Report 2000-131 Summary - May 2001

University of California


Some Campuses and Academic Departments Need to Take Additional Steps to Resolve Gender Disparities Among Professors


Regarding the University of California (UC) and its hiring of assistant, associate, and full professors:


The University of California (UC), with its nine campuses, employs approximately 8,000 assistant, associate, and full professors (professors). A decline in the proportion of newly hired female professors has prompted concern about employment opportunities for women, especially in light of UC's expectation that it will need to hire about 7,000 new faculty over the next 10 years. As a result, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee asked the Bureau of State Audits to analyze data relevant to this concern and to review UC's hiring process. We were also asked to determine if disparities exist between the salaries of newly hired female and male professors.

Summary-level analyses indicate that UC hires female professors in smaller proportions than are available for it to hire (the labor pool). The typical measure used to assess whether a university needs to address issues related to gender disparities in its hiring is the proportion of women earning doctorates nationwide. In an ideal environment, gender parity is reached when the proportions of men and women hired reflect the proportions of men and women in the available labor pool. UC's hiring data for the past 5 years show that a significant disparity appears to exist between the proportion of female professors it hired and the overall proportion of female doctorate recipients nationwide.

Identifying the factors that contributed to this disparity required us to go beyond the summary-level comparisons and consider the labor pool from which UC actually hires and how the gender distribution of that pool limits the opportunity for UC to hire female professors. We found that certain key decisions that departments at UC campuses make when they decide to hire professors effectively reduce the proportion of women in the labor pool. These decisions include focusing some searches on more experienced, tenured professors (associate and full professors rather than assistant professors) and on specific fields of study where men predominantly hold degrees, as well as opening positions to international candidates. For example, related to field of study, our benchmark data indicate that UC has a 1 in 5 chance of hiring a female professor within ceramic engineering. However, it has a 1 in 8 chance of hiring a female professor in polymer engineering and only a 1 in 14 chance of hiring a female professor in metallurgical engineering. These three subspecializations all exist within the materials engineering specialization. Therefore, selections of subspecialties within which departments decide to recruit may significantly affect the proportions of women who apply and, ultimately, the number of female professors hired.

We acknowledge that departments can choose to hire professors at levels or in fields of study in which proportionately fewer women exist to meet reasonable organizational, research, or teaching goals. Although there is no indication that UC consciously makes decisions concerning level of professor, specialization, or the consideration of international candidates to reduce the likelihood that women will apply, the result is nevertheless the same-each decision effectively reduces opportunities for women overall to be considered for professor positions. These decisions reduced the proportion of women in the labor pool from 46 percent to an estimated 33 percent; UC hired only 29 percent female professors during our 5-year review period. We believe that UC should be aware of the extent of the effect that all three factors have on addressing issues related to the lack of gender parity, although UC has the best opportunities to change its decisions regarding level of professor and field of study. Specifically, when flexibility exists, UC should be open to recruiting professors at the assistant level and in fields that will not decrease the likelihood of hiring female professors.

Even considering the effect of UC's recruiting decisions on the gender distribution of the available labor pool, it is clear that certain academic disciplines are doing better than others are in hiring women in proportions comparable to their availability. However, while such data analysis is useful as a starting point, the data alone do not indicate how and to what extent UC needs to improve its existing hiring process. It is necessary to analyze the process itself. When we examined the procedures in place at selected academic departments at the nine campuses, we found that not all UC campuses and departments make sufficient efforts to address gender parity issues when hiring professors.

UC has delegated the responsibility of hiring professors to each of its nine campuses. In fact, the individual departments at the campuses bear the primary responsibility for the search and selection of new professors. Although individual campuses and departments have their own hiring procedures, they all follow a similar overall hiring framework. Because UC receives funds under contract with the federal government, it must comply with federal affirmative action requirements. However, California's Proposition 209 and a policy established by UC's board of regents specifically prohibit UC from giving preferences to groups based on characteristics such as gender during the hiring process. Therefore, campuses and departments are limited in their ability to target women for job opportunities.

Despite these constraints, some campuses and departments have developed and implemented more procedures intended to address issues related to the lack of gender parity in hiring than others have. For example, at the beginning of the hiring process, some departments are now considering the existing gender mix of their professors. However, departments sincerely trying to correct gender disparities in hiring will need to more fully consider the impact that level of professor and specialized field of study can have on gender parity. Also, these considerations should be part of the early stages of the hiring process.

Further, we noted various weaknesses in the methods that departments use when planning and implementing searches to recruit new professors. For instance, search committees for some departments were either all male or predominantly male. Campus representatives told us that female professors can provide search committees with different perspectives when evaluating candidates. However, the search committees for 156-nearly two-thirds-of 242 professors whose hiring we reviewed included either no women or only one woman. Search committees averaged six members in size. In addition, while the searches for 83 professors-about one-third of those reviewed-had no women on the committee, only nine committees did not have any men.

Another weakness was that the search committees for some departments did not use data regarding the proportion of women in the labor pool when they planned searches. To help them focus their efforts to achieve their goals, search committees on one campus included these data in their written search plans along with the steps they planned to take to achieve their hiring goals. However, some search committees for departments on other campuses did not include either the data or the related strategies for achieving the goals. Without formally considering data regarding the proportion of women in the labor pool while planning searches, search committees may not know how much effort they need to make to address issues related to the lack of gender parity within their departments.

Departments within some disciplines on some campuses also displayed an inability to obtain applications from women in proportions reflecting their availability in the labor pool. For example, women represent 20 percent of the labor pool in the mathematics discipline. However, while three campuses received an average of at least 18 percent of their applications from women for positions in this discipline, three other campuses could achieve no more than an average of 10 percent.

Finally, our summary-level comparisons of starting salary data reveal that female professors at UC generally earn less on average than their male counterparts. The average starting salaries for female professors ranged, depending on level of professor, from 90 percent to 92 percent of male professors' starting salaries. However, the results of our examinations at selected departments concerning why such differences in compensation occur suggest that factors other than gender may be the cause. Departments have a great deal of discretion in determining the amount of salary for a newly hired professor. The demands for certain academic disciplines, specializations, and individuals play an important role in establishing the compensation of a newly hired professor. Therefore, we found no basis to support a conclusion that UC's practices result in female professors being paid less than male professors simply because of their gender. However, the extent of discretion that exists in setting compensation warrants periodic monitoring to ensure that differences in compensation do not exist simply because of gender.


To help address issues related to the lack of gender parity among its professors, UC should require its departments to more fully consider early in the hiring process how the levels and specialized fields of study for professors they are seeking affect employment opportunities for women overall and the resulting gender parity on campus. UC should also direct its deans to review the sufficiency of departments' considerations before authorizing departments to proceed further with the hiring process.

Additionally, UC should take several other actions to address issues related to the lack of gender parity. These actions include avoiding all-male or predominantly male search committees; requiring search committees to incorporate data in their search plans on the extent to which women are available in the labor pool, along with strategies to help achieve recruiting goals; and considering additional outreach to identify broader applicant pools.

Further, UC should periodically perform summary-level salary monitoring to identify patterns that may indicate that female professors are receiving lower salaries than their male counterparts and investigate any such instances to ensure that inconsistent treatment does not occur.

Finally, UC should report to the Legislature biennially on its progress in addressing issues related to the lack of gender parity in its hiring of professors. UC should also biennially report on the results of its salary monitoring to the Legislature.


UC concurs with our findings and states that it will make every effort to implement the recommendations in our report.