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COSWA Corner

Mary Ann Levine and Rita Wright

In this column we report on the results of recently published data from the 1998 American Anthropological Association's (AAA) Survey of Departments of Anthropology. We also compare some of these data to the 1994 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) Census and recent reports by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) of relevance to the status of women in archaeology.

Background: We call your attention to a preliminary report on the 1998 AAA Survey of Departments reported in the Anthropology Newsletter 39(7), written by Patsy Evans of the Academic Relations Department of the AAA. This report is based on information from 199 returned questionnaires (of 443 mailed) completed by department chairs from "units" listed in the AAA Guide. It contains data on "enrollments, degrees, curricula, faculty size, tenure rates, and academic salaries" (Evans 1998: 1). Since many SAA members are not members of the AAA, we outline some of the findings published by Evans in her report although thus far the data are not reported by subfield. Subfield data are available in the coded material from the survey and will be included in a more extensive report at some time in the future. The report will be available for purchase through the AAA ($45) and highlights will be posted on the AAA Web site.

Women and the Ph.D.: Overall, the AAA data indicate that greater percentages of women are entering the field and making their way through the academic ranks. In 1997, for example, 57 percent of the Ph.Ds granted were to women. This percentage is appreciably higher than the 38 percent of female archaeologists who earned the Ph.D. as reported for the 1994 SAA census (1997, M. Zeder, The American Archaeologist: A Profile, Altamira Press), although these percentages most likely increased in the interim between 1994 and 1997.

Women and Academic Rank: There continue to be disparities with respect to academic rank both within the discipline as a whole (as reported by the AAA), nationwide trends, and the subfield of archaeology. Table 1 is compiled over a 20-year period during selected years. This table demonstrates that the numbers of women in each rank have steadily increased, but they have done so at a slow rate and the percentages of women in the highest rank, full professor, are disproportionately low. Tables 1 and 3 are reprinted here with the permission of Patsy Evans and the AAA.

Table 1. Female Full-time Faculty by Rank (Evans 1998: 4)

Percent YearPercent ProfessorPercent AssociatePercent AssistantPercent All Ranks
1997-199827455541
1995-199626395336
1992-199321344430
1988-198918314828
1986-198720254427
1984-198517264126
1982-198316253624
1980-198113263123
1979-198012233222
1978-197912233523

The percentages reported for the AAA survey are roughly comparable to overall nationwide trends in rank based on calculations from AAUP data (1997, table 11) compiled by Virginia Valian (1998: 226ff) in Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women (MIT Press). Valian reported the following percentages for 1996-1997:

Table 2. Female Full-time Faculty by Rank at Different Types of Institutions (from Valian 1998)

1996-1997Percent ProfessorPercent AssociatePercent Assistant
University132841
College213949

The results of the AAA survey can also be compared to those reported by Zeder (1997: 100) from the SAA Census.1 In the census, 24 percent of women archaeologists reported their rank as professors, 30 percent as associate, and 39 percent at the assistant ranks. The SAA percentages suggest that women archaeologists at the professor level are roughly comparable to those reported for the AAA; at the associate and assistant ranks, archaeologists lag behind the discipline as a whole (AAA survey). When compared to the AAUP data, their percentages are higher at the professor rank at both university and college institutions; lower at university institutions but higher at colleges at the associate rank; and substantially lower at the assistant rank in either colleges or universities.

Full-Time versus Part-Time Employment: Finally, the AAA figures on full-time versus part-time employment for women correspond to those reported in the SAA census. In the latter, women comprised 60 percent of a category labeled "visiting professors," while men were 40 percent (Zeder 1997: 101). The categories "part-time," "visiting professors," and "temporary" may not refer to precisely the same populations. Better controls of definitions are needed to account for these categories. Nevertheless, as Table 3 shows, the percentages reported in the AAA census indicate there is the same tendency for women to hold part-time appointments in the discipline of anthropology as a whole. In a report by Tracey Cullen (1998) of survey data from the AIA, similar percentages are reported [AIA Newsletter 13(2): 3]. Responses from AIA members, actively involved in archaeological research (519 women, 472 men), showed that 69 percent of those who reported they were employed in temporary or part-time positions were women.

Table 3. Full-time/Part-time Employment Status (N = 1693)* (Evans 1998: 6)

Status Percent Full-time Percent Part-time Percent Total
Females385441
Males624659

* This number reflects data on individual faculty in the departments that responded to a question about part-time employees.

A Final Note: In future COSWA Corner columns, we will continue to include the results of studies relevant to the status of women in archaeology. SAA COSWA is currently studying the census data. These data, taken together with the AAA and nationwide trends, provide a useful framework against which improvements in the status of women in the profession can be realized. Meanwhile, check the AAA and AIA Web pages for more up-to-date information as it becomes available.

1 Unfortunately, no percentages are listed for the year 1994 in the AAA report, the only year for which percentages are available for SAA. In addition, respondents to the SAA Census were from individual scholars in distinction to department chairs in the AAA survey.

Mary Ann Levine is assistant professor of anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College. Rita Wright is associate professor of anthropology at New York University. Both are members of COSWA and Wright is chair of the committee.

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