Gwyneth McClendon, an assistant professor of Government since 2013, will leave Harvard at the end of this academic year, marking the Government department’s second loss of a female faculty member since Beth Simmons left in June 2016 for the University of Pennsylvania.
McClendon’s and Simmons’ departures leave the already predominantly male Government department even farther from gender equity, according to Claudine Gay, divisional dean of social science and a Government professor. Of the department’s more than 45 professors, less than a quarter are women, according to information from the department’s website.
“Gov definitely needs some attention. We suffered a really big loss when Beth Simmons left, and we were already operating at a low number of female faculty, especially at the tenure track ranks, but also at the senior ranks,” Gay said. “So finding ways to create more faculty diversity within Gov is definitely a priority for me.”
Government Department Chair Jennifer L. Hochschild also expressed concerns about “diversity issues” in the department. While the faculty departures constitute a “small number of people,” she said, the losses are “a very large proportion” of the department’s female faculty.
“We have relatively few junior faculty, untenured faculty, who are not white men. We have relatively few women on the faculty and relatively few non-Anglo,” Hochschild said.
At the Faculty’s February meeting, Dean of Faculty Affairs and Planning Nina Zipser said diversity within FAS remains “concerning,” though the body has neared hiring an equal share of male and female ladder faculty members. Twenty-nine percent of the Faculty are women this academic year, according to Zipser, and they may face additional burdens—from a lack of mentoring to more pressure to serve on administrative committees.
Hochschild said “gender” and “family issues” may also play a role in female faculty members’ decisions to leave Harvard.
Moving forward, Gay said she expects the process of diversifying the department to begin with “more aggressive and assertive” recruitment processes.
“I think one of the biggest things is making sure at the very start of the process we’re working to build a diverse pool,” Gay said. “To do that requires not just posting on a central hiring site and waiting for applications to roll in.”
According to Hochschild, the department is currently searching for a replacement for McClendon.
“Fortunately I’ve got a terrific partner in the chair, Jennifer Hochschild, who’s absolutely energized by the task,” Gay said. “So I’m very optimistic that we’ll make some real headway there over the next couple of years.”
—Staff writer Alexis J. Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @aross125.