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Pioneer on business faculty faced rejection

STANFORD -- Myra Strober can identify with women faculty who feel like outsiders in their own departments.

In 1972, she and one other woman were the first women hired as assistant professors at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. Her colleague did not stay long, so the faculty was approximately "90 men and me," Strober recalled in a recent interview.

"Many of them seemed uncomfortable having me around. For others I was just anomalous. I stood out."

So did the five women students in the MBA class of 350. Those women produced a slide show, "What's a Nice Girl Like You Doing in a Place Like This?" and Strober said she sometimes asked herself the same question.

Some colleagues were very supportive, especially Dean Arjay Miller, former president of Ford Motor Co. In fact, Miller endorsed a request by Strober and her female colleague for a conference on Women in Management, one of the first on the subject.

"He put his reputation on the line, supporting the conference financially and asking his buddies to come," said Strober, who helped produce a book based on the conference.

On the other hand, some men "simply could not fathom" why Strober was among them.

"Some of them didn't think it proper for a young mother to be working toward entry into their club. I can only imagine where they thought I'd left my children," she said, laughing at the memory.

Strober, who was teaching a required course in macroeconomics, said that some male students did not like being taught by a woman. More than once, a man said to her in front of others in the class, "I'm not paying this kind of tuition to be taught by you."

Strober, who earned her doctorate in economics from MIT, had been studying women in the labor force when hired at Stanford. Several well-meaning colleagues advised her to change to a conventional field until she got tenure.

Since the school knew the nature of her research before hiring her, Strober decided not to change.

"When I came up for tenure, they said I was doing work in a field that was very new, and that they couldn't evaluate the contribution I was going to make," Strober said.

She was denied tenure.

However, Strober had been working with some faculty in the School of Education on women's employment in teaching. With the support of Dean Arthur Coladarci, the school offered her a tenured position.

Two decades after her arrival at Stanford, Strober is a full professor and the academic associate dean in the School of Education.

She was the founding director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. She is a member of the Faculty Senate, and last year headed the Committee on Committees.

With her husband, psychiatrist Jay M. Jackman, she consults for several corporations on gender issues. She is president of the newly formed Kaider Foundation, which encourages reentry women in the medical field, and a member of the board of the Legal Defense and Education Fund of the National Organization for Women.

Strober has written approximately 50 articles on women's employment, the economics of child care and the teaching of economics. She also serves on the editorial boards of several journals.

In October 1992, then-Provost Gerald Lieberman asked her to chair the Committee on the Recruitment and Retention of Women Faculty.

Despite the problems her committee's report shows, "there has been a lot of progress here," Strober said.

"I regard this is as a very exciting time, and I think the upcoming discussion in the senate is an opportunity to educate our colleagues about the situation and get everybody on board for the changes we need to make."



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