Audit Finds Gender Disparities in UC System Hiring Practices

LOS ANGELES — The University of California hires female faculty at lower rates than the available labor pool, leading to a gender disparity among

professors.

A state audit conducted over a five-year period and released Wednesday found that while 46 percent of the applicants available for hire nationwide are women, only 29 percent are actually hired to be professors at the UC.

Part of the reason for this disparity lies in the fact that departments tend to hire more established, senior faculty rather than assistant professors — and these tend to be men.

Also, opening up applications to international candidates, as well as focusing faculty searches on male-dominated fields like engineering and physical sciences, significantly reduce the number of women in the applicant pool, according to the study. Thus, the actual pool from which the UC hires professors is only 33 percent female. “”The audit showed no direct discrimination, but we should attempt to improve as much as possible,”” said Abby Lunardini, spokeswoman for the UC Office of the President.

“”The pool we hire from cuts out people who get their Ph.D. from a lower-level institution and have no outside research experience,”” she said, adding that this is something the UC definitely wants to change.

Martha West, a law professor at UC Davis, said the UC “”plays a game of ‘let’s steal your superstars'”” instead of hiring younger assistant professors.

Gender disparity is especially significant in the physical sciences. In the engineering school at UCLA, for example, about 10 out of the 140 professors are women.

J. Woody Ju, chair of civil and environmental engineering, said only one of the 15 professors in his department is a woman, despite continuous attempts to attract female faculty.

“”The relative pool of outstanding doctoral candidates are male. In my department, there are roughly 60 Ph.D. students and only three are female,”” he said. “”But the same is not true at the undergraduate level, where in the civil engineering almost half of the students are female.””

Because of a recent Supreme Court ruling that narrowed the applicability of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, it will be more difficult for women, or minorities, to sue for discrimination — unless it was done intentionally.

“”Now, if 80 to 90 percent of our faculty are white men, we can’t use that to prove discrimination exists.”” said Student Regent Justin Fong, who added that he sees definite discrimination in the faculty hiring process.

The audit, requested by state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, also looked at the starting salaries for female faculty, and found that, on average, women receive 90 to 92 percent of the pay male professors receive when they are first hired. Some of this disparity, however, has more to do with women’s concentration in lower-paying fields and does not necessarily mean women are paid less for doing the same job. Nevertheless, the report recommends further monitoring male-female salary ratios.

The audit also found that departmental search committees are overwhelmingly male — in fact, the search committees for nearly two-thirds of the 242 newly hired professors the audit tracked included no women at all.

According to the Bureau of State Audits, a decline in the proportion of newly hired female faculty was the reason behind the report — especially in light of Tidal Wave II, which will not only increase the number of students in the UC by 60,000 over the next decade, but also prompt the hiring of about 7,000 new faculty. Currently, the UC employs about 8,000 professors.

“”Is there a strategy to deal with the increase in faculty?”” asked Jim Turner, assistant vice chancellor of graduate division.

The UC has 60 days to respond to the report’s recommendations, which include avoiding all-male search committees and considering additional outreach to identify wider applicant pools. But because of Proposition 209, the 1996 state initiative that banned the consideration of gender and race in university hiring and admissions, the UC cannot actively recruit female faculty, or decide who to hire based on the person’s gender.

According to Fong, new criteria the university has implemented to address the drop in underrepresented minority admits — such as looking at geographic or socioeconomic background — does not address the gender disparity in faculty hiring.

“”A lot of attention has been paid to admissions and minorities,”” Fong said. “”The issue of gender isn’t something that has been spoken of.””

–Daily Bruin

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