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ERIC Number: EJ903472
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-1938-9809
Reaching Critical Mass: Women in Faculty and Administrative Roles
de Wet, Carol B.
Forum on Public Policy Online, v2010 n2 2010
Faculty concerns over gender inequities surfaced in 2005-2006 at Franklin & Marshall College after new policies relating to childbirth and adoption and tenure clock stoppage were instituted two years prior. These structural changes were empowering and gave women faculty a sense that other meaningful changes were achievable, leading to renewed conversation among the faculty on the issue. This led to my appointment as Special Assistant to the President and Provost for Women and Family Issues. In this role, I spent twelve months gathering data and working with the Fair Practices Committee to assess all aspects of women (faculty and professional staff) in the institution. My research indicates that structural change, such as meaningful childbirth and adoption policies, tenure clock adjustments, and so on may be powerful recruiting and retaining tools, but accompanying attitudinal changes are necessary for their ongoing usefulness. Using focus groups and confidential surveys, I observed that individuals in focus groups expressed end-member viewpoints, which were strongly tempered by the survey data. The small groups were valuable in pointing out areas of individual concern, but the survey results indicated that misconceptions and perpetuated myths were not borne out by confidential responses. This was an effective process of re-orienting faculty culture and significantly reduced faculty concerns over perceptions of gender inequity. Critical mass is not necessarily the same as gender parity (equal numbers), but it should lead to gender equity (just or fair circumstances). When the number of women in a given situation reaches what has been referred to as "critical mass", issues of isolation, tokenism, and paucity of role models are significantly reduced or eliminated. Having a critical mass of women in the institution ensured that the original concerns were taken seriously and were thoughtfully addressed. (Contains 29 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Pennsylvania