Remember “Chutes and Ladders,” the board game that rewards good behavior with a climb up a ladder and reprimands bad behavior with a slide down a chute? A research team led by HOBI assistant professor Michelle Cardel, Ph.D., R.D., reports that women in academia are likely to encounter more chutes than ladders even when they’ve done all the right things to advance their careers.
In the February 2020 issue of the Journal of Women’s Health, Cardel and 11 other academic research scientists offer recommendations to help academic institutions remedy the numerous gender disparities the team identified in their research.
“Turning Chutes into Ladders for Women Faculty: A Review and Roadmap for Equity in Academia” was published online ahead of print on Feb. 11, 2020, to coincide with International Women and Girls in Science Day.
The study team found evidence of gender disparities and implicit bias in letters of recommendation, teaching evaluations, perceptions about research, publication credits, grant awards and in the tenure and promotion process.
According to Cardel, although women currently receive more than half the nation’s Ph.D.s, those in academic careers are generally less likely to achieve tenure than men.
“Nationwide, only 32 percent of full professors are women,” said Cardel, an assistant professor in UF Health’s department of health outcomes and biomedical informatics. In a review of the literature, the team found that women faculty are viewed as less competent by their peers, rated lower on teaching evaluations, comprise less than one-third of recipients of major federal grants, and are cited less often.
Gender disparities are particularly pronounced in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine, she said. And disparities are even greater among under-represented racial and ethnic groups.
“Black and Hispanic women, for instance, comprise just five percent or less of tenured faculty in the United States,” she said.
Women aren’t the only ones who pay a price for gender inequity in the workplace.
“Gender diversity among leadership has been positively correlated with profits, productivity and creativity,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, earnings and prestige of academic institutions are likely compromised by the continued under-representation of women in high-level positions.”
Gender disparities in higher education also limit the ability of academic institutions to create the kind of inclusive learning environments and diversity in educational programming necessary to empower all students, Cardel said.
To help address these disparities, the authors provided feasible policies and strategies that can be adopted by academic institutions to encourage women to stay in academia and reach higher levels of achievement. Learn more: “Turning Chutes into Ladders for Women Faculty: A Review and Roadmap for Equity in Academia”.