UC summit addresses issue of faculty gender equity

04 December 2002 | At a recent summit meeting in Oakland, senior UC faculty and administrators met to develop recommendations to improve the recruitment and retention of women faculty members on University of California campuses.

UC President Richard Atkinson convened the working group as part of an ongoing effort to respond to the underrepresentation of female faculty on UC campuses. Speaking at the Nov. 6 to 7 conference, Atkinson reaffirmed his desire to find innovative and fair ways to break down barriers for women in academia nationwide and to provide national leadership in developing solutions to the problem.

The university has taken steps over the past two years to help increase female faculty recruitment and retention, in response to growing concern about underrepresentation of female faculty, he said. Because faculty hiring is initiated at the departmental level, chancellors have been held accountable for their campus hiring practices and have been asked to report on steps taken to address equity in faculty hiring, advancement, and compensation.

Partly as a result of such efforts, the percentage of women among new faculty hires at UC increased from 25 percent in 1999-2000 to 30 percent in 2000-01, Atkinson reported. Preliminary data for 2001-02 show continued progress — with women projected to compose 33 percent of all new faculty hires. But “our progress still falls far short of reflecting the representation of women in our society,” he noted.

The UC system currently has three female chancellors on its 10 campuses. UC Santa Cruz Chancel-lor M.R.C. Greenwood, a longtime advocate of faculty gender equity, stressed that the gains made in female faculty representation on UC campuses reflect, in part, “the diligence of the UC faculty women who brought their concerns out in the open.”

Speier cites ‘real progress’
State Senator Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) — who held legislative hearings in 2001 and 2002 on faculty gender-equity at UC — was keynote speaker at the summit. She noted that while academia “moves at glacial speeds,” perhaps at UC “we have started to press down on the accelerator that drives the movement towards true gender equity among UC faculty.”

The legislator cited advances being made on individual campuses, as well as signs of “real progress” systemwide in recognizing factors, such as work climate, that influence the experience of women faculty. “[S]eeds of reform have sprouted surveys on wages and attitudes,” she said.

For example, the UC Office of the President recently conducted its first study comparing salaries of newly hired male and female faculty. The report, covering fiscal years 1997-98 through 2000-01, found that, on average, female faculty were paid 90.2 percent of the salary earned by their male counterparts at the assistant-professor level; at the associate-professor level the comparable rate was 97.3 percent, and at the full-professor level, 87.3 percent.

At the summit, Atkinson repeated his pledge that UC will play a crucial role in developing a national model for better recruitment and retention of women in fields where they are underrepresented. Faculty input will be key to such an effort, he said.

Recommended steps
The working group’s recommendations, on the final day of the summit, included the following:

• develop strategies for increasing the “pipeline” — or availability — of qualified women doctoral candidates, especially in fields in which women are underrepresented.

• ensure that all campus departments use good hiring and promotion practices, so that qualified women candidates will be considered for open faculty positions and will be successful in attaining tenure.

• intensify the systemwide effort to better inform all faculty on work/life policies such as maternity leave and time off the tenure clock for child-rearing, so that family commitments won’t bar advancement.

• hold campus academic administrators accountable for exercising leadership and demonstrating responsiveness to these issues at all levels of the academic personnel system.

• create an ongoing dialogue within UC to develop effective solutions to faculty gender-equity issues.

Speier is planning a hearing on UC faculty gender-equity issues by the Senate Oversight Committee, on Tuesday, Feb. 19, in Sacramento.


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