Faculty Diversity Report Shows Uneven Growth Across Graduate Schools

Diversity Graphic

A University-wide report tracking the growth of faculty gender and racial diversity across Harvard’s individual schools found that some schools—like the Law School and the Graduate School of Education—have seen growth in the number of women and minorities on their faculties, while others—like the Graduate School of Design and Harvard Kennedy School—have made little to no progress in diversification over the past decade.

The Faculty Diversity and Development report, compiled annually by Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity Judith D. Singer, contains statistics on the number of ladder faculty—meaning tenured professors and those on the tenure track like assistant and associate professors—who are women or minorities within FAS and the University’s professional schools. The report, released earlier this month, also details initiatives each school is undertaking in order to diversify its faculty.

Women make up 30 percent of the University’s ladder faculty, according to the report. Within that statistic, 27 percent of tenured faculty and 40 percent of tenure-track faculty are women this year. Over the last decade, female tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty have grown by three and six percentage points, respectively.

The report measures Asian faculty and underrepresented minority faculty separately. Across the University, 23 percent of ladder faculty are minorities. Within that group, 8 percent of tenured faculty are underrepresented minorities and 11 percent are Asian. Eleven percent of tenure-track faculty are underrepresented minorities and 21 percent are Asian.


Since 2008, the percentage of overall minority faculty has grown to just above 20 percent. Asian tenure-track faculty and tenured faculty have grown by four and three percentage points, respectively. Underrepresented minorities have grown by one and three percentage points, respectively.

“Progress is slow, slower than I would like… Changing the faculty is actually a long game. It's not a short game,” Singer said.

Faculty diversification, however, is a hot topic on the University’s agenda. The Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging—convened by University President Drew G. Faust in May 2016—recommended the University bolster its efforts to recruit and support a more diverse faculty base in its final report released last month.

“Increasing the diversity of the Harvard faculty is front and center on the minds of all university leadership,” Singer, who was also a member of the task force, said.

Singer said she has had conversations with Faust, President-elect Lawrence S. Bacow, and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76 surrounding the topic of faculty diversification. In response to the task force report, Faust announced she is allocating $10 million worth of presidential funds to new faculty hires last month.

But Singer said Harvard isn't the only university looking to diversify its faculty—all of its peers are aiming to do the same and may look to Harvard as a source of promising prospects.

“Every other institution is trying to diversify their faculty. One of the best ways to diversify your faculty if you are one of our peer institutions is to look at who we have,” she said. “So on the other hand, we also have to make sure that it is possible for our tenure-track faculty to succeed here.”

Singer said the University has kick-started several initiatives to improve “quality of life” for faculty. Among these is encouraging all schools to move to a tenure-track. According to Singer, the last school to do so was the GSD, which will begin its tenure-track program in the fall; at that point, all of the University’s schools will have moved to a tenure-track. In the absence of a tenure-track, the University offered less support for career advancement to younger academics and relied more on professors that had already gained tenure at another institution to fill positions.

The University has also committed to constructing a new childcare center in Allston, adding to its six current centers. It reserves half of the slots in Harvard-affiliated child care centers for faculty and recently raised the income cap for subsidies for childcare, according to Singer.

“This year, for the first time, in anyone’s memory, every faculty member who applied for a slot got a slot,” Singer said. “We are optimistic that we are on track this year and that we’ve solved the access problem into these centers as well.”

Despite these University-wide initiatives, Singer noted that the responsibility of hiring faculty does not fall on the University’s central administration. Individual schools must take initiative in changing the composition of their faculty, which has been historically white and male.

“It takes more than just edicts from the center to change what happens in the individual schools,” Singer said.

Faculty demographics, therefore, are different among schools and they have varying rates of diversity growth. While the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has just reached gender parity in the sciences tenure track, for example, other schools still struggle to recruit female as well as minority faculty.

“The main driver of the differences across the schools is the distribution of women and minority scholars into fields,” Singer said.

Singer, who called the achievement of gender parity in the FAS sciences division one of the “bright spots” of the report, also pointed to the Ed School’s gender parity in tenure-track and tenured faculty. However, she called the latter example “not terribly surprising,” given that the number of people pursuing doctorates in education are mostly women.

Overall, in Harvard’s professional schools, 38 percent of tenure-track faculty—up two percentage points from 2008—are female, according to the report. Twenty-six percent of tenured faculty are female—an increase of seven percentage points from 2008.

Some schools have seen faster growth rates than others. The Law School reported that 67 percent of tenure-track faculty are female, which is 10 percentage points higher than in 2008. The schools’ growth in tenured female faculty is up 7 percentage points from 17 percent in 2008 to 24 percent in 2018.

The report highlighted the Law School’s programs for supporting students and graduates who want to pursue careers in academia, such as a summer academic fellowship program that pairs students and graduates with faculty to provide academic and financial support. The fellowship aims to “enable them to focus on producing publishable work in anticipation of entering the academic teaching market in a few years,” according to the report.

“This is the earliest point in the pipeline at which the Law School provides funding for future academics, and we are encouraged by the percentage of women and students of color in this program,” the report reads.

The Law School, however, reported that just 4 percent of tenured faculty are Asian and 11 percent are underrepresented minorities. Over the last 10 years, the Law School has not made significant growth in increasing the number of faculty in either of these categories.

The Kennedy School has achieved little to no growth in terms of female faculty, according to the report. HKS reported that 33 percent of tenure-track faculty are female, the same percentage as in 2008. Twenty-one percent of tenured faculty are female—up just one percentage point from 10 years prior.

The report states, however, that “nearly 40 percent of all newly tenured faculty members since 2004 have been women.”

The Kennedy School has also come under fire for its slow growth in minority faculty. Asians comprise 6 percent of tenure-track faculty and 14 percent of tenured faculty. Underrepresented minorities constitute 22 percent of tenure-track faculty and seven percent of tenured faculty. According to the report, just three African American professors have received tenure at the Kennedy School. The most recent award of tenure to a black professor at the school went to Khalil Gibran Muhammad in 2016, and, in recent years, three female faculty of color have left the institution.

“We have made less progress toward increasing the ethnic and racial diversity of our faculty, especially among tenured faculty, and must do better here,” the report reads, referring to the Kennedy School.

The Business School reported that 10 percent of tenure-track faculty and 7 percent of tenured faculty are underrepresented minorities. The school’s percentage of underrepresented minorities has only risen by two percentage points from 5 percent to 7 percent since 2008.

However, the Business School reported higher proportions of Asian faculty, with 24 percent tenure-track faculty and 22 percent tenured faculty identifying as Asian.

The Business School shows similar numbers to the Kennedy School in terms of gender diversity: This year, 35 percent of tenure-track faculty and 21 percent of tenured faculty are female. In terms of growth since 2008, though, the school has increased its numbers of female faculty at a more rapid rate than the Kennedy School.

“Faculty diversity continues to be an area of focus. In the 2016-17 season, HBS recruited 23 teaching faculty including 12 tenure-track faculty; 35% of teaching faculty hires are women,” the report reads, referring to the Business School.

While the Medical School has shown growth in female faculty, it has fallen behind other schools with regards to minority faculty recruitment and retention.

The Medical School reported that 34 percent of tenure-track and 23 percent of tenured faculty are female. The school’s percentage of tenured female faculty has grown steadily over the last decade, rising from 15 to 23 percent.

The report claims, however, that for minority faculty recruitment, the Medical School is “far from shifting the curve.”

According to the report, just 4 percent of tenured faculty are from underrepresented backgrounds—up just two percentage points from 2008. Similarly, only 6 percent of tenured faculty are Asian at the Medical School.

“Despite access to guidelines for all searches and engagement of the Dean’s office in senior searches, the outcomes fell short of our general goal of increasing gender and racial/ethnic diversity,” the report reads, referring to the Medical School.

In the School of Public Health, women represent 42 percent of tenure-track faculty and 31 percent of tenured faculty. Asians comprise 16 percent of the tenure-track and 17 percent of the tenured faculty, while underrepresented minorities comprise 13 percent of the tenure-track and eight percent of the tenured faculty.

The report highlighted the April 2017 appointment of Betty Johnson as the Assistant Dean for Faculty and Staff Diversity, Development, and Leadership at the School of Public Health. Johnson focused on developing and expanding initiatives to recruit more faculty from underrepresented minority backgrounds this year, according to the report.

The Divinity School has reached gender parity in the tenure-track. It is the closest among Harvard’s schools, other than the Ed School, to reach gender parity among tenured faculty, with 39 percent female tenured faculty.

The school, however, reports that there are no Asian faculty, which has been true for the last 10 years, according to the report. Twenty-one percent of the faculty are underrepresented minorities.

In July 2017, the Divinity School hired two professors in the area of African American Religions. The school also welcomed Cornel West as professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy in coordination with the FAS’ Department of African and African American Studies in spring 2017, according to the report.

The Graduate School of Design’s female tenure-track faculty is 37 percent, while tenured female faculty is 27 percent. The school has experienced a growth of three percentage points in female tenured faculty since 2008.

Growth in underrepresented minorities has not increased but instead fallen over the last ten years in the GSD from 10 to 8 percent in tenure-track faculty and 17 to 15 percent in tenured faculty. The growth in Asian faculty is upward trending with a increase from 0 to 24 percent in tenure-track faculty and 3 to 9 percent in tenured faculty.

Students at the school recently circulated an anonymous document that listed instances of sexual misconduct and racist acts among individuals in the architecture industry, including several members of the GSD’s faculty.

According to the report, there are ongoing searches at the GSD to fill senior positions in the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning.

“The search committees are actively seeking candidates with a diversity of cross-disciplinary interests and expertise, as well as encouraging applications that will increase the representation of women and minorities in the design faculty and support the larger goal of increasing representation in the design profession,” the report reads.

The practice of collecting data on faculty demographics in the annual report is key to improvement, Singer said. Her office is in the process of conducting its third faculty climate survey. The previous two surveys were distributed in 2008 and 2013, respectively. The collecting of data overlaps with recommendations in the diversity task force’s March report, which calls on Harvard’s central administration and individual schools to conduct more surveys measuring diversity at their institutions.

“Part of what we try to do is identify places we’re doing well and places where we need improvement, so I think data can be a powerful force,” Singer said.

—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.


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