A Quantitative Study of Faculty Retention and Promotion in Engineering across Gender

Matilde L Sanchez-Pena, Purdue University


The retention and promotion of a diverse engineering faculty body play a primary role in the advancement of the field. Failure to retain engineering faculty has significant economic implications for institutions. Additionally, the availability of role models and potential mentors for women and other minorities is paramount for the continuing diversification of the field. Prior research has documented additional challenges faced by women faculty in engineering when compared to men; such evidence has resulted in significant attempts to attenuate such disparities among faculty at all ranks. From the institutional perspective, examining retention and promotion times across gender would help to assess possible persisting inequalities in the success of men and women engineering faculty. This work investigates gender differences in the average Institutional Retention time, Time to Tenure, and Time to Promotion from associate to full professor across a sample of 20 U.S. engineering institutions during the period 1999–2017. Gender differences in the success rates of advancing through the faculty ranks were also evaluated. The theoretical tenets of this research are based on (1) the theory of gendered organizations and (2) critical mass theory. Statistical models including event history analysis, logistic regression, and chi-square tests were used to estimate the described times and rates of success respectively. Results showed that men and women faculty had similar institutional retention times when hired at the assistant level. However, men departed earlier when hired at the associate or full ranks. There were no differences between men and women faculty in time to tenure. Men and women faculty had similar time to promotion when they were hired at the associate level, but when hired at the assistant level women were less likely to be promoted to full professor and experienced longer time to promotion. This evidence indicates some advancement for women's success at the lower ranks of academia, which might reflect some impacts of the increasing proportion of women achieving PhD degrees in engineering. The absence of differences in the time to tenure raise questions about the level of information on family-friendly policies provided during the tenure track, as well as the level of encouragement to use them. Furthermore, it invites new inquiries about the status of women at the associate and full professor levels. A better understanding of the challenges faced by women faculty at such levels as well as the limiting factors for their advancement to leadership positions is necessary. Results of this research have implications for institutions assessing their ongoing diversity efforts. Additionally, they may represent encouraging prospects for graduating PhDs considering the faculty path.




Main, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Educational evaluation|Education Policy|Engineering

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