COMMISSION ON THE STATUS OF WOMEN
Co-Chairs: Susan Sturm, Professor of Law
Kim Anne Kastens, Doherty Senior Research Scientist
The Commission on the Status of Women (“CSW”) has been quite active this year, focusing on building momentum to address gender issues at Columbia in a comprehensive manner. Our principal activities include the following:
In 2001, CSW published a report on “Advancement of Women through the Academic Ranks at Columbia: Where Are the Leaks in the Pipeline? This report looked at (1) attrition rates of students enrolled in Ph.D. degree programs and within the Arts & Sciences, and 2) recruitment to and advancement through the faculty ranks in the Arts & Sciences (exclusive of the School of the Arts). The CSW, with the help of Lucy Drotning, Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Kim Kastens, updated the faculty data and broke down the data by school and department.
CSW, with the help of Susan Sturm and Kati Daffan, Columbia Law School ’05, prepared a matrix analyzing the problems identified and structures for addressing gender inequity at 10 other major universities that have undertaken gender equity analyses. A report summarizing the patterns and major findings from these studies was also prepared and disseminated to department chairs.
Ira Katznelson, Acting Vice President of the Arts & Sciences, invited CSW, represented by Kim Kastens and Lucy Drotning, to the March meeting of the chairs of the Arts & Sciences departments. At that meeting they presented details and updated information on the status of women faculty at Columbia, as well as the summary of the findings from other university gender equity studies. Each chair was given information on his or her department. The conversation led to an invitation to a regular meeting of the chairs of the Natural Science departments. The discussion was lively and thoughtful and raised some interesting ideas about the challenges and possibilities for promoting women in the sciences. CSW will soon have similar meetings with the chairs of the Social Sciences and the Humanities.
Members of CSW, along with other faculty, met several times with President Bollinger and Provost Brinkley to identify the challenges and concerns involving gender and racial equity at Columbia and to brainstorm about major initiatives that would address these concerns. These meetings have been extremely productive, and CSW looks forward to working closely with the University administration, faculty, staff, and students as these initiatives move forward in the coming year.
CSW communicated with members of the Salary Equity Committee and met with a representative to express concern about the lack of reporting over the last few years, to learn about the current work of the Committee, to offer assistance in assuring that the Committee provides the annual reports on salary equity that are mandated by the Senate, and to request that the Committee report back to CSW about its findings.
CSW, with the assistance of Susan Sturm, provided a report to the Dean of Graduate Studies and the chairs of three science departments that participated in a pilot study of graduate students’ experience of gender in the natural sciences. The following areas emerged in the interviews: (1) the role of faculty mentors; (2) departmental accountability and policies concerning graduate student evaluation and selection, performance, and transfer of faculty advisors; (3) work/family issues, particularly the lack of affordable childcare and established policies; and (4) the criteria for evaluating graduate student success in the natural sciences.
Coilin Parsons brought to the attention of CSW on behalf of the University Senate’s student caucus a resolution proposing that the Senate amend its By-laws, Statutes, and Rules to include gender-inclusive language throughout, and that the Senate propose to the trustees of the University appropriate amendments to the University Statutes to carry out the resolution. The CSW endorsed this proposal, which was brought to the Senate for further action.
CSW has begun exploring the possibility of conducting a self-study by other schools at Columbia, including schools in the health sciences and the professions. Preliminary support for such studies has been obtained, and steps are underway to try to commence one or more such studies in the coming academic year.
The capacity to identify and address patterns concerning gender equity depends upon the availability of reliable and responsive data gathering systems. Data gathering systems must be designed not only to meet operational needs, but also to enable analysis of reliable data in relation to patterns of employee hiring, promotion, salary, benefits, and conditions. CSW met with Jim Lindner, Director of HR Information Services, and Lynne Gere, PeopleSoft project director, to discuss whether steps have yet been taken to assure that PeopleSoft or other available systems will enable important research and analysis. The first phase of People Soft did not include consultation with Institutional Research, Affirmative Action, and other offices that will rely on PeopleSoft data for data analysis and reporting. CSW proposed that those responsible for Phase 2 of the PeopleSoft project consult with and implement the recommendations of a group that has expertise with data analysis and that has done gender and racial equity studies at the school, departmental, and university level.
CSW identified the issue of childcare at Columbia as one that concerned all of the constituencies it serves and one that is in need of serious and sustained attention. CSW intends to focus its efforts on addressing this issue in the coming year. CSW also determined that gender equity analysis for officers of administration will be a high-priority issue in the next academic year.