JI Heads Back to School

By August 17, 2016

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.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. I’m really looking forward to this, which looks to be a useful resource to share with students (understood as potential future colleagues) from these underrepresented demographics. As the OP says, they need kinds of mentoring and modeling that I’m not equipped to give. Thanks, Amanda, and the rest of the JI crew!

    Comment by Jason K. — August 17, 2016 @ 6:08 am

  2. I don’t mean to be a pain, but there may be slightly more reliable sources of data than Facebook posts. For example,

    According to the linked site:
    White male percentage of full professors: 58%; white female: 26%
    White male percentage of associate professors: 44%; white female: 34%
    White male percentage of assistant professors: 36%; white female: 38%

    This is not to deny the racial and gender disparities at the level of full professor. It’s just that if you’re going to contextualize a personal narrative within broader patters of race and gender, it’s important to state those broader patterns as accurately as possible.

    Comment by D. Martin — August 17, 2016 @ 9:32 am

  3. Thanks for the post and intro to the series, Amanda. I’m looking forward to learning from everyone.

    Comment by J Stuart — August 17, 2016 @ 12:22 pm

  4. D. Martin, the Facebook source was a photo of a slide from a talk given by Dr. Duchess Harris, a historian at Malacaster College who works on race in the 20th C. I saw it on the Facebook page of another professor who attended her talk. I’m not sure where she got her information, though, and take your point.

    Comment by Amanda — August 17, 2016 @ 3:14 pm

  5. […] part one from Amanda in the […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » JI Heads Back to School-Part 2 — August 18, 2016 @ 5:01 am

  6. Ahh, gender inequality. In my discipline, 50% of faculty nationwide are female. Female Doctorate students comprise 80% of the student body, with white females being 50% of that cohort makeup.

    Comment by Transient reader — August 18, 2016 @ 7:43 am

  7. Transient reader – what discipline are you in? An interesting aspect of the professoriate is that female faculty tend to be shunted into certain, lower-paying disciplines, so that you get some fields like education, English, etc. where women are more prevalent and others like Computer Science where men are still the norm.

    Comment by Amanda — August 18, 2016 @ 8:29 am

  8. @ Amanda; Im in Mental Health field and have worked in higher ed for a number of years before returning to school in a student role to up my qualifications. Those stats reflect the findings of the APA report on their accredited programs. I am aware that social work and CACREP programs (clinical mental health, school counseling, and marriage and family therapy) are similar in female heavy demographics.

    I sat politely in a brown bag one of the faculty in my department gave recently about the “Navigating feminist social justice advocacy and dismantling male privilege in the workplace”. I looked around at the mostly female audience, and honestly thought that if we were really interested in this topic… we wouldn’t be in our field, which subtly reinforces the gender stereotype of females as emotive listeners. instead we would be pushing our public school system to bring STEM, military, and police careers as direct options for female high school students and actively begin counter-gendering these disciplines. Of course the speech received standing ovation, and we all patted each other on the back in our echo chamber.

    anecdotally, I was very frustrated a few years ago when, as a university counselor i had a female student come to me to inform me that she was changing her major to “art”. she explained that her dream was to be a mom, but she needed a degree as a “back up” and so she wanted the easiest degree there was at the school. it was quite the teeth-grinding conversation for me, as i provided her with option after option showing that the art degree was just as rigorous in time/credits as the business or graphic design courses that would provide more career mobility as a “back up”, but she wasn’t moved from her decision.

    One thing that is very important to note is that any documented marginalization based on ethnicity, gender, or orientation (etc) is grounds for sever consequences generally, but especially in institutions that receive federal funding like a university. if someone receives direction from leadership that due to being a (protected category member) they will need to out-preform their “other” co-workers in order to keep their job, I would think that is grounds for HR action at least, if not a lawsuit. with these federal protections widespread, if the victim doesn’t address it with HR or others capable of correcting it, it seems unfair to really give much benefit of the doubt to anyone who willfully ignores the process to correct discrimination. as a gentle argument, I cant provide much credibility to anything that is “unspoken”. that is nebulous, and much too personalized in the mind of the person to even quantify and correct. while i dont know the exact situation of your friend, I have spoken with tenure track faculty, and grad students (male, female, white, and minority) who have expressed similar “above and beyond the expectation” in order to progress and get ahead. academia, especially in top-ranked schools seems to be a meat grinder that equally destroys the soul of men, women, and everything in-between while we actively participate.

    If i have one criticism of this post, it is that it conflates the requirements of one career with those of an ambiguous “other”…. ie, academic inequalities compared to what? military personal often travel and are away from their families for months, male or female. all working mothers, and families with dual working parents struggle to balance the day-care conundrum. leadership positions and hierarchy is by nature restrictive (and when an organization has too much, it is top heavy and ineffective). authors, artists, self-employed, and management/executive people struggle with the ability to leave work at work. the more important you are to an organization, or the more your work isnt dependent on a particular desk, the more we struggle with encroachment and work life balance. but enough of that stuff.

    one thing i agree with, and has frustrated me specifically that you address a little bit is the way that personal relationships in academics arent viewed as valuable. whether a as a student or as a professional in the odd world of academics, i have noticed that modern discourse, feminist theory, multicultural perspective, and progressive liberal society generally found in academia have lent a distasteful air to the role and title of “husband”, “wife” (unless of course, you are gay), lambasting them as derogatory in role and superseding in power. “partner” is the new preferred term. when i was applying to grad school, one of my faculty wrote that my family was a weakness that would hinder my ability to preform compared to other single students. I livid… I wanted to ask him if my sobriety and monogamy could be seen as a strength, since I wouldn’t be distracted by partying and hooking up the way my cohort did. I resonate with your struggle with kids; im the only one in my program with kids. I think that while it is possible to have empathy for many situations and people, there are a very few things that we really cant understand unless we experience it, and parenthood is one of them. I look forward to this series!

    Comment by Transient Reader — August 19, 2016 @ 2:10 pm


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