Applying for promotion to full professor: Advice for women

Every year, FAUW offers an information session about applying for promotion to full professor. In 2020, we offered a session specifically for women. Here are some of the highlights.

Applying for promotion to full professor: Advice for women
  1. It’s understandable if it’s not clear to you why you should bother applying. Some reasons to consider applying include being a role model to other women professors, more access to administrative positions where you can change how things are done, and increased status and recognition.
  2. It takes about a week to prepare your application—less time if you keep your CV up to date and file positive reviews and citations along the way.
  3. You don’t have to be invited to apply by your chair (though you do want their support).
  4. FAUW can review your application and provide an “academic colleague” to accompany you through the process. You can also find your own academic colleague—this role is established in university policy.
  5. If you’re debating whether to apply, you’re probably ready; women tend to be less sure about their readiness than men. Put another way: Men will generally promote themselves. You need to, too.
  6. A lot of expectations are discipline-specific, but since your application will be reviewed by people outside of your discipline and department, be sure to supply all the necessary context. If impact factor isn’t applicable in your discipline, note that (if it is applicable, academic librarians can help you sort it out). If your department has few PhD students, note that. In general, explain anything that might be different from the norm.

Own your accomplishments! Be wary of focusing too much on teamwork and collaboration.

  1. Make sure it’s clear how many leaves you’ve had and how many years of work are being evaluated. Your dean should also note this when contacting referees. If the DTPC or FTPC express reservations that suggest leaves haven’t been accounted for, correct them
  2. Own your accomplishments! Be wary of focusing too much on teamwork and collaboration.
  3. Skate the fine line between explaining intervening factors and making excuses. Frame any setbacks constructively.
  4. Looking at other people’s promotion packages can be helpful, and most people will agree to share them with you when asked.
  5. Think hard about referees. It’s best if they’re all full professors unless they’re superstars. Some should be international.
  6. Get clear on what’s research and what’s service. For example, if you were invited to organize an international conference, it’s probably because you’re a leading researcher in that area, not because of your service record.
  7. Don’t wait too long—the longer you’ve been tenured, the higher the bar.

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