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Fewer Women Have Tenure At Harvard, Report Says

By Alan Finder

A year after Harvard’s president, Lawrence H. Summers ’75, promised a major effort to make the faculty more diverse amid a controversy about his remarks about women in science, a university report released Tuesday indicated that most of the work remained to be done.

Women represent considerably less than half of the faculty in all but one of Harvard’s schools, and while the number of women in tenure-track positions grew slightly from the last academic year to the current one, women still make up a small fraction of the university’s tenured professors.

These were among the findings in the first report from the Office for Faculty Development and Diversity, which Summers established at Harvard in May 2005. He also pledged to spend at least $50 million over the next decade to improve the university’s efforts to recruit and promote women and minorities.

Summers announced the initiatives after months of controversy over his remarks suggesting that “intrinsic aptitude” could help explain why fewer women than men reached the highest ranks of science and math in universities.

Much of the data in the report was assembled to highlight where women and minority members had been making progress and where efforts and resources needed to be concentrated, said Evelynn M. Hammonds, senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity, in a preface to the 49-page document.

Hammonds’ post was also created last year by Summers, who announced in February after a renewed clash with the faculty that he would leave office at the end of this month.

Hammonds said in a telephone interview, “I think what’s important about what happened this year is that the university made a serious effort to address these issues.”

In the report she wrote: “By some measures, we are not out of line with our peers. However, other data show that some schools and departments still have a lot of work to do.”

In the natural sciences, 25 percent of the faculty on a tenure track were women in this academic year, the report found, compared with 22 percent a year ago. But among the tenured professors in natural sciences, only 8 percent were women.

The proportion of tenured faculty in natural sciences was lower than at some comparable universities, like Princeton, Stanford and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the report said, while the proportion of tenure-track professors was similar.

Women represent a substantially larger proportion of the Harvard faculty in other departments and schools. At the Graduate School of Education, 80 percent of the faculty on a tenure track are women, as are 38 percent at the School of Public Health and 48 percent in the social sciences. But women make up a considerably smaller portion of the tenured faculty in these schools and disciplines. In the education school, 39 percent of the tenured professors are women. In the social sciences, 21 percent are women.

The proportion of tenured and tenure-track minority members also varies widely. In the School of Business, 22 percent of such faculty are members of minorities, in natural sciences 16 percent, as are 11 percent of tenured or tenure-track law school professors and 10 percent of such humanities faculty.

The report pointed to new programs including study centers in five important undergraduate science courses; a residential summer program for 100 undergraduates doing research with science and engineering professors; and a lecture series on issues for women in science.