FEMALE CHAIR IMPROVE DEPARTMENTS’ GENDER DIVERSITY AND EQUITY.
It’s common advice: to increase faculty gender diversity, increase the gender diversity of institutional leaders. But what about department chairs, a kind of middle-management position — do they make a difference? And beyond gender diversity, does having a female chair help improve the success of female academics?
The answer to much of the above is yes, according to a new working paper finding that in departments with female chairs, gender gaps in publication and tenure rates are smaller among assistant professors. The pay gap also shrinks. After departments replace a male chair with a female chair, they see an increase of about 10 percent in the number of incoming female graduate students, with no change in students’ ability levels.
Yet the takeaway is not that it’s “always necessarily better for a woman to work in a female-chaired department, or that chairs show favoritism towards individuals of their own gender,” the paper cautions. Rather, it says, the results reinforce other findings suggesting that “managers from different backgrounds often take different approaches, highlighting the value of diversity among decision-makers.”
Further work is needed to understand the management practices that may “help all individuals and academic departments achieve their full potential, regardless of gender or other characteristics.”
Female Managers and Gender Disparities: The Case of Academic Department Chairs
The paper, “Female Managers and Gender Disparities: The Case of Academic Department Chairs,” was written by Andrew Langan, a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Princeton University who has previously found that graduate economics programs with better outcomes for women tend to hire more female professors, enable adviser-student contact, offer “collegial” research seminars and employ senior faculty members who are aware of gender issues.
Langan said this week that he wanted to study female department chairs in particular because academe is, “in many ways, an ideal setting to look at the impacts women have in management and how they differ from men.” That’s a major of area of research with many unanswered questions, he added, and academe is an “especially nice place to look for answers.” Why? Academe has long-run data on individuals’ background and outcomes, to often include public salary data.
From a policy perspective, there’s big “interest at universities in reducing gender and other disparities in things like pay and promotion,” he said. And government, business and academe alike seek to increase gender balance in certain fields. Among assistant professors, working more years under female department chairs is associated with smaller gender gaps in publication and tenure rates. The wage gap across a department also shrinks in the years after a woman replaces a man as chair. And female chairs raise the number of women in incoming graduate student cohorts without affecting the number of men, or proxies for ability.
Rules set by IIT Bombay
The institute on Monday announced that the chair has been set up with donations of an undisclosed amount from alumni member Amit Dixit, who is currently the head of Asia for private equity at global investment firm Blackstone. The announcement of the first chair is likely in September. The Indian Institute of Technology- Bombay (IIT-B) has become the first Indian varsity to up a woman faculty chair. The move is a bid to honour the contributions of women faculty members and encourage more women to take up science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses.
The institute on Monday announced that the chair has been set up with donations of an undisclosed amount from alumni member Amit Dixit, who is currently the head of Asia for private equity at global investment firm Blackstone. The announcement of the first chair is likely in September.
The chair is a term for endowed professorships as a recognition of a faculty member’s contribution to the university in terms of research and academics. It is the highest honour that an academic institute can confer on its faculty.
“The prestige of an endowed chair also lends an additional cachet to the departments. It helps to attract the best and brightest young students and investigators, thus securing the future of the institution. It is clear why endowed chairs are an essential constituent of IIT-B. This is what would be seen in many other outstanding educational institutions worldwide,” the institute’s policy on chair professorship states.
Chair professorships reserved for women are gaining ground in western and European countries but are scarce in India. The Amit Dixit Chair professorship for women faculty members is one of the first to be set up by any Indian university. Last year, the University Grants Commission (UGC), the apex body governing all higher education institutions, had announced 11 women-centric academic chairs in various universities but they are yet to be established.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the first woman chair professorship in IITs across the country, to recognise the efforts of women. In 2020, the Centre announced 11 women-centric academic chairs in various universities in honour of historic women scientists, including cytogeneticist Archana Sharma, botanist Janaki Ammal, organic scientist Darshan Ranganatham and chemist Asima Chatterjee, among others. These chair professorships are yet to be formally established. So we are the first, for now, as far as I know. I look forward to the day once all these chair professorships are formalised, as there will be a big impetus for women in STEM,” said Suhas Joshi, professor and dean, alumni and corporate relations.
Position of women chair
Dixit, who graduated with a BTech in civil engineering degree in 1995, said this new position would inspire faculty and students and widen the funnel to develop women leaders in technology.
“India has risen to global prominence for its strong talent pool particularly in STEM disciplines. IIT-B and its alumni have created a large impact on the global technology industry. It is increasingly important to promote diversity and support women so they have the opportunity to secure global leadership positions,” said Dixit.
Joshi said the chosen chair will have an exciting and challenging role ahead.
“Her [chair’s] work will primarily be divided under two heads – initiate and provide expert guidance in research and development programmes, improve interaction with industry through consultancy work and provide academic and technical leadership in her field as well as oversee and help mentor the volunteering groups who help attract brilliant women students to the Institute,” said Joshi.