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Clear as Mud: Promotion Clarity by Gender and BIPOC Status Across the Associate Professor Lifespan

Abstract

Mid-career faculty members often seek to advance to the highest faculty rank of full professor, but research suggests women and Black, Indigenous and Other People of Color (BIPOC) faculty face inequitable patterns in advancement to the full professor rank. This study focuses on associate professors’ perceptions of promotion clarity, or the degree to which they are clear about the processes and criteria for advancing to the full professor rank. Using a national sample of associate professors at four-year colleges and universities (n = 4,871), we sought to understand how the relationships between satisfaction and promotion clarity vary across stages in the associate professor career, and how women and BIPOC faculty experienced promotion clarity differently. By conceptualizing time spent in the associate rank using a lifespan approach, we found that women had less promotion clarity than men throughout each stage of the associate career, and the intersection between being a woman and a BIPOC faculty member is linked with having less promotion clarity at the middle stages of the associate career in particular.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge Harvard University, The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, Harvard Graduate School of Education as the source of the data used in this publication:

Mathews, K., Benson, R. T., Trower, C., Azubuike, N. O. & Kumar, A. (2019). The Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education: Faculty Job Satisfaction Survey, 2011-2019 (Research version) [data file and codebook]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University.

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Correspondence to Amanda M. Kulp.

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This project was reviewed on behalf of the University of North Florida Institutional Review Board and was declared “not research involving human subjects” based on the definitions provided in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Code of Federal Regulations found at 45 CFR 46.102. As such, this project qualified for a Waiver of IRB Review.

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Kulp, A.M., Pascale, A.B. & Wolf-Wendel, L. Clear as Mud: Promotion Clarity by Gender and BIPOC Status Across the Associate Professor Lifespan. Innov High Educ 47, 73–94 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-021-09565-7

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10755-021-09565-7

Keywords

  • Promotion clarity
  • Mid-career faculty
  • Associate professor
  • Women
  • BIPOC faculty
  • Faculty of color