Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published (as Chapter 1) in Catherine White Berheide, Vasilikie Demos, and Marcia Texler Segal, eds., Gender Transformation in the Academy (Advances in Gender Research, Volume 19), pp. 3–20; ISBN: 978-1-78441-070-4; eISBN: 978-1-78441-069-8; doi: 10.1108/S1529-212620140000019001


Copyright © 2014 by Emerald Group Publishing Limited. Used by permission.


Purpose — This chapter contrasts “ideal worker” with “real worker” characteristics among STEM faculty in gendered organizations. The gap between the two reveals the need for academic institutions to revise the notion of and the policies for typical faculty members.

Design — All STEM faculty at a Midwestern research intensive university were asked to participate in a mail and web-based survey to study faculty experiences within departments. The response rate was 70%. Faculty were then categorized by their employment, education, and parent status, and by the work status of their spouse/partner, to assess how closely the faculty matched the ideal academic worker: a faculty member with a full-time home-maker partner.

Findings — Only 13% of the surveyed STEM faculty resemble the “ideal worker” by having a partner who is not employed and who ensures all family care giving. The vast majority of STEM faculty are men with an employed partner who is more likely to have a professional (33%) rather than a nonprofessional (22%) degree.

Research limitations — Only one, public, research-intensive institution in the Midwest United States was surveyed and therefore findings cannot be generalized to faculty at other research intensive institutions or to other types of institutions.

Practical implications — Rather than adding policies to attract women into academia, we find an urgent need make academic institutions rethink to match the reality of most faculty. Increasing flexibility in the academic workplace is not a “women’s issue” but a “faculty issue.”

Value — This paper provides evidence that supports institutional change to accommodate the new academic workers, most of whom are part of dual career couples.