It’s almost eleven o’clock in the evening right now, and both of my daughters are in bed. The youngest – a baby about three months old – conked out hours ago. The older one was a bit harder to put to bed. She insisted that she didn’t want a bath and, like many three year olds, begged to have the light left on when she crawled into bed. My husband did the work of reading to her and cuddling with her until she fell asleep. I, on the other hand, was working on a syllabus that is now months overdue.
A few days ago, I saw a post on Facebook breaking down the ethnicity and gender of the current professoriate. According to the post, there were
176,485 full professors in the United States.
72% of these positions were held by white men.
17% by white women. 8% by men of color (Black, Latino, and Native American),
and only two percent by women of color.
These statistics demonstrate the inequalities of higher education. Although many elite universities have instituted programs to train and support diverse faculty members, structural inequalities remain. Many fellowships and grants require academics to be willing to travel to do archival research or participate in colloquia and workshops. It is an impossible requirement for people with working spouses. Many couples are separated for months at a time so that they can complete their academic research. Likewise, classes that begin at 8 a.m. or 7 p.m. can be difficult to manage for parents who shuttle their children to daycare and have to arrange their lives around school hours. Although many schools offer maternity leave, the break that it offers is often illusory. Women are expected to write articles, craft grant proposals, and proofread book chapters in the days and weeks after they have given birth. For people of color, there are often unspoken expectations that they will have to produce more to get tenure than their white colleagues. A friend who is a tenure track professor at an elite institution was told that she should plan to do 50% more than the requirements if she expected to keep her job.
The challenges that women and people of color face, however, go beyond these difficulties. The fact that nearly three-quarters of full professors are white men mean that people who do not fall into this category often lack mentorship. I have experienced this at my own job. Although there are many female faculty members in my department, there is only one senior female historian. I am the only woman in my department with young children. As a result, it can sometimes be difficult to find someone to discuss how to write with a newborn or keep my toddler from killing her younger sibling.
As we near the beginning of the school year, we here at the Juvenile Instructor decided to showcase the stories of some of the writers in hopes that they can serve as models for individuals. The first essays will be heavily white and half-male. They will include adjuncts, graduate students, second-year professors, parents, first generation college students, and single people. Each will talk about the challenges and opportunities of their particular academic station. I hope to eventually add voices outside of JI and in so doing, expand our diversity as well.