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Harvard Reaches Gender Parity in Junior Faculty Hires

By Karl M. Aspelund and Meg P. Bernhard, Crimson Staff Writers

Harvard’s total number of junior faculty hires has reached gender parity across the University for the first time ever, according to Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Judith D. Singer, amid what she called “a conscious effort on the part of the University” to increase faculty diversity.

Thirty-one of the 62 new junior faculty who joined Harvard in the 2014-2015 academic year were women, and 24 percent of the new hires were minorities, according to a report released by the University-wide Office for Faculty Development and Diversity.

“The fact that it’s at that level is remarkable,” Singer said, referring to the gender parity reached in junior hires.

Women constituted 36 percent of the 47 new junior faculty entering Harvard  in 2013-2014, according to University spokesperson Tania deLuzuriaga.

Singer attributes the shift over the past decade in the percentage of minorities and women in the faculty to deliberate attempts by administrators to ensure the potential candidates come from as wide a pool as possible and that all people involved in the search process seek to mitigate any unconscious biases that may affect hiring.

These latest hires bring the total number of tenured and tenure-track faculty to 1,572, two fewer than last year but up 115 from 10 years ago. Of this University-wide group, 438, or 28 percent, are women, and 334, or 21 percent, are minorities.

Within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, offers for tenured and tenure-track faculty are currently at gender parity, according to Dean for Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser. At the time of comment, she did not know the percentages of women among junior hires who accept these offers.

Faculty members responded positively to news that junior hires have reached gender parity but said that, overall, reaching equal gender representation in all of Harvard’s faculty is a distant goal.

“I think that’s great,” Physics professor Vinothan N. Manoharan said. “Our faculty, though, still is overwhelmingly male, and so I think we still have a long ways to go.”

History and Literature lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy said Harvard should not settle for what he called a “huge milestone” in achieving gender parity at the junior hire level but should seek gender parity for tenured faculty members as well.

McCarthy, who is also a lecturer at the Kennedy School of Government, added that Harvard must continue to be “vigilant” when hiring and especially granting tenure to faculty members.

“In the long term it doesn't do us as much good if we’ve arrived at gender parity at the level of the hire, but if there are huge disparities in terms of gender inequalities at the level of tenuring,” McCarthy said.

Katherine J. Hinde, an assistant professor of Human Evolutionary Biology, said providing resources for faculty from underrepresented populations is also important to ensure a diverse community on campus.

“What we need to ensure is that the opportunities and experiences are equal," Hinde said, "[and] that certain demographics aren’t more likely to be marginalized or burdened with disproportionate service” once they are on campus as faculty members.

Singer said she thinks the overall increase in diversity in Harvard’s faculty is necessarily predicated by an increase in women and minority representation among junior hires.

“What you’ll note is that both of the those percentages [of minority and women hires] are larger than the corresponding percentages amongst the junior faculty,” Singer said. “That’s the only way to change things. You’ve got to bring in people who are more diverse than the existing stock of people in order to actually change the situation.”

—Staff writer Karl M. Aspelund can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @kma_crimson.

—Staff writer Meg P. Bernhard can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @meg_bernhard.

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