University of Toronto

Office of the Vice-Provost, Faculty & Academic Life

Work at U of T – A Different Experience for Female Faculty?

In a previous article, we reported on the lower level of satisfaction for associate professors compared to assistant and full professors.  In today’s article, we explore in more depth the sex differences across the benchmarks that were covered by the survey from the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE).  One of the unique aspects of the COACHE study is the opportunity to compare our results to five peer institutions selected from all of the institutions participating in 2012.  Our five selected peers were the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, University of California – Davis, Indiana University – Bloomington, and the State University of New York – Stony Brook.  Questions are grouped into benchmarks and the results of our peers and the cohort are plotted.

We can also use these benchmarks to explore any differences there may be in satisfaction for male and female faculty at U of T.  Table 1 provides information on the overall mean score at U of T for each benchmark and our rank against our peer institutions.  It then provides a breakdown of the mean score for male and female faculty at UofT and their rank against faculty of the same sex at peer institutions.  Across a number of the benchmarks – mentoring, departmental quality, health and retirement benefits, tenure clarity, tenure policies and departmental engagement – there is very little variation in the mean scores for male and female faculty[i].

Table 1

Benchmark U of T mean Rank against our peers U of T male mean score Rank against peer male faculty score U of T female mean score Rank against peer female faculty score
Departmental Quality 3.88 2 3.88 1 3.87 2
Health And Retirement Benefits 3.87 1 3.89 1 3.84 3
Tenure Policies 3.69 1 3.74 1 3.64 1
Departmental Engagement 3.53 2 3.56 1 3.47 4
Tenure Clarity 3.35 3 3.39 5 3.31 3
Mentoring 3.06 3 3.06 3 3.06 3

Interestingly, when we explore these further, we find that there is some difference when we disaggregate the scores of our peers by sex. Here we can see that, with the exception of the clarity of the tenure process, female faculty at U of T expressed lower satisfaction than their female colleagues at our peer institutions. This is particularly true in relation to departmental engagement where the score for our male faculty places us as number one against male faculty at our peer institutions (and number two overall) but places us in fourth when our female faculty are compared to female faculty at our peer institutions.

Table 2 shows a number of the benchmarks where there is a slight difference in the mean scores for male and female faculty (i.e the difference is between 0.1 and 0.2)

Table 2

Benchmark U of T mean Rank against our peers U of T male mean score Rank against peer male faculty score U of T female mean score Rank against peer female faculty score
Nature of Work: Teaching  3.84  3 3.87 4 3.78 3
Departmental Collegiality  3.83  3 3.87 3 3.76 5
Collaboration  3.77  3 3.85 3 3.67 3
Facilities and Work Resources  3.61  4 3.65 4 3.55 3
Appreciation and Recognition  3.44  1 3.52 1 3.33 1
Personal and Family Policies  3.33  1 3.37 1 3.26 1
Senior Leadership  3.09  4 3.16 4 2.98 4
Interdisciplinary Work  2.77  4 2.83 4 2.67 4

In this set of benchmarks, we can see that the gap between the mean scores for female faculty and male faculty are slightly greater.  The scores bear enough similarity to each other that they, largely, do not change our rank in comparison to male and female faculty at peer institutions – with the exception of departmental collegiality.  On this benchmark, our male faculty are ranked third in relation to male faculty at our peer institutions (and U of T is ranked third overall) but female faculty at U of T ranked fifth in comparison to female faculty at peer institutions.

Table 3 shows the benchmarks where the difference in the mean scores for male and female faculty exceeds 0.20.

Table 3

Benchmark U of T mean Rank against our peers U of T male mean score Rank against peer male faculty score U of T female mean score Rank against peer female faculty score
Tenure Reasonableness  4.02  2 4.13 2 3.90 3
Departmental Leadership  3.66  5 3.76 3 3.52 5
Promotion  3.63  6 3.79 5 3.38 6
Nature of Work: Research  3.56  1 3.66 1 3.42 1
Nature of Work: Service  3.33  2 3.43 1 3.20 3
Divisional Leadership  3.09  4 3.20 4 2.93 4

Here the gap between the benchmark scores for male and female faculty is larger, although, again, this is not reflected in our rank against the faculty at peer institutions except in relation to service and departmental leadership.

The analysis provided here warrants some comment.  Female faculty at the University of Toronto indicate less satisfaction than female colleagues at peer institutions across a number of factors – many of them about the day-to-day experience of working at the University of Toronto.  As we have discussed before, faculty work at the University of Toronto but they work within a department – and it is at the department level where they appear to experience less satisfaction than their male colleagues and less satisfaction than female faculty at peer institutions.  Women faculty at UofT score lower than their male colleagues and female faculty at peer institutions when it comes to departmental collegiality, departmental engagement and departmental leadership.   The results from the COACHE survey on their own cannot tell us the how or why of these differences but they do make clear that this is an area that must be explored further.

“We always saw the COACHE results as a jumping off point to do some more research.  These results are very interesting and suggest to me that we need to spend some time looking at the experience of being a female faculty member at the University of Toronto” commented Edith Hillan, vice provost, faculty & academic life. “We’ll work closely with the status of women office and the vice president, human resources & equity to delve deeper into the issues raised here”.

In next week’s article, we will explore in more detail the differences in response by male and female faculty to the questions contained within the benchmarks for research, departmental leadership, divisional leadership and promotion.

The COACHE survey was conducted in October of 2012 by the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University.  Almost 50% of our tenured and pre-tenure faculty participated in this round (pre-tenure faculty had been invited to participate in 2007).

This month, we’ll conclude our article series by looking at some of the results by gender.  In previous weeks we’ve discussed some overall results of the survey, department culture, tenure, promotion and mentoring, the nature of faculty work and appreciation, recognition, interdisciplinarity and collaboration, leadership and health and retirement benefits and personal and policies.


[i] COACHE measures effect size in looking at the differences between groups of respondents.  Tests of statistical significance are not used because the survey is a census, not a sample; differences in means are representative of the population not of some broader sample.