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Spring/Summer 2003

Volume 32
Number 3-4

Title IX:
Taking Equity Seriously




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Documenting and Rectifying Inequity on Campus: The Next Phase
By Karen S. Rowan, Editor On Campus With Women

Millennium Project Phase One Cover

The influential 1999 Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT documented the "unequal distribution of resources between male and female faculty in every variable that was measured: lab space, salaries, proportion of funding from the Institute, and nominations for prizes." Its revelations struck a chord with women faculty across academe. Even more shocking, the Committee found that no significant progress in improving conditions had been made in the past ten to twenty years.

The impact of the study and its aftermath reached far beyond MIT's School of Science. The Committee hoped that the "collaboration of faculty and administration could serve as a model for increasing the participation of women, and also of under-represented minorities, on the faculty of other Schools at MIT." And, in fact, similar studies have been conducted in other MIT schools by Committees on the Status of Women Faculty; these committees found that the same generic problems for women faculty exist across schools--marginalization and inequitable treatment, small numbers of women faculty, and difficulties balancing work and family. The manifestations of these problems, however, differed across and even within schools.

Not only did the 1999 study on women faculty in the School of Science spark a series of studies across the institution, but it also inspired similar studies in universities across the country, including at the University of Arizona. Prompted in part by the MIT study, the Millennium Project is a comprehensive study of the campus climate for women faculty and staff and faculty and staff of color. The report notes that because there are more women and people of color on campus, some academics have come to believe that significant progress has been made in achieving equity. However, national data substantiates no such rosy, linear progress. Commissioned by University of Arizona President Peter Likins, The Millennium Project was designed and conducted in order to understand how these trends play out locally.

The Millennium Project, co-sponsored by the Association for Women Faculty and The Commission on the Status of Women, was organized in two phases. Phase I studied conditions for women faculty and faculty of color, and Phase II focused on year-to-year Appointed Personnel and Classified Staff, including professional non-faculty, paraprofessional and technical staff, administrative support and clerical staff, skilled craftspersons, and service and maintenance staff. Both phases were guided by a steering committee and campus, community, and national advisory boards.

The project report points to the "litany of research...demonstrating the relationship between negative (or hostile) campus climates and the likelihood of women and racial/ethnic minorities leaving or being less successful in institutions of higher education." Further, they tie the impact of negative climates for faculty and staff to the educational experiences of students and argue that "enhancing campus climate is directly related to improving the academic excellence of the institution." As a result, the goal of the Millennium Project is "not merely to assess the campus climate, but, more importantly, to identify ways to rectify inequities." Phase II of the project seeks to address gaps in the research on campus climates, which tends to overlook the working conditions, satisfaction, and morale of staff and appointed personnel, who "play a major supporting role in helping the University of Arizona achieve its goal of academic excellence."

With these goals in mind, the Project committee designed a study using both quantitative and qualitative methods and data. Data about the gender and race of faculty and administrators, workload, and salary were drawn from existing university records. Surveys of faculty and staff were conducted, along with open-ended interviews and focus group discussions with faculty sub-groups (e.g. Women in Academic Medicine, Women in Science, and Lesbian, Gay, & Bisexual Studies) and staff and appointed personnel.

The project researchers uncovered key myths about progress for women faculty and faculty of color and gathered data to dispel those myths. For instance, despite perceptions that women faculty and faculty of color have grown in number in recent years, data show that these numbers have changed little. There is also a pervasive belief that women faculty and faculty of color will naturally move up into leadership positions. However, data reveal that men and white faculty continue to hold the majority of leadership positions (84 percent and 88 percent, respectively). There exists a corresponding myth that the reason women and faculty of color have not yet achieved leadership positions is because there are so few women and people of color in the "pipeline." On the contrary, reality shows that there are women and people of color in the pipeline, but that their numbers decline steadily as the ranks advance. For instance, women comprise just over 41 percent of the assistant professor rank but make up less than 20 percent of the full professor ranks. Similarly, faculty of color make up 25 percent of assistant professors but just over 10 percent of full professors.

Project researchers also found that the lack of women faculty and faculty of color affects students. While the overall ratio of undergraduate students to tenure-track faculty is approximately 18:1, the ratios for women, men, white students, and students of color are far different:

  • Women undergraduate student to women tenure-track faculty: 35:1.
  • Men undergraduate student to men tenure-track faculty: 12:1.
  • Nonwhite undergraduate student to nonwhite tenure-track faculty: 36:1.
  • White undergraduate student to white tenure-track faculty: 15:1.

Women faculty and faculty of color also believe that their research and pedagogy are less valued by their departments and reported cases in which their scholarship or teaching were marginalized by the university or their departments. For example, one female faculty member "was told explicitly by the chair that gender has no place in [the] core curriculum. First of all, it's not rigorous, second of all, it's not something our students are interested in, and thirdly, it's not considered academic."

In addition to these impediments to faculty progress, researchers also uncovered impediments to creating a fair community. Women faculty, faculty of color, and gay/lesbian/bisexual faculty are less likely to be treated fairly by the institution than are men faculty and white faculty in terms of salary and compensation, workload, and application of university policies and procedures (including hiring, tenure, promotion, leave, and grievances). While the scope of the Millennium Project did not allow for detailed analyses of factors that affect salary differences (number of years at the institution, publications, etc), raw data show that "women full professors earned on average $9,079 less per year than their male counterparts." Overall, women faculty earn 82.6 percent of what male faculty earn, with the greatest gap at the full professor rank. Researchers also identified subtle discrimination, sexual harassment, and uneven mentoring systems as problems for women faculty and faculty of color.

Phase II of the Millennium Project found that staff and appointed personnel are, overall, moderately satisfied with their jobs. Appointed personnel and women report higher satisfaction than classified staff and men, respectively, while "Blacks indicate slightly less satisfaction than other groups." The overall morale of those surveyed is also moderate, and both appointed personnel and classified staff report a low likelihood to leave the University of Arizona.

Despite their overall satisfaction, respondents in Phase II reported several problems with working conditions, leadership and supervision, evaluation and recognition, and career development. Problems with working conditions include low salary and/or wages, increased cost of health care, access to and affordability of parking, and inadequate childcare options. In terms of leadership and supervision, respondents indicated frustrations about not being able to evaluate supervisors and the lack of training for supervisors. As a result, employees often work for supervisors with poor management skills and fear reprisal for expressing dissent or criticism. Employees were particularly frustrated about inequitable practices for merit pay increases, the lack of opportunities for promotions, lateral transfers, and mentoring.

Each phase of the Millennium Project includes an Action Agenda to rectify the inequities uncovered by the studies. Both phases recommend a plan for implementing the agenda, which includes establishing an oversight committee and funding positions for project coordination and further data collection. Phase I lays out a goal to create a diverse, fair, and hospitable community, and identifies key steps necessary to achieve that goal. Phase II presents a set of recommendations for solutions to primary problems uncovered in the study. Though some recommendations, especially those concerning pay and benefits, may be unfulfilled due to budgetary constraints, the report notes than many of the recommendations "are far more dependent on leadership, climate, and values."

According to Dr. Carolyn Maddy-Bernstein, Associate to the Vice President, the Millennium Report Oversight Committee (MROC), made up of faculty leaders from across the university to carry out the report's recommendations, is currently preparing an interim evaluation of the progress of the Millennium Project. Since the release of the Phase I report, important groundwork has been laid out to enact the report's recommendations for creating a fair, hospitable, and diverse campus community. Three task forces--MROC Fair Task Force, MROC, Hospitable Task Force, and MROC Diverse Task Force--are working with administrators and campus leaders to implement specific recommendations, many of which have been incorporated into the university-wide Diversity Action Plan. For example, the Diverse Task Force has begun researching the "cluster hire" concept as a way to attract underrepresented faculty, while the Fair Task Force is promoting workload equity by developing an annual departmental reporting process to compare faculty teaching and service activities. The Hospitable Task Force has organized a Subtle Discrimination Conference to educate administrators, faculty, and staff about subtle discrimination and is planning follow-up workshops and issue papers.

In addition to university-wide action, each college has established its own college-wide MROC to address diversity and climate issues specific to individual colleges. To date, College MROC activities include developing faculty recruitment processes to increase diversity, monitoring start-up packages for fairness, conducting college-wide climate surveys, working to recruit a more diverse student body, and establishing an exit interview process for graduate students. Some College MROCs have not been as active as others, so the University MROC is working to provide college committees with more support and oversight.

To date, several important recommendations have not yet been fulfilled, including the creation of two full-time positions, one for a project coordinator to support the work of the MROC and another to collect and analyze faculty data to assess working conditions. While Maddy-Bernstein and an administrative assistant devote some of their time to supporting MROC, the long-term sustainability of this significant initiative will certainly be enhanced by the support of a full-time project coordinator and data researcher. Though the Millennium Project does not yet have full-time staff to support its implementation, it does enjoy the active support of the president and provosts, who meet regularly with the university- and college-MROCs as well as administrators and faculty leaders.

Both the MIT study and the University of Arizona Millennium Project have set a standard for other research institutions to assess gender and race equity. Duke University, for instance, just released results of its campus-wide study on women. MIT and the University of Arizona designed their projects as both investigative and action reports. In each, they sought to make specific recommendations to remedy the inequities their studies uncovered. But ultimately, the success in creating fair, equitable, and supportive climates and policies rest in monitoring progress over time. In the coming years, OCWW will look forward to hearing back from institutions about the long-term effects of comprehensive equity reports.

To read the Millennium Project reports, go to www.u.arizona.edu/~millen/index.html.



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