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The Possibility of Promotion: How Race and Gender Predict Promotion Clarity for Associate Professors

by Amanda M. Kulp, Lisa Wolf-Wendel & Daryl G. Smith - 2019

Background/Context: The research on promotion to full professor is sparse. Research that does exist has largely emerged from single campuses and studies conducted through disciplinary associations. Extant studies strongly suggest the presence of equity issues in advancement throughout the academic pipeline. Our study uses cross-institutional results to offer analysis of and potential solutions for the problem

Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: We explore the extent to which tenured faculty members at four-year postsecondary institutions are clear about their prospects of being promoted to full professor and how their background characteristics, institutional characteristics, and satisfaction with various aspects of academic work predict their perceptions of promotion clarity. We are focused on whether cultural taxation in the form of heavy service and advising—often associated with underrepresented minority faculty and women faculty—is a factor. We examine the influence of ideal-worker norms and work/family demands on perceptions of promotion clarity. Lastly, we focus on the structural elements of the academy to frame the topic, rather than focusing on individual agency.

Population/Participants/Subjects: This study uses data from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey, a large, national study of postsecondary faculty. Our sample consists of 3,246 individuals who held full-time, tenured positions as associate professor at four-year institutions when they responded to the surveys between 2010 and 2012. The sample was roughly divided between males (54%) and females (46%), and most faculty were employed at research institutions (59%). The sample was predominantly White (82%). The characteristics of the associate professors in the sample are representative of the larger U.S. faculty population at the time of the survey.

Research Design: This quantitative study uses descriptive statistics to examine patterns in promotion clarity across various demographic and institutional characteristics. We examine how satisfaction variables intersect with perceptions of promotion clarity for associate professors. Then we conduct a series of linear regression analyses to explore the influence of predictors on associate professors’ sense of clarity about promotion.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Being unclear about expectations of promotion to full professor is clearly of concern to faculty members at four-year universities in the United States, but it is especially of concern to women. Satisfaction with service is a very important variable in predicting perceptions of promotion clarity. For all associate professors, working at certain types of institutions or in particular academic disciplines had an inverse relationship with promotion clarity. The factors associated with lack of clarity about promotion are more structural than individual.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 5, 2019, p. 1-28
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22614, Date Accessed: 9/24/2021 9:09:33 PM

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About the Author
  • Amanda Kulp
    University of North Florida
    E-mail Author
    AMANDA M. KULP is the Director of Assessment at the University of North Florida. Her research interests include faculty issues in higher education. Among her recent publications is “The Effects of Parenthood on Ph.D. Recipients’ Paths to the Professoriate: A Focus on Mothers,” in The Ideal Worker in Higher Education: Context-Dependent Norms and Work-Life Balance for Men and Women (New Directions in Higher Education).
  • Lisa Wolf-Wendel
    University of Kansas
    E-mail Author
    LISA E. WOLF-WENDEL is Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies in the School of Education at the University of Kansas. Her research focuses on faculty issues, including studies of the academic labor market, the needs of international faculty and faculty from historically underrepresented groups, and the policy response of academic institutions in light of demands for dual-career accommodations and work/family balance. Among her recent publications is Academic Motherhood: Managing Work and Family (Rutgers University Press).
  • Daryl Smith
    Claremont Graduate University
    E-mail Author
    DARYL G. SMITH is Senior Research Fellow and Professor Emerita of Education and Psychology at Claremont Graduate University. Her research interests include faculty diversity in higher education. Publications include Diversity’s Promise for Higher Education: Making it Work, 2nd ed. (Johns Hopkins University Press).
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