TROY LAWRENCE/THE VARSITY

Data released by the Office of Planning and Budget shows a disproportionate overrepresentation of men in both tenured and non-tenured professor positions at U of T. Women make up only around 26 per cent of total full-time tenured and tenure stream Professors — a less than five per cent improvement from data collected in 2007.

This data goes along with an analysis by The Varsity of the Ontario Sunshine List, which showed clear gender pay gaps among the university’s top-paid professors.

In a breakdown by rank and gender, both full-time tenured and non-tenured Professors were overwhelmingly male in 2017.

Of 948 tenured and tenure stream faculty, 26.05 per cent were women. Of 1,091 full-time staff of professor rank, 26.12 per cent were women.

This aligns with historic trends, as the 2007 Facts and Figures book shows the same tenured and tenure stream faculty had 795 professors with 21.26 per cent women — the representation of women from 2007 to 2017 has increased just 4.8 per cent.

Nursing and the Rotman School of Management have the largest disparities in gender balance among tenured faculty. Out of 21 full-time tenured faculty in Nursing, 19 were female and two were male. Conversely, at Rotman, 87 out of 102 total tenured faculty were men.

The faculty with the largest number of tenured faculty, Arts & Science, was 34.32 per cent female among 679 professors.

Assistant Professor and Associate Professor positions have a better gender balance than the higher rank of Professor. Among tenured and tenure stream faculty, 46.64 per cent of Associate Professors and 37.54 per cent of Assistant Professors were women.

University responses

In a statement to The Varsity, Heather Boon, Vice-Provost Faculty and Academic Life, admits that the low percentage of female tenured and non-tenured Professors is due to historical hiring practices. However, Boon expects the number to increase as more women move up the ranks.

Boon also lists a number of initiatives that the university is working on to improve gender equity, including funding from the provost, appointment of a Provost’s Advisor on Women in STEM, and establishing mentorship programs for new faculty.

Also listed is an updated employment equity survey. While the university has committed to demographic surveys in the past, ambiguity still remains around their timeline.

Associate Professor in the Department of Organizational Behaviour and Human Resources Management at UTM Sonia Kang isn’t surprised by these results. Kang explains the systemic issue of gender imbalances where fewer women make it into traditionally male-dominated top ranks in many institutions. Expounding on her research, Kang describes the major hurdle that exists between the rank of ‘Professor’ and ‘Assistant’ or ‘Associate Professor.’

In her research, Kang describes how women have low rates of participation when put into opt-in competitive environments, such as tenure streams. However, when that same choice becomes an opt-out, meaning the decision has to be made to not apply, women reached an equal number of tenure into competitive environments as men.

Whereas tenure at U of T is an opt-out system, promotion to the full rank of Professor is opt-in. Kang suggests that an opt-out system for promotion from “Associate” to full-rank “Professor” could help in U of T’s underrepresentation of women in the higher ranks of academia.

“[Women] tend to display as being more risk-aware so they’re more aware of the risks of certain decisions so they might not take them. It can also be… women are socialized maybe to be less confident, but there’s a whole bunch of different reasons why you might lose women at that juncture.”

While these problems may be conditional to competitive fields like academia, Kang also thinks that there are greater societal issues at play creating large disparities in gender representation.

Editor’s Note (November 26, 6:51 pm): An earlier version of this article misstated Sonia Kang’s title. It is Associate Professor, not Assistant Professor. This article has also been updated to provide additional context on tenure streams at U of T. 

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