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According to the 2019 Action Plan for Faculty Excellence and Diversity, 35% of University standing faculty are female and over 8% are underrepresented minorities. Credit: Kelly Chen

In the past two years, the numbers of women and minority faculty members at Penn have slightly increased, according to a recently released diversity report. 

The 2019 Action Plan for Faculty Excellence and Diversity found that 35% of University standing faculty are female and over 8% are underrepresented minorities. The last report, released in 2017, found that 32.7% of University faculty were female and 7.9% were underrepresented minorities.

Penn launched its Action Plan for Faculty Diversity and Excellence in 2011 to create a more diverse faculty and cultivate a “more inclusive campus community” over the next five years. Updated reports on the progress of the diversity action plan are released every two years. 

The numbers show significant growth in the diversity of faculty since the original report. The report, which was published on Nov. 12, found that from 2011 to 2018, there was a 46% increase in the number of underrepresented minority faculty members who are tenured or on the tenure track and a 22% increase in women faculty members. Underrepresented minorities still comprise 8% of the standing faculty. Women represent 35% of all standing faculty. 

In 2011, 30.7% of the faculty were female and 6.2% of the faculty were underrepresented minorities.

Despite the slight increases, women and minority professors make up a small percentage of the faculty in several schools. Women make up less than 20% of faculty in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. The number of Penn faculty who identify as Native American also remains minor, at two standing faculty members, according to the report.

“In the past, students have articulated to our office the ways in which faculty diversity might matter to them, particularly if they're underrepresented groups in order to have people who understand their experiences and can role model success in various fields for them,” Associate Vice Provost for Faculty Lubna Mian said. “It’s important that the professoriate gets the experience of the students.” 

Faculty Senate Chair Steven Kimbrough said the positive trend in minority faculty members is a positive sign moving forward.

“There's no pushback on this from anybody,” Kimbrough said. “I can’t imagine you resisting this in any way. There’s a consensus that I see of viewing diversity in many kinds as a really positive value for a society, for a university.”

Penn's 12 schools are individually responsible for implementing the plan’s goals. The University appointed diversity officers to work with the deans of each school to implement the Action Plan, Kimbrough said. 

Each year, the Provost meets with the deans of each school to discuss faculty diversity, Mian said. Climate surveys are also conducted at regular intervals to measure faculty satisfaction. 

Mian said the University’s administration is committed to promoting access and opportunity for both students and faculty.

“As we go forward in this particular political moment, diversity and inclusion issues are among the most pressing contemporary issues of our day,” Mian said. “I think there's a sense in which this is very, very important to the University as a whole.”