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Faculty Tenure

Rochelle Wijesingha

About the researchers

Rochelle Wijesingha, PhD (2017) Sociology at McMaster University.

Howard Ramos is a Professor at Dalhousie University.

What you need to know

Achieving tenure and promotion are significant milestones in the career of a university faculty member. However, research often indicates that racialized and female faculty do not receive tenure and promotion at the same rate as their non-racialized and male counterparts. These trends are evident despite the fact that North America is becoming increasingly ethnically and racially diverse and a greater share of university students, graduates, and professors are women.

What is this research about?

The purpose of this research is to investigate whether racialized and female faculty achieve tenure at the same rate as non-racialized and male faculty and what factors affect these rates. The researchers examined two competing explanations offered in the research on tenure and promotion for why racialized and female faculty receive tenure and promotion at a lower rate. The first is based on human capital theory which accounts for disparities in career outcomes through differences in productivity of individual faculty members. This perspective argues that if racialized and female faculty are less productive, then their lower rates of professional reward are justified. In contrast, another explanation focuses on cultural or identity taxation. According to this perspective, minority and female faculty are over-burdened with higher teaching, mentoring, and service work which inhibits productivity and ultimately leads to the denial of tenure and promotion.

What did the researcher do?

The researchers used new original data from the University Tenure, Promotion, and Hiring Survey. This survey was conducted online and consisted of 77 questions focusing on perceptions of tenure, hiring and promotion of faculty at eight English Canadian universities. Three of the universities represent large institutions, two represent smaller ones, and five are members of the U15, which are considered to be the country's most research intensive schools.

What did the researcher find?

Results demonstrated that racialized faculty exceed non-racialized faculty in attaining research grants and publishing journal articles. Yet, racialized faculty do not achieve tenure or promotion at the same rate as non-racialized faculty and are in fact less likely to receive either. These differences remained even after controlling for human capital, cultural taxation and academic discipline. With respect to female faculty, the researchers found that they publish less articles, books, book chapters and edited books in comparison to male faculty. Female faculty were also less likely to receive tenure and promotion. However, these differences become non-significant when measures of human capital, cultural taxation were controlled for.

How can you use this research?

This research is part of a larger project on race and racialization in the university led by Frances Henry and a team of equity seeking scholars from across Canada. Examining tenure and promotion of racialized and female faculty in Canada is important. Canadian research on tenure and promotion of female faculty is limited and the literature on racialized faculty is even more sparse. The researchers offer a rare study looking at how both human capital and cultural taxation measures affect disparities in tenure and promotion for racialized and female faculty. The findings of the research demonstrate that equity efforts may be working for female faculty in Canada, but are not having the same effect for racialized faculty. Thus, it may be prudent to examine what has changed the trajectory of academic reward for women over the last few decades.