Beki Grinter

Top Heavy or Full Enabled?

In academia, computer science on June 24, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Recently I’ve heard the phrase “top heavy” to describe the balance of Full Professors as opposed to professors in other ranks. But I’ve also heard the phrase top heavy applied to women outside of the academic context (I’ll leave precisely what that’s referring to to the reader’s imagination). As a result, every time I hear it used in the academic context I wince because of this association.

Most recently, this wincing gave rise to an exercise. I decided to look at the composition of men and women at different ranks in various departments. There are departments where the number of Full female Professors is the same as the number in the other ranks combined or more. Others where that will soon be the case. But in each rank they are a small percentage of the total number of people in the rank, and that’s especially true at the Full level.

This made me think that despite the small numbers, perhaps we would be better served viewing the problem as an opportunity. I’m excited about the number of departments that are increasingly “Full enabled” with women or will soon be so. I wonder whether the presence of a critical mass of women can be a change agent for growing further participation. Just imagine the places we might go…

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