COACHE Special Focus Report: Gendered Experiences of Faculty at UMass Amherst

COACHE Special Focus Report: Gendered Experiences of Faculty at UMass Amherst

The UMass Amherst Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey was conducted in February-April of 2020 and broad survey findings are reported here. This report is the second in a special focus series disaggregating results among groups. Here we summarize differences in faculty satisfaction by gender.* Our sample slightly overrepresents women (50 percent), compared to the UMass faculty population (45 percent).**

In some areas, women are more satisfied than men: (1) impressions of the quality of students, (2) availability of certain resources and supports across campus, and (3) the experiences and accomplishments of non-tenure track faculty members. More often, women report lower satisfaction, particularly in three areas: (1) tenure and promotion to associate professor, (2) promotion to full professor, and (3) workload equity.

* Results of each area of the COACHE survey are available by gender for men and women, including transgender men and women. Additional gender identities constitute 2.3 percent of the sample but are too few to enable comparisons.  
** Given sample size constraints, data are not available in such a way to allow for examination of the intersectionality of gender and race.

Areas of Greater Satisfaction for Women  

Bar graphs showing that women express greater satisfaction than men in terms of quality of their students, support for improving teaching, and mentoring outside of the department.

Women express greater satisfaction than men about their impressions of the quality of the students they teach. They are also more pleased with the availability of campus resources, including the libraries and support for improving teaching. While they view the effectiveness of mentoring outside of their departments more positively, this may be related to the fact that they are less satisfied with mentoring they receive within their departments. However, this appears to be dependent on faculty track as women are more satisfied with the mentoring of non-tenure track faculty in their department. They also have more positive views of the intellectual vitality and scholarly productivity of non-tenure track faculty.

Areas of Greater Concern for Women

Tenure & Promotion

Bar graphs showing that women express less satisfaction than men in terms of clarity of the tenure process, clarity with expected role as a scholar, clarity about whether tenure will be achieved, and consistency of messaging about tenure.

Women express less satisfaction with several processes related to tenure and promotion. They report less clarity than men about the tenure process, criteria, standards, expectations about their role as a scholar and as a teacher, and whether they will achieve tenure. They report less consistency of messaging about tenure than men and they are less confident that tenure decisions are performance based. 

Promotion to Full Professor

Bar graphs showing that women express less satisfaction than men in terms of clarity of standards for promotion to full professor, clarity about body of evidence for promotion to full professor, clarity about whether they will be promoted to full professor, department culture encouraging of promotion, and mentoring of associate professors in department.

More striking are the gender differences in satisfaction with processes for promotion to full professor. Women’s lower satisfaction in this area was larger than in any other area of the survey. Compared to men, women lack clarity of promotion standards, the body of evidence for promotion, the promotion process, promotion criteria, the time frame for promotion, and whether they will be promoted. They view promotion expectations as being less reasonable and their department culture as less encouraging of promotion. Related to promotion to full professor, women are less satisfied with mentoring of associate professors in their departments. Conversely, they are more likely than men to say that they received effective mentoring outside of their department.

Workload Equity

Bar graphs showing that women express less satisfaction than men in terms of time for research, number of courses taught, equity of committee assignments, distribution of advising responsibilities, ability to balance research, teaching, and service, and ability to balance professional and personal lives

Spread across multiple categories of evaluation is a common theme that women are less satisfied than men about workload equity and how that impacts the time they have available for their scholarly activities.  Women were significantly less pleased than men about the time they spend on research, administrative tasks, teaching, and service. They were also less satisfied with clerical/administrative support. They are less pleased about the number of committees they serve on, the number of courses they teach, and their number of advisees. Compared to men, women feel that committee assignments, distribution of teaching loads, and distribution of advising responsibilities are less equitable. Related to this, they feel significantly less able than men to balance their research, teaching, and service responsibilities as well as to achieve the right balance between their professional and personal lives. They are less satisfied with flexible workloads/modified duties as well as institutional support for family and career compatibility.

Summary, Resources, and Recommendations

The clear and sometimes striking differences in satisfaction of women and men in the interrelated areas of tenure and promotion, promotion to full professor, and workload equity suggest the need for increased clarity of policies, procedures, and workload assignments as well as the availability of increased mentoring support throughout the early- and mid-career periods. Lower satisfaction of women with issues related to workload equity leads them to be significantly less pleased with the time they have available for their scholarly activities and to feel that they are less able than men to balance their research, teaching, and service responsibilities as well as to achieve the right balance between their professional and personal lives.   

Encouragingly, women demonstrate higher levels of satisfaction, relative to men, in areas where strong campus support is available, including within our libraries and the Center for Teaching and Learning. An expanded institutional approach to supporting faculty career success and wellbeing led to the relatively recent creation of the Office of Faculty Development (OFD). The OFD launched programming in the Spring of 2019 and offers an array of supports expected to address many of the career challenges women shared in their COACHE survey responses. In addition to expanded faculty development support, several institutional initiatives have been launched over the past several years that have potential to improve women’s experiences in these areas. Examples of these combined efforts are as follows:

  • Many Deans and the Provost have directed departments to develop mentoring plans for all newly hired junior faculty members. Core areas of these mentoring plans include research/creative activity, teaching, service, faculty governance, professional networking, and community/local connections. Of importance to note regarding service, focus is to be placed on balancing service with other obligations, engaging in strategic service, and recognition of invisible service.  
  • The recently developed Mentoring Plan for Promotion to Full Professor tool is designed to provide timely career guidance and mentoring for associate professors. Voluntary use of this tool allows associate professors to engage in productive conversations with their department head/chair and personnel committee members that serve to clarify the expectations for promotion to the rank of full professor. This process may also result in recommendations that will help faculty stay on track for promotion as well as identify departmental support necessary to allow the faculty member to do so.
  • Available departmental bylaws and culture documents may also be helpful in clarifying the processes and expectations for tenure and promotion and/or promotion to full professor.  

Both faculty and administrators recognize the ongoing importance of addressing challenges and have recently agreed to two additional institutional initiatives expected to improve the promotion to full professor experience and workload equity:

  • As per the new collective bargaining agreement between MSP and the administration, OFD will oversee a new mid-career fellowship program, which annually will offer one semester of full teaching and service release to support five mid-career faculty members’ progress towards promotion to full professor.
  • Also resulting from the new collective bargaining agreement, departments will be required to develop equitable workload plans. These plans will focus on racial and gender equity and recognize individuals who have high levels of service. The multi-institutional Faculty Workload and Rewards Project, funded by a National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant and led on our campus by Professor Joya Misra, offers a wealth of data and resources to support efforts to improve workload equity. Additional recommendations and resources can be found in the UMass Amherst COACHE Survey Service Report.

In addition to the new and soon-to-be launched initiatives described above, existing processes such as the Annual Faculty Report review provide opportunity for sharing specific feedback and recommendations regarding progress toward tenure and/or promotion. As part of this annual review process, department chairs and personnel committees are encouraged to consider which of their associate professors should be engaged in conversation regarding a voluntary promotion review.  

Most of the initiatives and programming described here were launched very close in time to the collection of survey data and some are forthcoming. While these efforts hold high promise for improving the experience of women on our campus, it will be important to monitor their effectiveness in realizing this goal. 

Author Bio: Sarah Poissant, PhD

Dr. Sarah Poissant is Chair of the Communication Disorders Department and was a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow in the Office of Faculty Development (OFD) during the 2021-2022 academic year. She is also Chair of the Faculty Senate’s Graduate Council. As a Chancellor’s Leadership Fellow, Dr. Poissant worked to institutionalize and expand OFD’s programming and services for mid-career faculty and she contributed to the scholarly writing program, the Leadership Essentials for All Faculty series, and programming for department heads and chairs. Dr. Poissant’s scholarly interests include speech perception in adults and children with hearing loss, real-world listening abilities of cochlear implant users, and novel approaches to behavioral hearing testing in young children. Her research has been published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Ear and Hearing, the International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology as well as other audiology and otology journals. She is a past recipient of the School of Public Health and Health Sciences Outstanding Teaching Award and recently served on the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Committee on Evaluation of Hearing Loss for Individuals with Cochlear Implants.