Adjuncting as a gender issue.

15 03 2010

There is a series starting on NPR this week about flex-time in employment which I highly recommend so far (despite the fact that I want to throw up whenever I hear the term “Gen X”), but that’s not really what I want to write about here. If you listen to the story, you’ll be reminded at the outset that over half the jobs in America are now held by women.

But that’s not true in the historical profession. Here’s Robert Townsend in AHA Perspectives:

The new survey also indicates a significant increase in the proportion of women in history departments over the past decade. A federal survey in 1998 found just 27.9 percent of all history faculty members were women. This new survey indicates that in 2007, 35 percent of history department faculty were women (Figure 2).

The recent gains bring the proportion of women faculty in departments into closer parity with the ratio of women among those receiving history PhDs over the past decade (currently running at a little over 40 percent of all new history PhD recipients).

Despite these recent increases in the proportion of women faculty, the gender composition of history departments remains very different from the other humanities. In the languages and art history, for example, 55 percent or more of the departmental faculty were women.

He’s talking about that AAAS Humanities Indicator Project which I first wrote about a week or two ago, and here’s his figure 2 (click to expand):

As far as I can tell, the two bars on the graph, percentage of employment off the tenure track and percentage of women, are independent of one another. That means that some women are going to fall in both categories. What I’d like to know, is what percentage of off-tenure track employees are women.

If women hold over half the jobs in America, I bet it’s going to be a lot higher than the percentage of women in the profession as a whole. And if that’s true, the contingent faculty problem is also a gender problem. I’m not sure I’ve ever read anybody else frame it that way and I certainly haven’t heard about a legal case along these lines.

Thoughts? Links? Help me out here people, because I’d hate to think this is somehow a new idea.




2 responses

15 03 2010

Marc Bousquet has framed adjuncting a gender problem, among other things.

My Google-fu is failing to come up with a clear hyperlink, so maybe you can find something over at Brainstorm or

For evidence, check out the English departments who over-use adjuncts and you’ll find a majority of them are women.

15 03 2010
Jonathan Rees


I’ve read everything Marc has done for years, including the book. No intent to slight his excellent work, but it is way down on his priorities list because he has so many outrages to cover. I guess what I was really wondering is why doesn’t this particular kind of employment discrimination get more prominent coverage among feminist scholars? I’m not up on that reading, and was hoping to get links there.

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