University needs to do better, treat female faculty equitably

Laura Doan

Kristie Loescher, senior lecturer in the McCombs School of Business, advised three of her female colleagues “to go to the HR department person and get a lawyer.”

“I’m a senior certified professional in Human Resources, and all three of these women were treated illegally” Loescher said, “in terms of the money they were paid compared to what men of the same job were being paid. They were being treated unfairly … they were being removed from positions with no cause and denied promotions that other people with lesser accomplishments have gotten.”

Faculty gender inequalities have and continue to persist university-wide.  UT’s first Gender Equity Task Report in 2008 found women were only about 30 percent of the set of tenured and tenure-track faculty and 19 percent of full professors, and men on average were paid more and promoted more quickly than female colleagues of the same rank, experience and field.

In response to this dismal progress report, UT formed a University Faculty Gender Equity Council. Its aim was to promote comprehensive gender equity efforts and monitor UT’s parity problem. Years after the initial report, the council’s latest data shows only small improvements: Women are now about 30 percent of the set of tenured and tenure-track faculty and 22 percent of full-time professors. The needle has only moved about 3 percent from some of these initial figures. At this rate, gender equity at every faculty level is more than 90 years off.

That is unacceptable. As is, the data shows that the average UT female faculty member is still paid 2.4 percent less and is promoted less quickly than a man of her same field and rank. Our university needs to remedy these inequalities expeditiously. UT needs to make gender equity a greater priority by increasing the Gender Equity Council’s resources and ensure good policies are fully implemented.

Janet Dukerich, senior vice provost for faculty affairs and chair of the University Faculty Gender Equity Council, stressed that the leadership at UT highly values diversity and equity. She also said that her council, which leads the much-needed efforts to eliminate bias in hiring processes and promote family-friendly policies, is “limited in terms of all the resources that we would like to have.” To change this, resources need to match good intentions, and Dukerich and the council should have all they need to address a problem so large.

Existing policies and services also need to be expanded and effectively communicated. Services like UT’s 24-hour Compliance and Ethics Hotline, which allows faculty members to call in and anonymously report issues, need to be well advertised so women, such as those Loescher mentioned, know their options. And faculty leaders need to be fully able to identify and fix equity problems when they present.

Department chairs, the faculty leaders most professors go to for guidance, need to be fully educated on policies regarding equity. Dukerich concludes, “It’s not enough just to have it all concentrated at the top and have good intentions. It’s most effective when it’s implemented and implemented at a level where it’s going to reach the most amount of people.”

Everyone on campus should closely monitor gender equity data releases, the next expected fall 2018, to keep our university accountable. But UT needs to take a sober look at the numbers as the stand and step up now: increase resources devoted to gender equity and monitor policy implementation. UT aims for excellence and asks it of their faculty and students — both men and women — but you don’t get excellence without equity.

Laura Doan is an English and Plan II major from Fort Worth. She is a Senior Columnist. Follow her on Twitter @ledoan17.