Jean Holloway Award reveals lack of female representation

Zoë Howard

Of the past 49 recipients of the Jean Holloway Award for Excellence in Teaching, only eight have been female.

Created in 1970, the award is presented annually to a teacher in the College of Liberal Arts or College of Natural Sciences. It is facilitated by Texas Exes, but the nomination process is student-led.

“The deans of the colleges send us a list of three students from each school to serve on the selection committee,” said Dorothy Guerrero, Texas Exes vice president of communications. “They choose the award recipient from the nominations, which is open to all students.”

Although the student committee changes annually, the discrepancy of female recipients remains constant. Only two female professors have received the award since English professor Mia Carter did in 1994.

“I didn’t realize there was this much disproportion,” Carter said.

Carter said in addition to gender bias, class size has played a role in who is nominated for the award. 

“I know a lot of people on this list, and most of them teach large classes,” Carter said. “Since the award is student-nominated, it’s difficult for professors with smaller classes to be considered.”

Molecular biosciences professor Arturo De Lozanne received the award in 2006. He said the lack of representation is due to unconscious bias.

“The disproportionality of the Jean Holloway Award is a beautiful example of social bias,” De Lozanne said. “The system is totally blind, so there’s no illwill or agenda behind this, but the outcome should be addressed.” 

Both recipients said the solution to this lack of representation can only be found among students. 

“This is in the hands of the students,” De Lozanne said. “I don’t have the power to change this, they do.”

This year, Texas Exes has already made changes to the nomination process such as adding a write-in option in hopes of making the award more equitable, Guerrero said.

Although nominating a professor for the Jean Holloway Award only requires visiting the Texas Exes website, many students are unaware the award even exists.

“There used to be posters up all over for student-nominated awards, and now it’s all online,” Carter said. “Going back to posters would make the award less easy to pass up.”

With the next voting period in November, Guerrero said she would like to see the number of female recipients increase.

“We would love to see a broader outreach of this award,” Guerrero said.