Where are the women?

Heather Bryant
Sun Star Reporter

There is a saying about finding a man in Alaska: the odds are good but the goods are odd. Historically there have been more men than women in the state. However, one place where women are the majority is the academics.

More women in the United States receive undergraduate and graduate degrees. As of last year, women also became the majority of doctoral degree recipients. But walk into a classroom at UAF and odds are not good that you will find a female tenured professor.

“Where are the women?” was a panel hosted Tuesday, Dec. 7 in the Wood Center multi-level lounge. Sponsored by the Committee on the Status of Women, the Women’s Center and the Women’s Gender Studies Program, the event featured the perspectives of women from different areas of study at UAF.

Carol Gold, a history professor who was the first coordinator of the women’s studies program, said that no women were promoted to full-professor status last year. After calling the provost to find out why, she was told because no women had applied.

Entry level for faculty is the assistant professor position. Within seven years, they come up for promotion or tenure. If the faculty member receives tenure, they become an associate professor and can stay at this level as long as they want. Full professor status is at the top of the academic structure and can take up to 15 years to attain.

According to Gold, that means the current pool of candidates eligible should be the number of doctoral recipients in 1995, which were 45 percent female. Currently at UAF, there are 25 female full professors, only 18 percent of the faculty. That is roughly the same level as 30 years ago, said Gold. The College of Liberal Arts has only three female full professors, including Gold.

“It’s kind of cyclical,” said Cynthia Owen, the executive officer for CLA. “We’re in the middle where we have a lot of female faculty at the assistant [professor] level but it takes a while to move up.” She also added that they recently had a female tenured professor retire.

The panel raised concerns about the university’s lack of records for gender statistics and the large number of adjunct professors UAF employs instead of tenure-track professors.

Carolyn Kremers, an adjunct lecturer with the English department, highlighted the pay differences for adjuncts versus full professors. Kremers said that her pay averages out to somewhere between $11.19 to $15.67 an hour with no health or pension plan, a three-credit tuition waiver, discounted parking and faculty library access. She has designed and taught about 30 different courses for UAF since 1991. As an adjunct professor, there is no possibility of advancement for her.

“I’m not ungrateful for the opportunity to work as an adjunct, but I don’t know how much longer I can survive working this way,” Kremers said.

Chris Coffman, an associate professor of English, suggests creating more fulltime professor positions to provide more opportunity for advancement, which would also reduce the burden on adjunct professors.

“This is a systemic problem. This isn’t something we should be expected to solve on our own,” Gold said.

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