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KU shows steady gains in female faculty

Doug Koch/University Relations

Lisa Friis, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, advises student Casey Lauer in this file photo. Friis is among a growing number of female faculty at KU. The university is second in the Big 12 in percentage of female faculty.

The number of female faculty members at KU is on the rise, as recent increases have put the university among the top in the Big 12 in the percentage of tenured and tenure-track female faculty members.

KU has the second highest percentage of tenured female faculty in the Big 12 and the third highest percentage of full professors, according to the American Association of University Professors.

Female faculty members represented 33.3 percent of tenured and tenure-track faculty at the Lawrence campus in 2005, a 7.7 percent increase from just five years earlier. During the five-year span, 37 academic units posted increases in the percentage of tenured and tenure-track female faculty. Environmental studies and American studies showed the largest increases at 33.3 and 31.4 percent, respectively. Humanities and western civilization, social welfare and pharmacy practice all increased at least 20 percent in the same period. All of KU's colleges and schools showed increases, as did each division of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Women are also well represented among KU's deans, with six female deans, including, Barbara Atkinson, KU Medical School; Ann Brill, journalism and mass communications; Gail Agrawal, law; Diana Carlin, graduate school and international programs; Mary Ellen Kondrat, social welfare; Lorraine Haricombe, libraries; and Karen Miller, Schools of Nursing and Allied Health.

Kathleen McCluskey-Fawcett, senior vice provost, said the increases of the past five years are the result of a concerted effort not only to hire female faculty, but also to support them once they're here.

"We've made it a priority to be very active in finding and supporting strong female candidates at all levels, assistant professors through deans and distinguished professors," McCluskey-Fawcett said. †"We're pleased that we stack up well with our peer institutions in this area and will continue to make sure KU attracts and supports world-class faculty."

Donna Ginther, associate professor of economics, has researched gender gaps in pay and tenure among university faculty. Ginther studied a sample from universities across the country to look for reasons discrepancies exist in salary and tenure between men and women.

Some universities do not grant maternity leave or allow women to stop their tenure clock when they have children. She pointed to KU's policy which allows faculty to stop their tenure clock for up to 12 months as one way universities can provide an environment conducive to success for female faculty.

"On the whole, KU is doing a good job of taking steps to address some of the disparities that contribute to the gender gaps in faculty," Ginther said.

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