Women faculty at Harvard

The Chronicle of Higher Education today notes a report from Harvard regarding the number of women being offered tenure track faculty positions and the number accepting.  In 2005-2006, women were offered 39% of the tenure track faculty positions.  Unfortunately, only 20% of those accepting positions were female.  This compares to 2004-2005 when 40% of those accepting tenure track faculty positions were female.

There are two conclusions you can draw from this:

  1. The sky is falling, women are no longer accepting faculty positions at one of the most prestigious insitutions of higher education in the country world.  We need to examine the factors involved and take immediate action; or
  2. Recognize that the sample size is likely to be exceedingly small and therefore the percentages don’t mean much unless there is a much longer term trend.  A simple t-test would tell you how likely it is that these two percentages (20% and 40%) are drawn from the same pool.  Unfortunately, the article doesn’t tell us the sample size or the standard deviation.

I tend to expect that it’s the second, but confirmation will require more data.  In either case, I think that the lesson we should draw from this is that it is time for a televison show that’s a cross between the movie Real Genius and 80s sitcom Bosom Buddies.  Kip/Buffy Wilson and Henry/Hildegard Desmond could go back for their PhDs in engineering, only to find that geeky white guys are over represented in the faculty of their field.  They could then cross dress in order to land tenure track positions at Harvard.  They would work to earn the respect of their peers while being under paid, looked down upon, and hit on by male grad students and other faculty.

Hrm, on second thought, maybe we should just encourage more women to pursue degrees in science and engineering by making the environment less hostile.

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