ERIC Identifier: ED355859
Publication Date: 1992-09-00
Author: Tack, Martha W. - Patitu, Carol L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Washington DC.| BBB27915 _ George Washington Univ. Washington DC. School of Education and Human Development.

Faculty Job Satisfaction: Women and Minorities in Peril. ERIC Digest.

Until relatively recently, most research about job satisfaction was completed in the industrial sector, with attempts often made to adapt findings to higher education. Given the impending shortage of prospective faculty to fill the numerous vacancies that will exist by 2000, the topics of job satisfaction for faculty, recruitment, and retention must be given priority attention. Further, the faculty of the future must reflect the diversity of the population to be served by colleges and universities; consequently, immediate actions must be taken to ensure that the faculty position is attractive to women and minorities alike.


Beginning in 2000 and continuing for several decades, a serious shortage will exist of persons to fill vacant faculty positions, with women and minorities clearly underrepresented in a variety of disciplines. Only a few minorities are now in the academic pipeline, and women and minorities who complete the doctorate often choose other occupations because they do not view the faculty position as a viable career choice. Clearly, salaries lag behind those offered by other professions, the faculty position does not command the revered status it once did, and many current faculty are dissatisfied with their choice of career. Unquestionably, such problems will dramatically affect the ability of colleges and universities to attract, nurture, develop, and retain women and minority faculty (Jones and Nowotny 1990). Consequently, institutional officials and current faculty in higher education must recognize the factors that lead to job dissatisfaction among faculty and eliminate them; conversely, they must recognize the factors that increase job satisfaction and enhance them.


Internal stressors on faculty include achievement and recognition for achievement, autonomy, growth and development, the quality of students, the reputation of the institution and one's colleagues, responsibility, the interaction between students and teachers and its effect on students' learning, and the work itself. Factors in the workplace that prevent job dissatisfaction describe relationships to the context or environment in which individuals work, representing such variables as interpersonal relationships, salary, tenure, policies and administration, rank, supervision, working conditions, the "fit" between the faculty role and the person involved, and collective bargaining. Life-style stressors usually have a more dramatic effect on women than men because of societal norms about the priority women should place on their families. The list of life-style stressors is enormous but includes such items as child care, elder care, and physical as well as mental health; in addition, demands from the family and household, such as marriage and children, dual-career/commuting marriages, and domestic responsibilities, dramatically affect the satisfaction and productivity of women faculty.


Women faculty members are less satisfied with their positions than their male counterparts. Today, women represent a small percentage of the faculty cohort, make lower salaries than their male colleagues, are found in the lower professorial ranks, are often employed in part-time rather than full-time positions, represent disciplines typically reserved for females, work in less prestigious institutions, feel that their supervisors do not value their input, and are not tenured.

It also appears that women enjoy and engage in teaching more often than research; interestingly, women must handle heavier teaching loads, a limitless number of student advisees, and more than their fair share of committee assignments while trying to carve out sufficient time for research and writing. In addition, women faculty have to prove themselves over and over again before they can be accepted by their colleagues and achieve recognition.

In addition to these issues, women are bombarded with life-style stressors that add unnecessary restrictions to their ability to achieve success in academe. In most instances, a woman faculty member gives up her own personal time to handle the demands associated with being a mother, wife, domestic servant, care giver for elderly parents, friend, colleague, author, invited speaker, researcher, teacher, committee member, and so on (Aisenberg and Harrington 1988). In effect, when a woman accepts a faculty position, she is really accepting a second or third job!

Clearly, if more women faculty are to be attracted to higher education and those who are currently employed are to remain, something must be done to enhance job satisfaction. Moreover, support services must be in place to help women balance the often conflicting demands of work and life. Unless changes are made in the way faculty work is completed, in the rewards associated with the professoriate, and in the way institutions help people deal with personal obstacles, women faculty could indeed become an endangered species in most disciplines.

"The problem is more significant than simply bringing more women into the university. If we can solve the conflict between work and family, everyone will benefit and it is likely that more women will enter and stay in academe. The well-being of the university depends on its ability to recruit and retain a talented professoriate. Our national well-being depends on our ability to develop a happy, emotionally healthy, and productive next generation" (Hensel 1991, p. 79).


When minority faculty are employed in institutions of higher education, some things are certain. When compared to their white counterparts, they are less likely to be tenured, are concentrated in the lower academic ranks, are often concerned about low salaries, feel isolated and unsupported at work, and often encounter prejudice, discrimination, and a continuing climate of racism. They are also often overburdened with student advising and counseling and institutional or community service. Unquestionably, these problems must be addressed if the number of minority faculty on college and university campuses is to increase (Silver, Dennis, and Spikes 1988).


Leaders and faculty in higher education must implement a variety of recruiting and retention strategies if a faculty representing a diverse culture is to become a reality. Conventional (or traditional) approaches must be combined with fresh, extraordinary strategies, and long-term and short-term plans are necessary. Planning must begin with the enrollment of minorities into undergraduate and graduate programs in decent numbers so they can eventually enter the pool for faculty positions; women must be attracted into disciplines where they are currently underrepresented. Institutions must include incentives for departments to diversify (for example, positions restricted to minority and women candidates, money to provide competitive salaries, and overt rewards for success). A variety of institutions have applied successful strategies.

Clearly, the way colleges and universities recruit, retain, and reward women and minority faculty must radically and immediately change. Only then will the talents of women and minority faculty be unleashed, and only then will higher education be appropriately equipped to respond to the needs of a constantly changing society.


Aisenberg, N., and M. Harrington. 1988. Women of Academe: Outsiders in the Sacred Grove. Amherst: Univ. of Massachusetts Press.

Green, M., ed. 1989. Minorities on Campus: A Handbook for Enhancing Diversity. Washington, D.C.: American Council on Education.

Hensel, N. 1991. Realizing Gender Equality in Higher Education: The Need to Integrate Work/Family Issues. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 2. Washington, D.C.: The George Washington Univ., School of Education and Human Development. ED 338 128. 122 pp. MF-01; PC-05.

Jones, L., and F. Nowotny, eds. 1990. An Agenda for the New Decade. New Directions for Higher Education No. 70. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Justus, J.B., S.B. Freitag, and L.L. Parker. 1987. The University of California in the Twenty-First Century: Successful Approaches to Faculty Diversity. Los Angeles: Univ. of California.

Silver, J., R. Dennis, and C. Spikes. 1988. Black Faculty in Traditionally White Institutions in Selected "Adams" States: Characteristics, Experiences, and Perceptions. Atlanta: Southern Education Foundation. ED 299 891. 151 pp. MF-01; PC-07.

Washington, V., and W. Harvey. 1989. Affirmative Rhetoric, Negative Action: African-American and Hispanic Faculty at Predominantly White Institutions. ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 2. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education. ED 316 075. 128 pp. MF-01; PC-06.


This ERIC digest is based on a new full-length report in the ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report series, prepared by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education in cooperation with the Association for the Study of Higher Education, and published by the School of Education at the George Washington University.

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