Appendix IV-D
University of Pennsylvania Gender Equity Study

Summary of Findings from Faculty Interviews

Interviews were conducted with 11 faculty members who indicated at the time of the mail questionnaire that they would be interested in providing or willing to provide indepth comments. The 11 interviewees included one assistant (male) professor, three associate professors (one male and two females), and seven full professors (two males and five females) within four schools: Arts and Sciences, Veterinary Medicine, Wharton, and Engineering. Interview questions followed up on issues drawn from the questionnaire and sought ideas and recommendations for changes to strengthen and improve gender equity and the quality of faculty life at the University. The five focal areas were: (1) perceptions of gender equity (using seven items drawn from the questionnaire); (2) support for faculty members in meeting family responsibilities, particularly those of women; (3) sexual harassment or otherwise inappropriate advances and relationships; (4) effective practices at departmental and school levels; and (5) ineffective practices at departmental and school levels. Interviewees were also given an opportunity to elaborate on or address topics of their own choosing. For each of the five focal areas, an abstract describing the main findings is presented, followed by a brief summary of faculty members' comments.

GENDER EQUITY. While both men and women agreed that their departments, and often schools, demonstrate a commitment to recruit, hire, and advance women faculty, these faculty members reported feeling that women were left at a disadvantage in terms of the University's effort to hire female academic "stars." They felt that women did not receive a level of support that is consistent with that of their male peers, including mentoring and clearly defined requirements for tenure and promotion. Finally, they felt that women faculty shoulder a disproportionate share of teaching, advising, and committee work.

In each interview, faculty members noted that their departments--and in some cases their schools--have generally been proactive in recruiting and hiring women. In departments with relatively few women, female and male faculty members indicated that the department had expressed a commitment to hiring women. However, five interviewees (men and women) noted that, while effort is made to attract and ensure the hiring of "male stars," there does not appear to be a similar effort to attract and ensure the hiring of women with comparable status and national reputations. One female faculty member stated, "Recruitment of women is less rigorous; no comparable deals are made." A male faculty member from the same school stated that decisions about whom to interview and whom to pursue are still the purview of "white male faculty." He noted an instance in which a female candidate with a stellar publication record was competing with a male candidate with a less impressive record for a faculty position. According to the faculty member, the male candidate was invited for an interview and subsequently was hired, while the female candidate was never, to his knowledge, seriously considered.

In contrast, a male faculty member from a different school noted that all of the recently hired junior faculty in his school are women. When probed, he stated that these female faculty members are mostly in the clinical/practice professor track, compared to male faculty, who are typically in the research track. In still another case, a female faculty member stated, "In theory, there is commitment; in practice, women are [not seen] as credible." Sharing similar sentiments, a female faculty member in a department with a relatively high number of female Ph.D.s noted that there is "a disparity between [the number of] Ph.D.s and the number of women faculty," suggesting that there is only "lip service about hiring women." In addition, five interviewees (a combination of men and women) raised questions about whether the administration worked hard enough to retain female faculty. A related matter concerned whether and the degree to which the department or school gives the same attention to obtaining positions for the spouses or partners of women faculty who are offered positions as it does to ensuring jobs for spouses or partners of male candidates.

Once women are hired, there is little consistency in how they are treated, according to 9 of the 11 interviewees. That is, whether women receive mentoring (and how much); support for teaching; opportunities to co-author; or information for applying for grants are largely variable and left to chance. As one female faculty member stated, "In my department, no one really gets mentored, the men or the women. That's not what happens. However, there are [formal and informal] networks for men, and because mine is an historically male-dominated field and my department and school have been dominated by men, there should be even greater attention to ensuring that women are [integrated] into the system and supported in gaining access." Senior female faculty members felt strongly about this issue, several recounting stories of "blatant" inequities and problems early in the women's careers. While they felt that the University and their departments had tried to reduce these problems and provide support, these women faculty also believe that, in order to eradicate the problems or change the culture of most departments, the University needs to be more proactive and directive in its expectations and mandates.

Female faculty members were particularly vocal, compared to their male colleagues, about what they perceived to be a pattern of female faculty members being assigned or asked to assume the labor-intensive jobs in their departments. According to female interviewees and one male interviewee, women are typically assigned duties that require working with or teaching larger numbers of students--usually undergraduates--jobs they feel are undervalued and overlooked, e.g., in promotion decisions. This pattern appears more pronounced for women faculty in departments where there have historically been few or no women. However, female faculty members in departments where women have historically had a presence were no more likely to indicate that they had support. In other words, the women in these apparently "women-friendly" fields report that women in their departments are often part of a "culture in which women are mistreated, ignored, or placed in roles that appear to be powerful but in reality are not;" they also noted that this treatment is also likely to come from their female senior colleagues, particularly in relationship to whether women who seek success in the academy should forgo their desire to be mothers. On the other hand, five of the seven female interviewees indicated that they had received support from at least one senior faculty member prior to their promotion, from a senior woman in either their own departments or another department or program. The Women's Studies Program was cited by all but one female interviewee as a source of intellectual and scholarly support and mentoring.

Finally, faculty members appeared unable to speak definitively about salary inequity. All except one indicated that the salary structure did not favor men over women or that they did not know the salaries of others. The one exception was a female full professor who reported having had "obstacles" created for her early on, primarily as a result of her response to harassment.

SUPPORT FOR FAMILY RESPONSIBILITIES. While University policy expresses an understanding that women typically bear a greater share of family and child care responsibilities--and erects no deliberate obstacles to balancing their personal and professional lives--the academic workplace seems not to comprehend or accommodate fully the logistical challenges of professors who are also parents. No references were made to faculty members whose family responsibilities concern caregiving to adult family members, e.g., parents or elder relatives.

Men and women differed in the content of their responses. All of the men acknowledged that most of their female colleagues have substantial family demands placed upon them, particularly involving child care and typically requiring that adjustments be made to meeting times and class scheduling. One full professor in a male-dominated field stated that departments have a tendency to have the same expectations of all women; for example, if two female faculty members both have families, departments often expect that they will respond to the demands of their jobs similarly. In his own department, the responsibilities of one female faculty member did not appear to interfere with her professional obligations whereas the responsibilities of the other did. He suggested that departments tend to reward women faculty who perform "superhuman" acts--that the woman who appears to be handling high levels of expectations within the department along with other stressors such as taking care of her family, publishing, and not complaining is used as the standard for all women irrespective of individual needs. His assessment was consistent with those of four female colleagues who suggested that women are placed in the precarious position of "role model" and "nurturer" to students and other colleagues, and that the burdens of these roles, compounded by family responsibilities, may interfere with their scholarly work.

Departments reportedly neither create obstacles for women or men around child care and family demands nor organize activities to accommodate the family responsibilities of faculty. All of the interviewees stated that women are slightly to greatly disadvantaged by this situation, noting that academic expectations (e.g., publishing, teaching, and obtaining grants) are demanding and cannot be fulfilled without considerable hardship to family life, particularly prior to tenure. In general, however, interviewees agreed that departments provide faculty members who are parents with a relative amount of freedom to adjust their schedules.

A related issue concerns whether there are different expectations for single mothers and fathers and whether they receive the same amount and kind of support as their married colleagues. On its face, this issue does not appear to be one of gender inequity; however, the contributing factors may, in fact, be a function of inequity. For example, one female faculty member, a single mother of a preschool-age child at the time she joined the faculty, reported that she felt that there was assumption that another parent would be available to provide additional financial and human support for her child. She was apprehensive about discussing her childcare needs. In addition, all faculty meetings are held during the late afternoon at a time when she, as a primary caregiver, must meet her son. Her department has made no effort, she asserted, to accommodate her needs or those of other women with this "predicament."

Interviewees commented on their parental roles primarily. No one mentioned other forms of family responsibility, e.g., for aging parents and other relatives. Such family responsibility may accrue equally to those who have children and those who do not.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT. Although inappropriate sexual behavior (either faculty-faculty or professor-student) is not widespread and official anti-harassment policies are in place, most interviewees have either experienced such inappropriate behavior or know someone who has experienced or witnessed it. All known perpetrators were exclusively male. Finally, female faculty members have been actively discouraged from pursuing redress in order to protect their professional advancement.

Ten of the 11 interviewees indicated that they had experienced unwanted sexual advances, had observed inappropriate sexual behaviors, or knew colleagues in their departments or elsewhere in the University who had been treated inappropriately--in each case with a male faculty member as the aggressor. Six mentioned that they directly witnessed inappropriate sexual advances made by male faculty members to students or by male faculty members to women faculty members. In three instances, female faculty members (full professors), one of whom was promoted within the past five years, cited personal encounters with sexual harassment by male colleagues; the women reported feeling that they had no recourse and that their promotions were delayed because of their resistance to requests "to keep quiet." In two of the three cases, the women reported feeling that their male colleagues and administrators empathized with them but were unwilling to move through the appropriate channels in response to the act. In one of these two cases, the female faculty member stated that her male colleagues were also "friends" of the "harassers" and that, while they had a stated interest in supporting her, their allegiances were ultimately to their male colleagues. In short, none of these faculty members felt she had recourse, even when University guidelines were clearly stated; the real and perceived risks within their departments outweighed the real and perceived support from the University in the absence of departmental support. All of the interviewed women, except one, and one man mentioned the harassment of female students. The women felt vulnerable in their role as supporters of female students, reporting that on the one hand, they had a sense of urgency and commitment to assist the students; on the other hand, they were uneasy about what the repercussions of such assistance would be for the students and themselves.

EFFECTIVE PRACTICES AT THE DEPARTMENTAL OR SCHOOL LEVEL. There was general agreement that the departments are doing a better job than in past decades of ensuring gender equity, especially in the recruitment of women, support and mentoring opportunities for male and female faculty, and awareness and sensitivity to the special needs of women professors.

There was general agreement that the departments are doing a better job of recruiting women than they did in previous years; that the level of support offered to junior female faculty members, as well as to male faculty members, has improved; and that there is growing awareness of and sensitivity to the specific needs of female faculty members, as well as to the differential demands placed upon them by their competing professional and personal responsibilities. Faculty members identified several areas in which the improvement has been obvious, such as the support departments give to assistant professors, especially as reflected in salary; mentoring, primarily by women; and the support of programs such as Women's Studies that bring women together around intellectual work. As one senior, male faculty member acknowledged, there is increased sensitivity to the dilemmas female faculty face. Yet, he also suggested, there are still persistent inequities and unresolved issues facing women faculty. Two women also noted the lack of diversity among the women who are invited to campus for an interview, indicating that minority women are rarely considered seriously or invited to campus. This comment suggests a multi-tiered hierarchy that cuts across gender and race.

Other recommendations from the faculty interviewed included the need to ensure that information concerning reports of sexual harassment be made available to faculty. One female professor suggested that a public medium is necessary--one that can provide hands-on support for women faculty specifying "what a woman can do." She suggested that a better "dissemination system" for such information be put in place and that department chairs be responsible for ensuring that each faculty member follows the guidelines of the University. This same faculty member also requested that more opportunities be provided for women to collaborate, in order to promote the likelihood that junior women will receive the mentoring they need, even if they and the more senior person are in a different department. This senior faculty member's sentiments were supported by two of the four men and other women, one of whom highlighted the need for "targeting specific information around gender equity." One male assistant professor noted a need for better communication among faculty and for chairs and deans to be sensitized.

The other areas of weakness in departmental practices that interviewees--both men and women--identified are: support for teaching, childcare accessibility, and administrative support. Two women cited what they thought were clear policy violations. In one case, the dean claimed lack of knowledge: "The Dean claimed not to have heard of maternity leave policy." In another case, the faculty member felt that there was no sensitivity displayed: "When I raised questions about maternity leave, I was reminded that I would get a sabbatical after tenure." These women also felt that men should have leave for the birth of a child.

Lastly, because women report bearing a disproportionately large workload, their need for administrative support is greater; yet, there is no evidence that such support is available. One associate professor noted that she finds herself doing clerical work every day and that she "spends a considerable part of her day" performing such tasks. She, along with all of the other women interviewed and one man, stated that whenever there is a team effort, the women on the team are the ones who do the work. They assert that this is "not an effective use of faculty [time and faculty talent]."

CLOSING CONSIDERATIONS. The good news is that interviewees' perceived that men and women receive some form of mentoring, receive some support for teaching, and are given information about the expectations for promotion. There was a shared sense that women faculty can gain access to some resources either in their departments or elsewhere in the University. At the same time, while we can take some pride in progress, we must take responsibility for the absence of a well-articulated framework for ensuring gender equity. The success that has been achieved is at-risk if vigilance is not exercised over the long-term. The likelihood of an intergenerational effect of past injustices is increased if such vigilance is not an intrinsic component of every strategic effort in this area.

The commentaries of the interviewees remind us of the complexity of and the enduring problems associated with a shift toward equity when a cultural shift does not occur--that is, when long-held assumptions, stereotypes, and expectations are challenged--and of the time required for meaningful change to occur. For each dimension for which there has been change, the stated commitment appears to exceed the actual practice. For example, everyone acknowledges that women bear a greater burden around families, but few departments have simple structural plans that might accommodate faculty, such as scheduling meetings at more convenient times and posting information on child care. In other instances, mentoring occurs, but mostly with senior female faculty mentoring other female faculty members. On the surface, this informal arrangement does not appear to be problematic; in reality, however, it adds another responsibility for female faculty members--one that senior women faculty appear to accept but that is not acknowledged by their male colleagues.

A cultural shift would result in fewer cases of unwanted sexual advances--indeed, advances, wanted or not wanted, some say should never be a part of any professional or intellectual setting. It would also lend credibility to women in roles where they are assigned traditional nurturing responsibilities--that women assume these roles through choice. Where there is a man and woman of rank in the department, departmental chairs and deans must make a more concerted effort to share the responsibilities evenly, such that women are not assigned the most labor-intensive tasks disproportionate to their male colleagues. It is here that departmental or schoolwide efforts to ensure that new, untenured faculty--both men and women--receive mentoring might be examined. Such an effort--focused on faculty who request and need it most--would amass the greatest yield to the faculty member, students, and department. This, of course, neither precludes the need for gender equity nor ensures it. It does, however, result in a structural framework/icon that, if applied appropriately, would increase the opportunities for new faculty to reach their potential. Thus, departments and schools would not simply "do no harm" but most importantly "promote proactive engagement."

Perhaps the issue that runs most poignantly throughout the interviews is one less related to gender equity but focused on examining the quality of faculty life in a time when the expectations of universities and the academy are being expanded and when the demands on faculty members are greater than traditional scholarship. This larger issue concerning the quality of faculty life--along with questions about gender equity, race equity, diversity, and access--should become part of a broader, continuing discourse and holistic set of strategies for the University to pursue as it seeks to understand and address the needs of faculty and staff in a changing environment.