David W. Leslie, TIAA-CREF Institute Fellow,
The College of William and Mary
March 2007 | Issue # 87
The characteristics, work patterns, career progression, and retirement plans of American college and university faculty provide waymarks in the continuing transformation of higher education. While the profession appears to remain generally attractive and satisfying, there are troubling signs. Will institutions continue to bring the best and brightest to a profession that has led the world in both mass higher education and in the discovery and application of knowledge? Signs of unequal investment and disinvestment among disciplines, as well as signs of widespread occlusion in mobility coupled with trends toward earlier retirement bear careful watching for their consequences. Perhaps most troubling are signs that opportunity for women is uneven in academe, notwithstanding that women are the more rapidly growing source of new talent. If workplace norms do not adjust to the realities of young women's lives, there is a real danger that the pool of prospective faculty will not keep pace with the burgeoning demand projected in coming years.