Inside Higher Ed has an article today about a survey of Assistant Professors at R-1 universities and their relative job satisfaction. Interestingly, “these satisfaction gaps vary by discipline. In many measures of satisfaction with various policies or conditions, the gaps between men and women are not statistically significant in many disciplines, but are significant in others, especially in the social sciences.” To be sure, men appear to have higher job satisfaction than women across the board:
The finding is significant and potentially challenging to many universities, because the social sciences, on average, are more likely to have significant numbers of women in departments than are some other fields. “The fact that these differences cut across disciplines and, in fact, are most evident in disciplines in which women are relatively well-represented is important to keep in mind,” said Cathy Trower, research director of COACHE, which is based at Harvard University. In other words, any university that thinks it has solved problems related to gender just by recruiting a critical mass of women may find otherwise.
Some gaps in job satisfaction (all with men as happier than women) were evident across several disciplinary categories. These job areas include: reasonableness of scholarship expectations for tenure; the way professors spend their time as faculty members; the number of hours they work as faculty members; the amount of time they have to conduct research; their ability to balance work and home responsibilities; and whether their institutions make raising children and the tenure track compatible.
“Social Sciences” is hardly as cohesive a collection of disciplines as Humanities or Natural Sciences, in my opinion. (And I really hate it when they include History as a Social Science! Please. The linked summary report doesn’t appear to specify the disciplines included in each metacategory, so I don’t know if History is included in Social Sciences or in Humanities.) Their emphases, subjects of inquiry, and methodologies are very widely disparate. (Sociology versus Economics, anyone?) Here’s more analysis from the article:
Barbara M. Fraumeni, chair of the American Economic Association’s Committee on the Status of Women in the Economics Profession and chair of the Ph.D. program in public policy at the University of Southern Maine, said that her committee regularly documents the pipeline issues in the field. The latest report on doctoral granting institutions— consistent with recent years — notes that far larger shares of those earning doctorates are women than are associate professors and that the associate share is far larger than the full professor share. Fraumeni said that women have been earning doctorates in the field for long enough that the lack of female full professors is something that needs an explanation.
“In economics, I would be surprised if women weren’t less satisfied than men,” she said. (She also noted that, within the social sciences, economics has more of a gender gap in total numbers than do other fields.)
Fraumeni said she regularly hears from frustrated female economists who feel that they are passed over for promotions in favor of men. She said she just heard from someone (not at her campus) who described how two men with lesser qualifications were promoted, and that the chair talked about these men as “being like sons” to him.
I don’t know what to make of the data, since I’m not a social scientist. (BTW, as usual for articles that discuss gender at IHE, just ignore the a$$y comments. There must be some very aggrieved men out there just waiting to pounce whenever Scott Jaschik posts an article that dares to suggest any feminist analysis of a problem in higher ed.) Some of the other reasons proffered for the dissatsifaction among women in the Social Sciences sound to me very, very similar to the dissatisfactions among women historians (the isolating nature of the work, and the difficulty of winning tenure if one’s research is on women’s or gender issues.)
What’s your theory, social scientists? (And do you have a model for it? Have you run it past your IRB?)