At Missouri State University, 49.9 percent of faculty are women. Men make up 50.1 percent, according to the annual diversity report released by MSU for the 2017-18 fiscal year. This statistic includes professor, associate professor, assistant professor and full-time instructor positions.
Female students make up 58.8 percent of the student population, while male students make up 41.2 percent.
Similarly, MSU awards more degrees to women than men. At MSU, more women enroll, graduate, and pursue their masters and professional degrees than men.
According to the American Enterprise Institute, women across the U.S. earn more doctoral degrees than men. Women outnumber men in graduate school 137-100.
Rabekah Stewart is the executive director of TRIO Programs at MSU. She is part of the 2.5 percent of female African American faculty members at MSU.
Stewart said she thinks women keep pursuing more advanced degrees in order to participate and receive representation in leadership.
“We’re trying to get a seat at the table, and the only way we know how to compete is to keep educating ourselves,” Stewart said.
Stewart said it is very important for women to be represented in leadership, specifically women of color.
“If we want to bring other women of color into higher education, they have to see us,” Stewart said. “Decisions will continuously be made leaving out some things that could have been considered if there were women at the table and women of color.”
Stewart said lack of representation is a challenge she has had to overcome. She said it is important for women of color to have high-quality mentors and a support network in order to deal with the unique challenges they face.
Despite the almost completely equal gender distribution of faculty and the outnumbering of women to men receiving degrees, there is a disconnect between the overall faculty makeup and the representation of women in the highest ranking faculty positions.
Men hold the majority of professor and associate professor positions while women make up the majority of assistant professor and full-time instructor positions, according to MSU’s annual diversity report.
Leticia White Minnis, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services, said that the disconnect may be attributed to the historical demographics of upper administration over the past 20-30 years.
“A lot of our upper management positions, like our full professors and our administrative positions, are people who have been in the workforce for 20-30 years,” White Minnis said. “If you roll back to who was entering the workforce 20-30 years ago, it probably was more men.”
Tamera Janke is the dean of the College of Natural and Applied Sciences. She is one of the three female deans at MSU out of the seven total. As a faculty member, her field of study was chemistry.
She said at the undergraduate level, chemistry majors are split about 50-50 among men and women. However, the percentage of women gets smaller as they pursue master’s and doctorate degrees, which makes it harder to hire women in STEM fields.
“It’s the biological clock for many of them,” Janke said. “It’s, ‘How do I figure out how to get tenure and have a family,’ and how to do all of those things at the same time. Because it’s not easy. It’s possible, but it’s not easy.”
The university has a policy that can assist female professors who want to get tenure and also have children.
“We can stop the tenure clock for a year for someone who really needs to have that stop for a little while to regroup and figure out how to get that next paper out or whatever it might be,” Janke said. “Because having a child is an awesome thing. It’s a great thing, and they come with no manual.”
Julie Masterson is the associate provost and dean of the Graduate College. She said this policy encourages deans to work with female faculty members with infants, but that it isn’t just women who have young families.
“We need to make sure we’re supporting our young fathers,” Masterson said. “They deserve the same support and expectation of wanting to be with their family as young women do. It’s the right thing to do.”
White Minnis had a baby in between finishing her master’s degree and pursuing her doctorate. Then, she and the father of her oldest son got divorced while she was finishing her doctorate.
“It was always a challenge and a juggling act trying to maintain the work-life balance,” White Minnis said. “Maintaining that and making sure I was doing all the right things for my newborn — that was challenging.”
White Minnis said she has never been one to back down from a challenge, even as a kid.
“Don’t challenge me or give me a dare,” she said. “If you told me there was anything I couldn’t do because I’m a woman, or because I live in Missouri or because I’m a Christian, that would really make me want to prove you wrong.”
She said women belong wherever they’re well-qualified to be.
“Why not be a leader?” White Minnis said. “If you want to be a leader, what should hold you back?”
MSU is an equal opportunity employer and welcomes female leadership. The University of Missouri is comparable in population to MSU in undergraduate enrollment. MSU has a more equal ratio of men to women faculty than MU when accounting for professors, associate professors and assistant professors.
The faculty makeup at MU is 39.7 percent women, 60.3 percent men for 2017, according to the 2018 Fall Employee Census. At MSU, women make up 44.8 percent of professor, associate professor and assistant professor positions — excluding full-time instructors — while men make up 55.2 percent.
When factoring in full-time instructor positions, there are almost exactly the same amount of men and women at MSU. The total number of men to women faculty at MSU is 375-374 — just one faculty member away from complete gender equality.
The ratio of female faculty to male faculty members has steadily risen since the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the 2014-2015 Diversity Report and the 2018 MSU Diversity Report prepared by the Office of Institutional Research. Over the 6-year span, the percentage has increased approximately 2.64 percent.
Masterson said University President Clif Smart has told faculty and administration that he is dedicated to having diversity on campus.
“A few years ago, he said one in five hires needs to be diverse — that’s our goal,” Masterson said. “He’s been really helpful in increasing various kinds of diversity.”
It is important for all levels of diversity to be represented — racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation, Masterson said.
“It sends a subtle message that this is what you can and should and could aspire to,” Masterson said. “If you look around, and you don’t see anybody who looks like you, even if they don’t overtly say you can be this, it sends a message.”