The problem with parity: Women faculty and English doctoral programs in Canada

Elsevier, Women's Studies International Forum, Volume 90, 1 January 2022
Arner L.
Featuring original data, this article examines an elaborate network of gendered patterns in the faculty labor pool for the twenty-two English doctoral programs in Canada. Although the gendered distributions seem to approach numerical parity, the more nuanced the analyses, the less equitable these distributions appear. When juxtaposed with Statistics Canada data on English doctoral recipients, such patterns betray unsettling structural inequities for women scholars. Women have earned over 60% of the English PhDs in Canada in the previous two decades, but these numbers have not materialized in the professoriat. Instead, a man with an English PhD has enjoyed a 50% greater chance than a similarly credentialed woman of garnering a tenure-track position, in departments both with and without doctoral programs. Women are more likely than men to teach in departments without PhD programs, to teach outside the tenure stream, and to be pushed out of academe altogether. Along with a constellation of frequently discussed impediments, one ubiquitous but unexamined logic understood to benefit women English PhD holders actually disadvantages them in competitions for tenure-track positions: the commonplace belief that numerical gender balance among tenure-track and tenured faculty in an English department constitutes parity. In practice, producing such gender balance not only fails to achieve equity in hiring but helps to facilitate the overhiring of men.