Faculty Women's Forum to be created, childcare center expedited

L.A. Cicero Rhode and Jones

Law Professor Deborah Rhode, left, and Vice Provost for Faculty Development Pat Jones enjoy one of the lighter moments during last week’s discussion of the report on female faculty concerns.

L.A. Cicero Deborah Rhode

Law Professor Deborah Rhode chaired the status of women faculty committee.

L.A. Cicero Etchemendy

Provost John Etchemendy said that a planned childcare center will be expedited.

A three-year study on the status of women faculty has led to the creation of a Faculty Women's Forum and the acceleration of a long-discussed campus childcare center, Provost John Etchemendy announced last week at a universitywide meeting to discuss the study.

Many of the goals and recommendations of the study are going forward, said law Professor Deborah Rhode, chair of the Provost's Advisory Committee on the Status of Women Faculty (PACSWF), at the Thursday afternoon meeting, which was sparsely attended by a handful of faculty members. The committee's study was presented last spring to the Faculty Senate, but there was insufficient time to discuss the report, prompting last week's special meeting.

Etchemendy thanked the committee for its work and pledged universitywide support for the study's recommendations. The bulk of the issues raised by the reports will be tackled by the new Faculty Women's Forum, which is to be modeled after a similar group at Yale University. Pat Jones, vice provost for faculty development, and Rhode used the meeting to solicit ideas on how the forum should be organized and what issues it should address. Most who attended the meeting felt strongly that it should include male faculty members who expressed interest, a recommendation for which the organizers indicated their support.

Etchemendy also announced the creation of a panel on gender equity and quality of life that will further analyze some of the findings of PACSWF subcommittee reports. He said he decided to fast-track the childcare center after hearing the concerns of faculty women that were cited in the report. Although details of the center are still being worked out, it likely will have the capacity for 100 children and could be completed within a year-and-a-half, Etchemendy said.

"I decided that [the center] just has to be one of our highest priorities," he added.

The university also plans to reactivate the ChildCare Working Group, an advisory body formed in 2001 to help the university deal with the various childcare problems that staff, faculty and some students had been experiencing.

The Office of Faculty Development will help the forum and the ChildCare Working Group get off the ground until volunteers step forward and take over, Jones told the meeting participants.

"Hopefully, among this group of women here today and a broader group of women, we'll be able to launch these initiatives," Jones said.

The committee was created in 2001 by Provost John Etchemendy following a meeting of presidents of nine leading research universities, including Stanford, that addressed gender equity for female faculty in the sciences and engineering.

The committee reviewed university policies and practices for faculty recruitment and retention, studied non-salary compensation and support, and conducted the university's first "quality of life" survey of all faculty members.

The report showed no significant gender differences in measures of overall satisfaction among men and women, with workplace climate and sense of inclusion being major determinants of the faculty's level of satisfaction for both genders. The report noted, however, that 37 percent of female faculty members felt they had received differential treatment based on gender during the past three years, with descriptions ranging from insensitive behavior to perceived discrimination. In addition, faculty members-both male and female-with children reported deep concerns about their ability to support their families given the high cost of living in the Bay Area.

The committee recommended further research into data suggesting that men, in a minority of the university's schools, receive higher initial-offer salaries than women, as well as larger start-up packages and laboratory space. Comparisons are complicated, the study showed, because more men are hired at senior ranks than women.

The committee also recommended suggestions and reforms in diversifying candidate search pools, doing outreach to hire women in fields in which they are underrepresented, implementing strategies to improve retention rates and reward productivity, regularly monitoring salary and non-salary forms of compensation and support to ensure equity, and reviewing the adequacy and implementation of policies for faculty parents, including family leave, tenure-clock extension and reduced teaching and clinical load.

Although Jones said she was disappointed with the low turnout for last week's meeting, she said she was grateful for the feedback she had received from faculty about the report and that the administration is supportive of its goals and recommendations. The report on the status of women faculty raised many issues that need to be addressed, she said, and faculty members should play a key role in pushing for the reforms.