Absent autonomy: Relational competence and gendered paths to faculty self-determination in the promotion and tenure process


Monica C. Skewes, Elizabeth A. Shanahan, Jessi L. Smith, Joy C. Honea, Rebecca Belou, Sara Rushing, Kristen Intemann, Ian Handley


Journal of Diversity in Higher Education


This research examines ways in which men and women university faculty sought self-determination in the promotion and tenure (P&T) process. Self-Determination Theory (SDT; Deci & Ryan, 2012) research tends to view autonomy as the central factor in self-determination, taking priority over other psychological needs of relatedness and competence. The P&T process occurs within a context that inherently limits autonomy, providing a unique opportunity to examine experiences of relatedness and competence when autonomy is constrained. We used a qualitative research strategy with a matched case study design to explore how individuals experience the constructs of SDT (i.e., autonomy, competence, and relatedness) within the P&T process. Our project focuses on faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments undergoing P&T review at one university. Women faculty in STEM were compared with men faculty at the same rank and in similar departments concurrently going through P&T review. Findings showed that men reported experiencing self-determination via informational competence whereas women approached self-determination through relational competence. Creating a level playing field for faculty navigating the P&T process requires being attuned to different paths to self-determination, fostering relationships between faculty, and clarifying policies and procedures. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)



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