Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Gender gaps (in both directions) still exist

Yesterday I was in for a bit of a shock. While poking around the UBC Planning and Institutional Research (PAIR) website (ie. ubc statistics), I noticed a startling statistic. In the faculty of science there are 11 full women professors, compared 146 full male professors. That's right. 1/15th of the full professors in the faculty of science are women - that's less than 8 percent. When you look at assistant and associate professors, there are about one third as many women as men. Instructors and Lecturers approach an even ratio - still with more men.

The statistics in other faculties, though not as extreme, are similar: full professorships belong in colossal majorities to men, with an increasing but still significantly lower proportion of women as you go down the academic ranks to Associate and Assistant professorships. Interestingly, Applied Science fares better compared to Sauder and Science with respect to ratios in the lower ranks. Even Arts, a supposedly female-slanted discipline, only a quarter of full professors are female, and 3/7ths of assistant and associate professors. Education is the one exception that has more women in the associate and assistant professor categories.

Yeah, we know. It takes a long time to get a full professorship. The huge cohorts of women academics that graduated in the 80s and 90s are not yet in tenured positions. Still though. And why is there still a gender gap in the recent hirings? I found it pretty stark and depresing. 11/146!?!? Dear Lord.

To follow up on these revelations, today I open up the Ubyssey. What do I see but an (excellent)article by Freeman Poritz about another gaping gaping gender inequality. Women are collecting over 60% of undergraduate degrees in Canada. They are graduating high school with better marks than men, and outnumbering them in 8/11 faculties, including Science and Atrs, UBC's two largest. This isn't particularly new news - it's a trend across Canada that young women are opting for more post-secondary education than their male counterparts. What is happening to our young men? How is our school system failing them?

I find both these sets of statistics disturbing. Women are still not able to make it to the higher ranks of the professional world in numbers that reflect their stakes. Young men aren't making it to university. What is going on? I don't know, but clearly the struggle for fairness in the balance of power between genders in our society (even in the microcosm of academics) is far from over. We barely understand (far from actually addressing) the crucial dynamics at play - and they are complicated.

Feminism is all about gender equality - that includes men's equality too. And feminism's work is not yet done.