March 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 3

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Progress in Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Indicators of Change for Women in ASA
between 2001 and 2007

by Roberta Spalter-Roth and Janene Scelza,
ASA Research and Development Program

The American Sociological Association has been compiling data on women’s status in the profession for more than four decades. The data in this article continue that tradition by providing information on the changing status of women and men who were regular members of the ASA since the start of the 21st century (between 2001 and 2007). Regular members pay full membership dues, purchase journals, and are eligible to vote in the Association. Full-time faculty members in sociology departments who join ASA do so as regular members. The information provided below is collected from the form that individuals complete when joining the ASA. It should be noted that not all members answer every item. About one-third of all sociology PhDs are members of the Association. For these reasons, the findings cited here should be read with caution since they may not reflect perfectly the changes that are occurring Progress in Breaking the Glass Ceiling Indicators of Change for Women in ASA between 2001 and 2007 within ASA and may not be representative of all advanced-degree sociologists.

About 8 out of 10 members answered the gender category in 2007. The number of regular members who checked that they were female surpassed the numbers who checked that they were male (3,925 versus 3,852) for the first time in ASA’s 102-year history. If these figures are reliable, then women represent slightly more than half of the regular membership, an increase of one percent since 2005 and four percent since 2001. Of these regular members, 64 percent of women and 68 percent of men hold PhDs.

Indicators of Progress

Between 2001 and 2007, the membership data suggest that women sociologists have broken through the glass ceiling in the academic labor market that historically kept them in part-time positions outside of research universities. Nonetheless, while some indicators suggest that women continue to make progress, other indicators suggest no change. For example, the gap in full-time employment between women and men who were regular members decreased between 2001 and 2007. By 2007, the number of women employed full time compared to men was almost at parity, with 88 percent of women employed in full-time positions compared to 92 percent of men. Yet, the percent of women in full-time positions has remained unchanged since 2005, indicating a possible lack of progress for women, despite the increase in the number of members in this category.

In 2001, 45 percent of all female regular members of ASA held faculty positions compared to 55 percent of males. By 2007, this increased to 49 percent of women, although this progress does not mean that women are in similar ranks as men. Unfortunately, the membership form does not ask for information on academic rank. We will need to wait for the results of the forthcoming ASA Department Survey to see gender differences by rank in AY 2007-08. In AY 2000-01, the last time the survey was conducted, women constituted 26 percent of full professors, 42 percent of associate professors, and 52 of assistant professors. These figures suggest that women who are members of ASA are moving into full-time faculty positions. Additional information is needed to know if women will continue to climb the academic ladder and reach parity with men as they age. (In 2007, the reported median age of male regular members was 51 while the reported median age of women was 44.)

In 2007, 52 percent of all women regular members reported that they were employed by universities that granted graduate degrees. Although the number of women in these institutions has increased since 2001, the share of all women in these institutions stood still (a one percent decline from 53 percent of all women in 2005). Figure 1 shows the increase in the number of women regular members employed at universities offering graduate degrees in sociology and their stability in their share of these positions. In contrast, 57 percent of men in 2007 were faculty at universities that granted graduate degrees in sociology. The share of men at this type of institution also remained stable (a one percent increase since 2005), despite an increase in the number of men in this position. Yet, women continue to outnumber men at schools that grant only a baccalaureate degree. Between 2001 and 2007, there was an increase in the number of regular members reporting that they were employed at baccalaureate-only schools. In spite of this increase in numbers, the shares of women and men remained relatively steady, with 17 percent of all women and 14 percent of all men at these institutions.

Income is an area with limited progress. As of 2007, 24 percent of women earned $70,000 or more compared to 38 percent of men. This 14 percent gap has remained constant since 2001. We know that much of this difference can be explained by differences in rank, employment status, age, type of institution, and areas in which there appears to be a recent lack of progress in breaking the glass ceiling.

Future Information

In a future research brief we will be adding to the indicators of women’s status by examining normative career patterns, organizational climates, cultures, and distributions of institutional resources. small_green


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