Apr 6, 2022

Chair’s Column: Modifying our Approach to Senior Promotions to Enhance Inclusive Excellence

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Modifying our Approach to Senior Promotions to Enhance Inclusive Excellence

While we have seen a major trend upwards in the interest in senior promotion, we continue to struggle to convince many faculty members that they should put their hats in the ring. Many ask, what exactly is the value of academic promotion? Well, the wonderful comments made by former learners in their student testimonials may be worth the effort on their own. But in addition to this, the process itself provides you an opportunity to reflect on how much you’ve accomplished – the impact you’ve had - and to think deeply about where to go next. Promotion also opens doors to eligibility for senior leadership roles, which present opportunities to lead change, and eligibility to hold an endowed chair and other forms of salary support. In some DoM practice plans, there is also a financial benefit to promotion through the ranks.

Despite the many reasons why folks might be interested in pursuing senior promotion, many do not. I’ve recently taken a good look at time to promotion and overall academic rank by faculty gender and academic position description. Of almost 900 full time faculty in our department, women and Clinician Teachers are disproportionately represented at lower academic ranks. Of 374 female faculty, 202 or 54% are at the rank of Assistant Professor, 24% Associate Professor and only 16% Full Professor compared with 39%, 28% and 28% of male faculty members (p<0.0001). That’s bad news… in 2008 and again in 2015, the proportion of female faculty in our department at the rank of Associate or Full Professor was 41% - it hasn’t budged! Meanwhile, the proportion of men at these two ranks has gone from 53% in 2008 to 55% in 2015 and 56% in 2022. Female faculty are more likely to be Clinician Teachers (46% versus 36% of male faculty) and less likely to be Clinician Scientists (20% versus 25% of males). Figure The median number of years to promotion is longest for Clinician Teachers (median 10 years; inter-quartile range 8 to 12 years) and shortest for Clinician Scientists (median 7 years; inter-quartile range 6 to 9 years, p=0.0003). It’s clear from the data that both position description and gender matter when it comes to progression through the ranks.

There are many potential explanations, which include systematic differences in individuals’ perceptions of the importance of senior promotion, prevalence of imposter syndrome, differences in caregiving responsibilities that may delay early promotion to Associate Professor, access to high quality mentors and sponsors, and placing insufficient attention on the promotion of the largest group of our faculty – our Clinician Teachers.

Figure 1

To encourage and support our faculty better, we are making some changes to our senior promotions processes and policies. In brief, beginning this year, we will be putting out an open call to all faculty members inviting all interested in considering promotion to attend a virtual “Am I Eligible” workshop on June 2, from 5-6 pm, during which we will also lay out the format of a candidate statement with examples. We are doing this with the hope that we will reach faculty members who might be interested, but need some help deciding and, if willing to proceed, helping them prepare their promotion materials from the start.

We are keen to advance our clinician teachers through the academic ranks. Thus, the second major change is the addition of workshops to guide preparation of the teaching statement and overall teaching dossier. We are also moving the Teaching Effectiveness Committee (TEC) review of candidates’ teaching dossiers earlier in the process to ensure they are the best they can be before referee letters are sought.

Finally, we will be placing greater emphasis on the role of mentorship in the promotion process, encouraging a culture of giving back. The overall goal of these changes is to make sure that our faculty members have time to prepare, have adequate support from their leaders, and are receiving feedback along the way, so that the overall process is a positive experience rather than a pile of frustrating work. Details of these changes will be available soon on our website.

Please stay tuned and feel free to reach out to me directly with any questions you might have.