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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tufts must take action to increase gender diversity in leadership, report finds

The Women's Center is pictured on Feb. 22.

Tufts ranked number 50 out of 130 universities in the Eos Foundation's 2022 study, "The Women's Power Gap at Elite Universities: Scaling the Ivory Tower," which measured gender parity among elite university leadership.

Universities were given a gender index and ranking that accounted for whether a woman is currently serving as, or has served as, president of the university; whether the provost position is held by a woman; and the percentage of academic deans, president's cabinet members and tenured full professors who are women.

The report found that 47% of the academic deans, 53% of the President's Cabinet and 32% of tenured full professors at Tufts are women, resulting in a score of "Work to Do" from the Eos Foundation.

Andrea Silbert, Eos Foundation president and lead author of the report, and Magdalena Punty, Eos Foundation manager of the research team and data analytics, explained the guidelines used by the Women's Power Gap Initiative when ranking universities.

"The Women’s Power Gap Initiative conducts actionable research on prominent sectors of the economy," Silbert and Punty wrote in a joint statement. "We measure the extent of the gender and racial power gaps at the company or institutional level by analyzing diversity in the CEO, C-suite, and among the board of directors. We also examine the pathway positions leading to the CEO’s office. Our major focus is on promoting women of color."

The foundation's initiative identifies the gender of individuals in leadership positions and compares the ratio of men to women at each university. Then, they compare similar institutions to come up with their ultimate rankings, according to Silbert and Punty. 

"While we collect data for nonbinary gender categories, in our experience, we have yet to come across individuals in leadership positions who would identify as such,” Silbert and Punty noted.

Silbert and Punty outlined steps that Tufts could take to earn a higher ranking in future reports. Tufts, among 60 Very High Research Activity (R1) institutions, has never had a female president, which deducts significant points from the school's ranking.

“Until there is an opening for a new president, Tufts can work towards improving gender parity across other leadership categories,” they wrote.

University President Anthony Monaco recentlyannounced he will step down from his position in summer 2023, leaving a vacancy that the Board of Trustees will be responsible for filling. Monaco told the Daily he hopes the Board will "reflect the changed diversity of Tufts."

While Tufts has succeeded in reaching parity at the president's cabinet level and has come close among academic deans, there is room for improvement to reach parity among tenured full professors, Silbert and Punty said.

“The best opportunities to increase women’s representation is among tenured full professors, currently counting only 32% women, and board members at 41%," Silbert and Punty wrote.

Silbert and Punty also said that Tufts needs to hire more women of color.

Women of color count only 5% of tenured full professors," they wrote. "Black women are not represented in this group at all, while Asian and Hispanic women count 3% and 2%, respectively. It is essential to disaggregate race data so that the picture of gender and racial diversity comes clear into view.” 

Silbert and Punty also recommended that student representatives meet with the board chair and nominating committee to promote female nominees. Currently, the Tufts Board of Trustees is only 41% women, with only 11% women of color. Intentionally appointing women trustees, especially women of color, would help close this gender and racial power gap, they said. The Eos Foundation also recommends higher data transparency between the university and the public.

Without data transparency, it is difficult to measure and track progress. While Tufts shares [a] diversity dashboard for faculty and staff on its website, data is highly aggregated, and it is not possible to use it to analyze gender and racial diversity at various levels of leadership and faculty," Silbert and Punty wrote. "In our latest report, we provided a template for publishing annual diversity data. Students and alumni should demand [that] Tufts makes this disaggregated data easily accessible.

Patrick Collins, executive director of media relations, explained that gender disparities in leadership do not reflect the university's current hiring practices.

“Four or five years ago the university performed a study of the faculty and discovered that there is no significant difference in the number of full professors between men and women when factoring in time in rank," Collins wrote in an email to the Daily. "In other words, the current disparities reflect hiring practices from 15-25 years ago, not a failure to promote current faculty members.”

Caroline Genco, provost and senior vice president ad interim, and Kim Ryan, vice president of human resources, said that they found the report to be accurate. 

Tufts University has made diversity in all its forms a top priority, and while the university has made significant strides in many areas, we agree with the report’s finding that we have more work to do," Genco and Ryan wrote in a joint statement to the Daily. "We remain committed to addressing gender diversity across all university positions, recognizing that Tufts is enriched and strengthened by a variety of experiences and perspectives."

Recently, numerous leadership positions at Tufts have been filled by women, including the provost position and the deanships of Tufts University Medical School, the Fletcher School, Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. Genco and Ryan cited these appointments as a reason that the university's ranking in the Eos report has improved. 

"While we are proud of this progress, we remain committed to continued advancement," Genco and Ryan wrote. "Progress and opportunities for leadership development in this area are top priorities of the provost’s office. Tufts employs a recruitment strategy informed by its commitment to diversity and takes seriously its compliance with equal opportunity in employment.