Staff editorial: Unequal employment

Men disproportionately hold senior administration positions and tenured professorships at GW. For a university that prides itself on its forward thinking, even employing a slogan that purports Something Happens Here, this disparity is a disgrace.

Only 31 percent of GW’s faculty members are women. The national average is 36 percent and includes figures from institutions ranging from military academies, Ivy League schools, state university systems and small private colleges. Five percent may not appear to be a large difference, but with more than 4,200 faculty members, according to GW’s Office of Institutional Research, five percent represents a significant number of positions.

Another concern is that while 71 percent of lecturers at GW are female, women hold only 25 percent of tenured or tenure-track positions. In fact, over the last seven years, male faculty members were promoted at a faster rate than females. Of those promoted, only 38 percent were women and men made up two-thirds of newly tenured professors. These numbers show a considerable divide between career prospects for male and female professors at GW and are indicative of a major problem in the hiring and promotion of faculty members.

GW’s upper-level administration is disproportionately male, as well. The highest-ranking woman at GW is Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Linda Donnels. Only two other women serve as deans, and no women hold vice president positions.

The numbers are disheartening, but the University is taking some steps to improve the situation. Administrators created a new position – assistant vice president for faculty recruitment and personnel relations – to work to find and attract a diverse pool of high-caliber applicants for faculty positions. And to GW’s credit, the percentage of female professors on campus has nearly doubled from 16 percent in 1976 to the current figure of 31 percent. But more work must be done for GW to reach and hopefully surpass the national average – a dreary number itself.

The pool of applicants for professorships must be widened to include more women and other minorities. Attracting diverse teaching staffs should be as important to GW as enrolling diverse student populations. However, administrators should not seek out and hire new faculty members simply because they fill a quota or belong to a certain group. New professors must be qualified. But both sexes should be fairly represented in GW’s classrooms.

Administrators must continue to strive to reach the optimum 50-50 balance between the sexes in faculty hiring. But the glass ceiling that seems to prevent women from acquiring tenure and breaking into senior administrative positions must also be shattered.

While progress has been made in hiring women as professors, the University still has a long way to go in its effort to equitably promote faculty members and create a more balanced administration. Many recognize that the tenure system slows down promotions for everyone, particularly women, and that change takes time. But the question remains: how long must women wait?

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