Some professors feel the invisible glass ceiling for faculty
hasn’t broken yet at CSU, but fingerprints are beginning to
Some female professors at CSU say the university still needs to
work on its gender equality, but they also believe there is promise
for the future.
“I just think that women fight the old boy network on this
campus,” said Kathy Partin, an associate professor of biomedical
sciences. “I think that many people in the administration want to
see it change, but it’s not clear how to change it.”
There is quite a disparity in the ratio of female to male
professors in tenure-track positions at CSU, with lower percentages
of females holding high-ranking faculty positions and the
percentages increasing as the rank gets lower.
CSU breaks its professor faculty positions into three levels:
professor, associate professor and assistant professor. It takes
about six years on average to be promoted between the professor
levels. Associate professors and full professors usually have
Women made up only 12.5 percent of the university’s total number
of full professors last year, according to the Office of Budgets
and Institutional Analysis. Women made up 32.7 percent of associate
professors and 42.6 percent of assistant professors.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Partin said. “I
guess I’ve been lucky that my department is pretty
One of the major benefits of tenure is that professors have
academic freedom to speak without fear of being fired.
“Each department has to have a code that describes the criteria
they’re gonna use to evaluate that faculty member, and it’s going
to be centered around teaching, research and service,” said Faculty
Council Chair C.W. Miller, a professor in biomedical sciences.
Assistant professors must excel in two of these criteria to
become associate professors, and associate professors must excel in
all three to advance to professor.
Some people say the disparity between different women professor
rankings is a result of the fact that women were not as involved in
education until recently. The almost 50 percent of women at the
assistant professor position could support this notion.
“It certainly does take a long time for the academic community
to change,” said Joan Ringel, spokesperson for the Colorado
Commission on Higher Education. “Attention to diversity really
didn’t start taking place until the late ’70s.”
Keith Ickes, associate vice president for Administrative
Services and director of the OBIA, agreed with this view.
“I think the reason you see disparity in the ranks is reflective
of the hiring that’s taken place over a different period of time,”
he said, adding that since more women are getting doctoral degrees
and are in the undergraduate program, this is beginning to change.
“I think the evidence would indicate we were not being as
aggressive as we could’ve been. I think there’s evidence that it’s
Partin maintained that the low numbers of women are
representative of the people in power.
“The fact of the matter is my department head reports to a male,
who reports to a male, who reports to a male,” she said. “It’s
harder to feel comfortable schmoozing when you’re an outsider, and
sometimes women are made to feel like they’re outsiders.”
Carol Blair, a professor in the Department of Microbiology,
Immunology and Pathology, agreed that sometimes women are left out
of the equation, although this may not be intentional.
“The decision-makers are mostly white males, and even though
many of them are fairly enlightened, when they get together to make
decisions, it usually happens that the system is perpetuated,” said
Blair, who was the first female department head in the College of
Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. “When I came there
were probably fewer than 10 women faculty, tenure-track faculty, in
our college. The number of women faculty in our college now is
The late Alan Tucker, vice provost for faculty affairs, said in
mid-December that Partin and Blair have a point. When 87.5 percent
of full professors are males – and full professors are part of the
tenure committee process – it could be a disadvantage for women, he
“Clearly, she’s right,” he said. “If they all happen to be white
males, then yes, there might be a bias.”
Still, he said the tenure process itself is gender neutral,
except that sometimes extenuating circumstances, such as time off
for familial or medical reasons, will be considered.
“None of these standards are gender-biased, but departments will
take into account specific circumstances that may impact their
ability to fulfill duties and responsibilities,” Tucker said.
Blair advised women faculty just entering the fray to be sure to
know what is expected of them to advance.
“I would recommend to her to seek wise mentors, both male and
female,” she said. “To be very clear about expectations of her
position and be sure the things that she is doing are the things
that her superior expects her to do to attain promotion. We’ve got
a lot more women in decision-making positions and that helps to
facilitate the careers, to encourage career development among women