Unprecedented Number of Female Faculty Hired

Aug. 12, 2009

AUSTIN, Texas — About half of the 49 professors who will be joining the College of Liberal Arts faculty in 2009-2010 are female. That includes an unprecedented five women coming in as full professors from such schools as Harvard University, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Southern California.

The hires come less than a year after an internal University of Texas at Austin report identified potential strategies for eliminating gender inequity on the faculty. They represent one of the university's biggest successes to date in closing the gender gap.

The new professors' arrival also highlights the College of Liberal Arts' ability to attract top scholars who are already tenured at nationally ranked schools.

"The professors joining the Liberal Arts faculty are among the most accomplished and respected scholars in their fields," said Randy L. Diehl, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "They will conduct cutting-edge research in such disciplines as linguistics, history, anthropology, psychology and Middle Eastern studies and will work directly with graduate students and undergraduates."

Among the incoming faculty members are Jo Ann Hackett, former director of graduate studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard, and her husband John Huehnergard, a former chair of that department.

"Everybody knows about the University of Texas and the quality of the languages and linguistics programs and we've always known this was a marvelous place," said Hackett, a Semitic language and Hebrew Bible scholar who will teach in the Department of Middle Eastern Studies. "We were in Austin for two days visiting and we left and we said, 'we've got to do this.'"

Other full professors who will be joining the faculty include:

  • Anthropologists Jennifer Johnson-Hanks and her husband, William Hanks. They come from Berkeley, where Hanks is a former Anthropology Department chair.
  • Philippa Levine, a scholar in British history, who is leaving the University of Southern California to join the History Department in the spring.
  • Psychologist Russell Poldrack, who is coming from the University of California, Los Angeles to head up the Imaging Research Center.
  • Linguists Barbara Bullock and A. Jacqueline Toribio, who study the use of Romance languages in immigrant communities.. They are coming from Penn State University.

"It's not so much that we wanted to leave Penn State but this opportunity was wonderful," said Toribio, who will focus some of her research on communities in Texas. "Being here and knowing our work is relevant to the local community is important."

Johnson-Hanks and Hanks said they were impressed by Texas' commitment to promoting collaboration among different disciplines.

"There really is on campus a collective vision of how to move forward," said Johnson-Hanks. "They're not just looking for big names in any field but are looking to achieve a particular type of intellectual synergy."

In all, 49 professors, including 22 women, have accepted offers to join the College of Liberal of Arts as tenured or tenure-track professors in 2009-2010. As of last fall, 177 of the college's 529 tenured or tenure-track faculty were female.

University-wide, officials project that about 117 new faculty members will join the faculty for the fall 2009 semester, including 49 women.

The Gender Equity Task Force Report released last fall found that, on average, a lower percentage of tenured and tenure track faculty are women than at other schools and that, overall, the school has too few female professors. The university is developing a five- to 10-year plan to reduce or eliminate gender inequity.

"The College of Liberal Arts has made tremendous progress in its hiring. The school's efforts serve as a model for the rest of the university as we continue to work on this important issue," said Vice Provost Judith H. Langlois, who oversees the university's efforts to achieve gender equity.

For more information, contact: Gary Susswein, Office of the President, 512-471-4945.

15 Comments to "Unprecedented Number of Female Faculty Hired"

1.  Peggy Mayfield Wilson said on Aug. 13, 2009

Well done! Keep it up! You are changing the environment I knew as a UT chemistry student, 1944-53. I want you to know, however, that I had great support from my faculty then, but I was not permitted to enter the engineering building, no matter how much I wanted to be a Ch. E. B.S. with Honors, Ph.D.

2.  Sarah Jane Hills said on Aug. 13, 2009

I am delighted to learn of the hiring of so many well-qualified women at The University of Texas at Austin. It's about time. Hard to believe a university of UT's stature has been so slow in moving into the modern world! Keep up the good work.

3.  Nancy Keller said on Aug. 13, 2009

It's good to hear that the College of Liberal Arts is trying to reduce gender inequity at The University of Texas at Austin. However, the university as a whole has a long way to go to achieve gender equity. Women are the "new" minority, pushed aside for promotions and still dependent on "influential" men to give them a job they are well qualified for or recognize them for outstanding ability. I'm happy that the university is taking steps in the right direction.

4.  BillW said on Aug. 13, 2009

If The University of Texas at Austin really wanted to eliminate faculty gender inequality, it could have promoted many female faculty in the past instead of denying them tenure! UT has a bad reputation about promoting qualified female faculty. It is discouraging to potential faculty as well as current faculty in the departments who support tenure/promotion nominations.

5.  Catherine Cockrell said on Aug. 14, 2009

This is really very good news. Another potential problem area: gender equality in the acceptance of doctoral students.

6.  Ian said on Aug. 18, 2009

Here's a five-to-ten year plan. Freeze all promotions and hiring for men until gender equity is achieved.

Simple and effective.

7.  Jack said on Aug. 18, 2009

@Ian: It's also incredibly asinine.

But really? Is this notable? This story would be much more interesting if it was talking about the College of Natural Sciences or the Cockrell School of Engineering.

8.  Marie said on Aug. 19, 2009

Nice first step. Out of curiosity, how many were African American, Latina or Asian? And it's rather interesting that California was mined so extensively for intellectual talent.

9.  Richard Magsino said on Aug. 21, 2009

Way to go, UT Austin! Congratulations for recruiting top faculties from across the United States. I am also hoping that you can attract scholars from the Philippines.

10.  Talleyrand said on Aug. 21, 2009

It sure sends a message to the current assistant and associate professors of either sex: You are not good enough. We had to go outside to find talent. But assistants please spend the next seven years working for peanuts so we can turn you down. Hope you associates like your position because...

11.  Chris DeWitt said on Aug. 21, 2009

If the university really wants to do right by women, it has a long way to go to rectify the pitiful salaries it has paid to women in the past (or delayed or denied tenure to) who still depend on the pensions that are based on those low salaries. And I second the comment above: What about women in the sciences?

12.  Lily said on Aug. 21, 2009

This is exciting, a very good start at least. All my past female professors in the College of Liberal Arts are brilliant. So are the ones in other colleges. So, yes, not only in the College of Liberal Arts, please recruit wonderful female scholars for other colleges as well, especially the Business School. :) And again, yes, for attracting scholars from around the world.

13.  Samuel said on Aug. 24, 2009

I am happy The University of Texas at Austin has decided to focus on improving the gender inequity rampant in many universities. However, I am curious why these efforts are not being labeled as "affirmative action" or "reverse discrimination" as they so often are when minority individuals are involved.

Please do not construe my comments to be sexist. I am just curious if any of the posters see a distinction between the hiring of competent female professors and the hiring of competent minority professors. I am also curious whether this news would be treated differently if the article's title was "Unprecedented Number of African American/Asian American/Hispanic American Faculty Hired."

14.  Brandon said on Aug. 27, 2009

@Marie: I think this list (as well as other lists of incoming profs) is so heavy in people from California because the University of California system is facing massive budget cut problems. Money has been cut for salaries and for laboratories in the sciences. I think Texas was able to pull away some of their up-and-coming faculty who they couldn't afford anymore.

15.  Anita said on Aug. 28, 2009

Discrimination in hiring still exists at UT. I have applied for hundreds of UT clerical jobs (including with the College of Liberal Arts) over the past several years that I was well qualified for but someone younger was always hired instead! UT is definitely not adhering to its core value of "providing opportunities for diverse people and ideas." I wish UT would develop a strategy for eliminating age inequality and would immediately stop discriminating on the basis of age! In fact, I wish it had a commitment to actively engage in the search and hiring of older and wiser staff. This would be the moral and ethical thing to do and really should be a factor when considering diversity, fairness and equality. Such a benevolent move will definitely contribute to the advancement of society. And another thing, my family has been in Austin for many generations and I went to UT 40 years ago, so I'm no outsider who's unfamiliar and unconnected to the university and city. I can't help but wonder how many of the total 49 new Liberal Arts professors are Latino and Native American.