The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) hopes to more than double the number of women faculty members over the next decade to help rectify a glaring gender disparity at the elite science- and technology-oriented school. The goal would mean adding a net of four women faculty members a year, as women currently make up a mere 31 of Caltech's 284 faculty members. The target is included in a new report that examined the status of women faculty members at the university.
"Female faculty are markedly more dissatisfied than their male peers" with life at Caltech, says the report, which was commissioned 2 years ago in the wake of a similar report by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Science, 12 November 1999, p. 1272). Although the Caltech committee found no conclusive evidence that women suffer in terms of salary or lab space, panel members say that the paucity of women made it difficult to carry out a meaningful statistical analysis or provide the necessary anonymity. The panel was chaired by astronomer Anneila Sargent.
The most sweeping recommendation in the report is to increase the number of female faculty from the current 11% to 25% within a decade. Caltech President David Baltimore cautiously embraced that target, which he estimates will require some 40% of new hires over the next decade to be women. "It's not an unattainable goal, but it will be very difficult to achieve," he says. With faculty growth unlikely, he says that the shift will have to come primarily through replacements. The committee also called for a fundraising campaign to bolster the number of women faculty and to attract more women students.
The survey, which included all women and a sample of men, found that more than half the women say they have encountered gender bias, and 30% recalled "adverse interactions" with their chairs over gender issues. Women are three times as likely as men to be dissatisfied with their visibility at Caltech, and less than half expressed satisfaction with their jobs, compared with 73% of men. Tenure decisions are another sticking point: "As many as 70% of women who have successfully attained tenure have at least reservations about the process," the report notes, compared with just 19% of men.