GW sees slow climb in professor gender, racial diversity

Faculty diversity has inched up slowly in recent years, according to data presented Friday, with administrators counting on a “pipeline” of minority and female professors as the University jumpstarts hiring.

GW’s breakdown of female, black, Hispanic and Asian professors is about in line with national numbers, and stayed flat or increased by 1 percentage points across individual colleges between 2010 and 2011, the latest data available.

About 40 percent of GW faculty are female and 15 percent are Asian, while 9 percent are black or Hispanic.

Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion Terri Harris Reed said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that the University is leaning on departments and schools to lure diverse candidate pools with new hiring strategies and fellowships, helping to accomplish a major goal of University President Steven Knapp’s administration.

But she said the University has been unable to rapidly increase the diversity of its faculty because the number of female and minority doctoral candidates has increased slowly, and added that the number of new hires every year is limited.

“When we’re doing our work, we try not to get discouraged because we have to look at what’s available in the pool,” she said. “We can’t make change until there’s opportunity. With the tenure-track faculty, it’s harder to make changes, whereas with our student population, it turns over every four years.”

Still, Faculty Senate executive committee chair Michael Castleberry called the data sobering after the University has spent several years trying to make strides toward diversifying faculty.

He pointed to the little growth in the number of females who earn full professorships, the University’s highest rank, which has risen from 20 percent to 23 percent over the last decade.

“I can see that we are doing it at the assistant and associate level. I’m not surprised that we’re not seeing it at the higher level,” he said. “But the increase still seems to be small based on the kind of input and energy we’re putting into it.”

The number of female full professors is also in line with the schools GW calls its peers, like Boston University, which counted 21 percent of its top-ranked faculty female.

The focus on diversifying hiring also comes as the University aims to significantly grow its faculty pool overall. The decade-long strategic plan, to be finalized in May, calls for adding 50 to 100 professors across all schools. GW’s largest school, the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, is also on track to add about 20 professors over the next two years.

The University closed the gender gap the most among associate professors, increasing the number of female faculty by 13 percentage points over the past decade.

Growth in Hispanic and black full-time faculty has been more tepid, rising only 3 percentage point over the past decade. Most significantly, the School of Engineering and Applied Science increased its number of Asian professors from 17 percent to 32 percent over the last 10 years.

The engineering school continues to have the most minority faculty members at the University, but has struggled to increase its number of female faculty, also in line with a national trend.

Knapp said in an interview Friday that building a larger base of minority faculty is a challenge, but emphasized that the University was committed to diversifying its hiring pool as the number of minority doctoral candidates increases nationwide.

“You know, we have to be aggressive in the way we conduct our searches to make sure we’re not just going to familiar sources, because there’s a great temptation, a great tendency, for any institution, to reproduce itself,” he said.

Since becoming the University’s first diversity and inclusion administrator in 2011, one of Reed’s top priorities has been diversifying faculty hiring searches.

The Graduate School of Education and Human Development substantially increased the number of female faculty members over the last decade as it has ballooned its tenure-track faculty core.

The number of female full-time faculty members jumped from 52 to 61 percent, and the number of black or Hispanic faculty also jumped from 11 percent to 17 percent.

Dean Michael Feuer said his office has made an effort to maintain and increase diversity among its faculty members while “maintaining and raising standards of academic excellence.”

He said GSEHD faculty and administrators have worked with the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, which has improved hiring search tactics by “trying to understand with respect to things like innovations in institutional practices to increase persistence, motivation and mentoring.”

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