Task Force Introduction

The Task Force on the Status of Women at the University of Louisville has completed an in depth study of issues affecting the work experience of women at the University of Louisville.

The Task Force study substantiates that the participation of women at the University of Louisville is constrained by marginality.  In this report we present the current status of women in all employment categories, explore contributing and perpetuating factors, and present recommendations for changes that will positively affect the status of women and improve the climate for all University of Louisville employees.

Over the past fifteen years, as policies have been rewritten to eliminate formal barriers, the numbers of women faculty and administrators have increased nationwide.  Yet the status of women in higher education today can best be characterized as “the higher the rank, the fewer the women”.   Women faculty, administrators, and staff remain concentrated in the lower ranks and in a limited number of specialties and fields.  Compounding the problem, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts at every rank, in every field, and in every type of institution (Sandler, 1986).

The percentage of women faculty, currently 27 percent nationwide, has not actually increased since the late 19th century.  It is in fact lower than in 1880, when women comprised 36 percent of faculty positions in higher education.  The recent increase merely represents an improvement over the all time low that existed in the post-GI bill period; 28 percent of faculty positions were held by women in 1940, dropping to 23 percent in 1960.

The numbers of women in chief executive positions has doubled in the past fifteen years to 360 in 1993-94, up from 175 in 1978.   This represents 12 percent of the 3000 institutions of higher education.  However, most of these appointments are in two year colleges, women’s colleges, and small liberal arts college.  Other women administrators are primarily clustered in student affairs and external affairs (development).  Few women administrators are found in academic affairs and administrative affairs positions.  Nationwide, 27 percent of academic deans are women.  The only academic disciplines in which the percentage of women deans exceeds 50 are home economics and nursing.

The University of Louisville has made improvements in the status of women over the past few years.  Policies have eliminated most of the blatantly overt differential treatment.  The increased emphasis on multi-cultural diversity has increased awareness of women’s issues.  The establishment of the Women’s Advisory Committee and the Women’s Center, the development of the Women’s Studies Program and the implementation of a sexual harassment policy represent positive steps toward equity.  The appointment of the Task Force on the Status of Women is further evidence of the President’s continued commitment to enhancing gender equity at the University.

Many men, and some women, believe that discriminatory treatment of women has ended.  It has not.  The Task Force learned that the work experiences of women at the University of Louisville are very different from the experiences of male peers in the same department or classification.  Women across all employee categories shared concerns and discouragement related to lack of recognition of their work and contributions to the University of Louisville.  Women are continually subjected to subtle yet pervasive forms of discrimination.  Much of this discrimination is not intentional, but has become institutionalized as acceptable and appropriate.  The University of Louisville should do more to address this organization disparity of treatment.

The Task Force has made a concerted effort to speak to the diverse concerns of all women employees at the University of Louisville.  The term women refers to women of all races and ethnicity.  The term employee is used advisedly as the only term that is inclusive of all classified, professional/administrative, faculty, administrators, and executives who are compensated for their various contributions to the University of Louisville.

We have restricted our study to the status of women employees, as charged.  Student issues have been addressed only peripherally.  The double discrimination faced by minority women is acknowledged and addressed.  Indeed, across all areas we investigated, problems were magnified for women with dual minority status including women of color.

Several terms used in the report require clarification.  The concepts of gender parity, balance, equity, and underutilization all have distinct and different meanings.  Parity in hiring is measured against the available pool of women in a field or pool of potential applicants.  Balance is equality between men and women as reflected by the numbers.  Equity represents impartiality and fairness in treatment, referring to the process as well as the outcome.  (Arizona report, pp 15-16).  Underutilization means lack of compliance with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program, United States Department of Labor.   Underutilization is calculated based on this office’s determination of the numbers of individuals within an eligible pool for hire and then setting this as the standard which should be reflected in the existing employee category within an organization.  For example, if 30 percent of all available Ph.D.’s in Sociology are women then 30 percent of the faculty within a sociology department should be women.

The Task Force has organized issues related to the status of women into several categories:  representation, recruitment, retention, campus environment, and integration of work and family life.  However, the fundamental underlying problem identified by the Task Force is a pervasive organizational climate in which women are still perceived as second class citizens.  Most of the problems identified by the Task Force are outward indicators of this climate.  The organizational climate at the University of Louisville is the underlying factor directing decisions that result in the feelings of alienation experienced by many women employees, poor representation of women in the higher ranks, pervasive differential treatment by gender, the discounting of women’s contributions and ideas in all employee categories, and the lack of encouragement for women to advance.  Because climate issues are so fundamental, they are addressed in all areas of the report, rather than separated out as an isolated entity.

“Meeting the 21st Century:  Access, Opportunity and Achievement” reflects our vision of the University of Louisville by the 21st Century.  Implementation of the Task Force recommendations will help to improve the status of women and propel the University of Louisville into a position of leadership in the Commonwealth.