Harvard Survey Finds Women and Minority Faculty Report Less Favorable Atmosphere than Men, Non-Minorities

Harvard's seal sits atop a gate to the athletic fields at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in this September 21, 2009 file photo. Harvard University is investigating allegations that approximately 125 undergraduate students cheated on a spring take-home final exam, school officials said on Thursday, disclosing what would be the largest cheating scandal in its recent history. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: EDUCATION)

Harvard University released its 2013 Faculty Climate Survey today and while 81 percent of faculty members are satisfied overall, women and minorities report more negative feelings about the atmosphere than men and non-minorities.

The survey on faculty satisfaction is designed to identify major stresses for faculty in order to develop any necessary policy changes. Harvard first conducted the survey in 2007 and again in the 2012-2013 academic year. Seventy two percent of Harvard faculty participated in the new survey, which focused on satisfaction, atmosphere, tenure, mentoring, and work/life balance, according to the school’s website.

But while the survey results show some gains, there are disparities among the faculty when it comes to the atmosphere of their school or department.

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The survey asked respondents if they agree or disagree “that the climate for female faculty in the School/Department is at least as good as for male faculty.” Fourty four percent of female faculty members agreed with this statement, while 58 percent of male faculty members agreed. Fourty three percent of female faculty disagreed with this statement while only 20 percent of male faculty disagreed.

Female faculty members were less likely than male faculty members to agree with statements like, “the department is a good fit for me” and “the department creates a collegial environment.” Also, 62 percent of female faculty, compared to 79 percent of male faculty, feel the school or department “makes genuine efforts to recruit female faculty.”

More women than men said they feel they have to work harder to be perceived as a legitimate scholar and feel excluded from informal networks. Around 35 percent of female faculty feel they have to work harder compared to about 20 percent of male faculty. About 30 percent of women feel excluded from informal networks while about 20 percent of men feel excluded.

Perceptions of the atmosphere at Harvard also varied between underrepresented minorities (defined in the survey as black, Hispanic, or Native American) and non-minorities.

Respondents were asked if they felt “the climate for minority faculty in the School/Department is at least as good as for non-minority faculty.” Fifty three percent of minority faculty agreed while 50 percent of non-minorities agreed. There were more minorities that disagreed with this statement than non-minorities—39 percent of minorities disagreed, while 21 percent of non-minorities disagreed.

More minority faculty members (around 40 percent) than non-minority faculty members (around 20 percent) also said they feel they have to “work harder to be seen as a legitimate scholar.”

There was also a difference between minorities and non-minorities when it came to feeling excluded from informal networks. Around 25 percent of minorities said they felt excluded from these networks, while around 20 percent of non-minorities said they felt excluded.

In regards to recruitment efforts, 54 percent of minority faculty feel their “school or department makes a genuine effort to recruit minority faculty,” while 60 percent of non-minority faculty agree. Twenty eight percent of minority faculty disagree, compared to 20 percent of non-minority faculty.

Overall, the survey showed improvement in mentorship for Harvard faculty with almost two-thirds of assistant and associated professors having a formal mentor. The gains were also strong for both men and women. In the 2013 survey, 72 percent of women reported having a formal mentor, compared to 35 percent in 2007. For men, in the 2013 survey, 60 percent said they have a formal mentor compared to 39 percent in 2007.

While women made big gains in mentoring at Harvard, there were notable gender differences in regard to work-life balance. Women at Harvard reported higher stress with child care, children’s schooling, cost of living, and caring for an ill child or adult.

There was a wide gender gap when it came to household duties for Harvard faculty. The survey asked respondents how many hours they spend on household duties and child or elder care. Assistant and associate female professors who are single or have a partner who works reported spending an average of 40 hours per week on such duties, while men in that group reported spending about 20 hours per week. For full professors who have children and a working partner or are single, women spend about 20 hours per week on those duties while men spend about 10 hours per week.

The survey also asked how many hours a week faculty spent on work. Men without children or partners work longer hours than women without partners or children. Both men and women with partners and children reported the same number of work hours (about 60).