About two-thirds of the faculty are male and about four-fifths identify as white, according to statistics published on the Dean of the Faculty’s website. The faculty continues to lack racial and gender diversity despite concerted institutional efforts in recent years to increase it.
Though males and whites dominate the faculty, the current make-up represents a significant increase in faculty diversity, according to Dean of the Faculty Rajiv Vohra P’07. Both he and Director for Institutional Diversity Valerie Wilson cited the Plan for Academic Enrichment as an engine for increased diversity in recent years.
The number of female faculty members has increased by 30 percent since the 2002-03 academic year, while the presence of various minority groups has also increased.
“The University is putting a great deal of emphasis on diversity in terms of faculty,” Wilson said. “But you have to understand that recruiting a diverse faculty is not like recruiting a diverse group of students in the freshman class.”
Vohra said the current faculty reflects a lack of diversity in the pool of applicants. In the physical sciences, for example, he said it is “quite well-known” that there aren’t many senior women faculty members across the “university system as a whole.”
Finding a qualified female professor for the physics department is “as rare as a fang in an owl’s mouth,” said Michael Kosterlitz, professor of physics and chair of the Committee for Faculty Equity and Diversity.
Vohra also said the high number of tenured professors — 72 percent — slows down faculty turnover, making it difficult to quickly alter its composition. Consequently, he attributed the growth in diversity to increased hiring in the past 10 years, a component of the Plan for Academic Enrichment.
But both Vohra and Wilson emphasized change beyond the overall numbers, citing shifts in ethnic and gender composition in individual departments.
“In the Department of Economics, at one point we had no women at any level,” Wilson said. “Now there are two senior women in the Department of Economics, and there are extensive recruitments going on that we hope will result in the appointment of women and maybe even racial or ethnic minorities.”
Vohra said he believes the introduction of female professors into historically male departments such as economics, physics and applied mathematics will pave the way for future female hires.
Professor of Economics Glenn Loury, who is African-American, said that although he doesn’t like to “play a numbers game” with issues of diversity, he does think increased faculty diversity would benefit students. At the same time, he said it is important to consider the pool of applicants.
“Maybe I wish there were more black faculty around not at just this university, but at other universities of this caliber,” Loury said. “But I know how hard it is to find outstanding African-American candidates.”
Wilson added that faculty diversity is considered heavily in the hiring process. When looking for new faculty members, departments must submit recruitment plans to the Dean of the Faculty’s office and to Wilson. Both review the plans and the subsequent shortlists of applicants to ensure that departments consider diversity. An affirmative action representative also sits on every recruitment panel.
Professor of Mathematics Hee Oh, who is originally from Korea, said her department does consider “the issue of women” when looking for new hires. But Oh, who previously worked at the California Institute of Technology, also said a lack of diversity exists at many schools.
About 18 percent of Harvard faculty members identify as minorities, while 27 percent are female, according to a report published this year. Yale, meanwhile, reports a faculty composed of about 20 percent minorities and 33.5 percent females. Penn, Stanford University and Cornell all published reports in 2009, finding percentages of minorities in the teens and percentages of females in the twenties. An article in Princeton’s alumni magazine reported a similar race and gender distribution.
Both Vohra and Wilson expressed hope for future increases in faculty diversity, though Wilson said she believes there will always be a “lag” between student and faculty diversity. According to statistics published this fall, 52.2 percent of undergraduate students are female and 45.8 percent identify as white. The graduate school and Alpert Medical School reported similar gender and race distributions.
Wilson also said diversity in the faculty encourages students to follow their passions. “Having a scholar of color or a woman scholar in these classes really demonstrates to students the universality of knowledge and the potential of every individual to aspire to those fields to which they are best suited,” she said. “There’s no such thing as a field that is only for this person or that person.”