April 28-May 4, 2000
Back Issues
Researchers looking for causes of heart disease
Gender equity remains elusive at the University, panelists agree
Off the Shelf - recently published books by U.Va. faculty and staff
Onuf elucidates Jefferson's nation-making

All-University Outstanding Teaching Award winners

Q&A - Engineering Dean Richard Miksad
After Hours - On the roof or ground, Quillon takes chess to new heights
Faculty Actions from the April BOV meeting
In Memoriam
Hot Links - Cavalier Computers
ITC's Office Technology Conference to be held May 10
WFPA honors Sisson and Allen

Gender equity remains elusive at the University, panelists agree

By Dan Heuchert

Despite the work of task forces, committees and the issuance of several reports over the years, "gender equity is not yet a reality at the University," according to the most recent report, which was the focus of a well-attended panel discussion held April 24 in the Rotunda Dome Room.

"Our administrative structures and academic curriculum still reflect an educational tradition established for and by men," stated the report, prepared by the 1999 Task Force on the Status of Women and submitted to President John T. Casteen III in August.

"Any system that requires an up-or-out [tenure] decision at six years, when women are at the height of their child-bearing years, is barbaric."

Dr. Sharon Hostler,
medical director of the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center

Panelists and many in the standing-room-only audience agreed. Some zeroed in on the "tenure clock" as a prime example.

Currently, junior faculty members have six years to establish their credentials for receiving tenure -- a period that coincides with the time that many of them are marrying and starting families. And while they may request to pause the tenure clock for a year or two, that is still an exception that must be applied for, noted panelist and associate history professor Cindy Aron.

The six-year clock no longer reflects today's faculty, in which both women and men often must choose between nurturing their professional or family lives, panelists said.

"Any system that requires an up-or-out decision at six years, when women are at the height of their child-bearing years, is barbaric," declared panelist Dr. Sharon Hostler, medical director of the Kluge Children's Rehabilitation Center and McLemore Birdsong Professor of Pediatrics.

The full text of the 1999 Task Force on the Status of Women's report can be found online at http://www.virginia. edu/topnews/equity.html. A video of the April 24 panel discussion will soon be linked to the site.

Commerce School dean Carl P. Zeithaml, also on the panel, agreed. "I absolutely believe that the tenure clock is not only too short for women, it is too short for men," he said.

Another area of concern is finding positions for the spouses of faculty and administrative hires, some speakers noted. Zeithaml said that two women declined faculty positions in the Commerce School last year because there was no employment available for their spouses.

Panelist Glenna Chang, an assistant dean of students, said the University too often values students who work too much and sleep too little, a comment that others later said applied to its employees as well. "We often undervalue students who are leading balanced lives," said Chang, who added that many of them are women and minorities.

Many panelists echoed the report's call for more women in leadership positions. The report noted that as of the fall of 1998, seven of nine vice presidents, nine of 10 associate vice presidents, and four of six assistant vice presidents were men. At the departmental level, 62 of 70 chairs were men. Of 285 identified leadership positions, 208 -- or 73 percent -- were held by men.

"Having more women in administrative and leadership positions is important," said Sondra Stallard, dean of the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, "but I am concerned with the women at the other end of the scale."

She noted that 59 percent of the University's workforce is female, but only 13 percent of those are labeled as either executive/administrative/managerial or instructional or research faculty. Roughly half are in lower-earning positions, like housekeeping and administrative support. Women hold approximately 60 percent of the service positions, she noted.

While there has been some progress made in helping classified employees advance -- Stallard noted training available through Organizational Development and Training, apprenticeship programs in Facilities Management, and the new adult degree program offered by her school -- many women find themselves unable to take advantage of those opportunities, she said.

Some supervisors are unwilling to release their employees for educational opportunities, she said, and many women are forced to take on second and third jobs to make ends meet and thus cannot attend classes held after hours.

Panelists and audience members expressed frustration that many concerns had been identified for years, but had not yet been addressed. The 1999 report included an item-by-item status report on recommendations made in a similar 1988 report, most of which have been only partially satisfied. A 1992 salary equity study was never released, Aron noted.

"I am very tired of seeing reports disappear into smoke, only to be resurrected in time to write another report that will disappear into smoke," Stallard said.

A new Women's Leadership Council will monitor implementation of the 1999 report's findings and bring gender issues to the concern of the Cabinet. In addition, Karen Holt, director of the Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, said she intends to continue to push equity concerns. "I don't shy away from the responsibility at all."

But most speakers agreed that the entire burden of sustaining these issues cannot be borne by women alone, or leaders alone. Speakers from the audience stressed that accepting the ethos of gender inclusiveness and equity must be a priority throughout the Grounds, not just in board rooms and offices.

"This is not women's work," Hostler declared. "This is the work of the University."


© Copyright 2000 by the Rector and Visitors
of the University of Virginia

UVa Home Page UVa Events Calendar Top News UVa Home Page