions were filled between 1983 to 1987. Of 417 full-time positions, 46.3% were filled by women. Most of these were for 1 year or less (N = 381), of which 47% were filled by women. Of the 259 tenure-track jobs, 45.2% were filled by women; of the 220 non-tenure track jobs, 50.5% went to females. Of the tenured positions (N = 38), only 36.8% were filled by women. Thus, most of the hiring was at the assistant professor level, which helps explain why equity in numbers between females and males has been attained at that rank within such a short period of time.

Temporary Positions. The greatest change in the hiring data for 1992 is in the number of female applications. In 1992, 46.9% of all applications were from women and 57.8% of those hired were women. As in the 5-year study, most of the jobs were for full-time employment, of these 54.4% went to women. Roughly half of the jobs, 47.4%, were for a time period of a year or less, of these 67.3% went to women. The majority were tenure-track positions, which were split equally among females and males. Of the jobs that were without tenure, 72.5% were filled by females. Thus, while more women were hired in 1992 than were men, greater numbers of women were being hired to fill temporary, non-tenured positions.


The promotion, retention and hiring data help explain why change is so slow to occur at the higher ranks. At associate and full professor ranks, gender composition is skewed, while promotion opportunities for females and males are the same. These factorsùcombined with the small number of individuals retiring (N = 106) in a 5-year period, and the small amount of hiring at the higher ranks (38 hires)--show why change at the higher levels is slow. However, if trends toward equity at the assistant professor rank and toward an increased percentage of females at the higher ranks persist, equity at the higher ranks eventually will be attained.

Retirement Policies. Finally, we wish to emphasize the importance for this process of recent changes in retirement policies. US universities no longer have a mandatory faculty retirement age. This policy change could greatly slow the pace of retirement of senior men, with two likely consequences. First, there would be fewer replacement positions available. Second, even if women continued to be promoted at the same rate as in the past decade, the slowed pace of retirement of senior men would mean that those promotions will have a lower effect on the tenured faculty gender ratio than would otherwise be the case. With many universities currently instituting early retirement incentive programs, it is difficult to predict the net effect of changing retirement policies.