Research on Gender and Promotion

In this post, I would like to do a follow-up on my previous blog on promotion. The following largely draws on various reports I have shared in different venues. Moreover, I had assistance from fellow sociologists and the KU-APSCUF Social Justice Committee in drafting various parts of those reports. As a social scientist, I believe that we should continuously gather and review this sort of data while addressing problems such as sexism within our institutions. I welcome any comments or criticism of the following information and analysis.


Promotion is a process that involves many actors both on and off-campus. This overview presents empirical data on gender and promotion at Kutztown University. Gender, much like race and sexuality, undoubtedly impact promotion. The data presented is meant to provide context as to what is going on at the university. Clearly, gender matters. However, the following can give us insight as to how it matters at Kutztown University. That said, the following cannot speak to individual cases of promotion or denial. It can, however, speak to structural flaws at KU in regard to promotion, as well as issues in higher education.

Using Factsheets and Factbooks from the Office of Institutional Research (OIR), we see that there are significant gaps between male and female professors at different ranks. *** Note: I am using OIR data that only uses “men” and “women” as categories. Figure 1 illustrates the number of men and women at different ranks from 2007-2019. It should be stated here that the overall number of faculty has decreased in this period as well. That said, Figure 2 shows a gradual increase in the percentage of female assistant professors. From 2007-2009, there were more male assistant professors than female. Since 2009, there have been more women at the assistant professor rank. Notably, in 2019, we see about twice as many women at assistant than men.

This suggests that KU has been hiring more women than men – while overall staffing is decreasing. Despite these gains, there are still significantly more male associate and full professors, than women at the same rank. In fact, the gap between male and female associate professors has increased since 2016 despite gains a few years earlier. In 2016, 46.1% of associate professors were women, and in 2019, it had dropped to 41.7%. The percentage of women at full professor rank dropped as well. This suggests a step backward.

Figure 2 illustrates that some women are getting promoted to full professor. More on that later. However, we see a decline in associate professors that parallels gains in the rank of full professor. Yet, given the number of female assistant professors, we should be seeing the percentage of associate professors hold or even increase if they are being promoted at the same rate as men.

We see this in greater detail in Figure 3, which illustrates the number of male and female tenured assistant professors. In our system this is possible. There are two observations that can be made here. The first is there is nearly 3 times the number of women than men that are tenured assistant professors. The second is that while the number of tenured male assistant professors has decreased, overall the number of women has largely remained steady – despite an increase in the middle of this time period.

The Promotion Process

We are a unionized campus, as such our promotion process is governed by our collective bargaining agreement, as well as a local set of guidelines. Looking at the data provided to the faculty union (APSCUF) by the administration, and generated by past university promotion committee (UPC) members, we see that men and women are being promoted at relatively similar rates between 2010-2018. On the surface, this may appear to be a contradiction. What this suggests is a major part of the bias/discrimination that is occurring has a structural dimension.

First, while promotion rates are similar, men are generally applying for a promotion at higher rates than women for both associate and full professors ranks. For instance, more men applied for associate professor 2016-2018, despite there being more women assistant professors. In other words, men are applying at higher rates than women. We need to ask why this is the case. Is it due to maternity leave, women being discouraged from applying, or lack of mentorship?

Second, related to the question about mentorship, the department where female assistant professors are in could be variable. For instance, a single department – Elementary Education – in Fall 2019 had 7 tenured assistant professors. Which accounts for 19% of the 37 tenured assistant professors in 2019. All are women. Another department, English has 5 tenured assistant professors, most of which are women. These two departments account for about 1/3 of all tenured assistant professors. This could be an internal departmental problem, a broader disciplinary issue tied to norms in publishing, or how fields are gendered .

My previous blog entry examined Google Scholar results for successful promotion applicants. Looking at results in Google Scholar (which is not the same as publications), I found that in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences (CLAS) between 2010-2018 the following:

  • For promotion to Associate Professor for those in Humanities fields, there was a mean of 2.06 results. For the Social Sciences there was an average of 3 results, and for STEM fields an average 3.97.
  • For promotion to Full Professor in CLAS, we see means of 4.85 for Humanities, 11.63 for Social Sciences, and 10.57 for STEM.

The difference in disciplines is interesting here. It is perhaps worth asking if issues are perhaps exacerbated in fields where there is less “traditional” research activity such as peer-reviewed publications, or disciplines that are heavily gendered such as education. Here, it is also important to ask how these expectations affect men and women differently.

Below is an updated table with promotion to full professor data (the differences between this chart and the previous blog are due to my catching some errors).

Figure 4: Google Scholar Results of Promotion Applicants to Full

Year# Promo. to Full MEAN Google Scholar Results
(All Years Prior to Promo)
Median Google Scholar Results
Data Sources: Kutztown University Daily Brief Emails and Google Scholar

A claim commonly made about promotion at Kutztown (and beyond) is escalating requirements. That said, there does not seem to be a steady increase in Google Scholar results over time. Rather, there has been a lot of fluctuation. Again, the data above is simply a count of search “hits” with a successful applicant’s name. It does not take into consideration “quality” of item that is found. It is a fact, that there has been greater scrutiny of publications since 2015, following a crackdown on faculty publishing in predatory journals.

Given the growing importance of quality (perhaps in addition to quantity), this raises the question of time between promotions. Since my previous blog post, I’ve been able to get more complete data for recently promoted faculty As such, I have since been able to look up the data found in Figure 6. As you can see, there’s a great deal more variation among successful female applicants for full professor than for men.


Figure 6 may imply an age dimension for women going up for full professor. This also means that other factors should be looked at. I was unable to do a thorough analysis for women of color. As seen in Figure 7, KU is not a particularly diverse campus. To put this in perspective, only 9.4% of faculty are women of color. The incredibly small numbers, especially for Black and Latinx women, make it difficult to see larger trends. However, we do see that Black women at KU generate above-average Google Scholar results. Specifically, the 8 black women as of Fall 2019 at KU (1 full professor, 2 associate professors, and 5 assistant professors) had a mean of 4.6 results and a median of 2.5.

Figure 7: Faculty Demographics (Fall 2019)

Asian/Pacific Islander222143
Native American112
2 or More Races / Unknown5712
Source: Kutztown University Fall 2019 Fact Sheet


Wrapping up, promotion is a process. It is not just a matter of a decision being made in a fixed point in time. Rather, there are a number of social/political/cultural forces and biases that influence the outcome. It is my hope that this blog post assists others in having a meaningful conversation as to how to mitigate those biases.