GW aims for faculty diversity

Annie Wooldridge monitors the recruitment and retention of faculty members and academic administrators with faculty rank. Since 1990, she has worked with the Donald Lehman, vice president for Academic Affairs, to provide an annual report to the Faculty Senate summarizing the status of recruiting and retention of women and minority faculty.

The report outlines the actions the University has taken to attract and retain female and minority faculty, she said.

One of the key things we’ve focused on in the past is improving the climate within the institution, Wooldridge said. If you’re not taking care of people who are already here, you’re going to have difficulty enticing people from the outside to come here. We need to demonstrate that we value the presence of women and minorities on campus.

In 1996, GW distributed a climate survey to every faculty member within the University, asking them to evaluate their work environment.

As a result of survey recommendations, Lehman said he is in the final stages of appointing a University-wide committee to work with deans to establish, sustain and monitor mentoring programs promoting the professional development of faculty, Wooldridge said.

Wooldridge said she speaks annually to search committees within the schools about diversity and how to recruit for diversity within a legal framework.

We really take the issue of a level playing field very seriously, Wooldrige said. We spend our efforts on activities that will increase the number of women and (people) of color in the applicant pool. If you don’t get them there, then you’re not going to have them invited in for interviews.

Wooldrige said recruiting women and minorities is important for the University.

What we say to faculty and department chairs is the recruitment process should be omnipresent, she said. If we’re serious about being the best and most diverse faculty out there, then we need to be sure that our colleagues and our professional associations know who we are and know what we stand for. It means being a face and a voice to applicants – not just an advertisement in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Wooldrige said there are efforts to promote diversity in several of the University’s schools.

As you can see by the numbers that we’re improving, she said. Our efforts should be judged by how much we want to do. I think our expectations are much higher than our results, based on our numbers. We need to do more.

Linda Donnels, associate vice president and dean of students, said women need to seek opportunities for enhancing experience.

(You have to) reach out to young women moving along in careers for exposure to diverse opportunities, said Donnels, GW’s highest-ranking female administrator.

Mary Futrell, dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development, said it is important that women surpass the criteria when applying for an upper-level position.

You need to exceed the minimal level of what you have to achieve, she said. You know that women are going to be held up and scrutinized more so than men.

The additional challenges should not dissuade women, she said.

We, as women, have got to keep knocking on the door, but if you’re going to be knocking, you’ve got to be ready to walk in, Futrell said. And I think there are a lot of women who can do the job who are already here at GW. They just need to be given the chance to do it.

A professor’s gender may also affect the classroom environment. Bernice Sandler’s book, The Chilly Classroom Climate, describes how women are treated differently in subtle ways in the classroom.

Both men and women teachers often treat the male and female students differently, although women students are more likely to talk more in classes taught by a woman, wrote Sandler, senior scholar at the Women’s Research and Education Institute.

Women are interrupted more often in the classroom, receive less eye contact, and are called upon by name less frequently than men, according to Sandler.

And there is ever evidence that women and men may be asked different kinds of questions, such as men being asking open-ended questions, and women being asked factual questions Sandler wrote.

Megan Doyle, a senior majoring in journalism, said she has noticed a difference in classroom interaction and relationships students have with professors depending on the gender of the professor and the gender of the student.

Sometimes I tend to connect with my female professors more than the male ones, Doyle said. Some of my female teachers are more willing to meet with me and talk with me, even if its not necessarily related to class. I feel my female teachers have been very open to that, and they’ve made it clearer in class, and the students feel more comfortable going to them.

Senior David Portnoy said his professors’ gender does not significantly influence his learning.

Portnoy, an anthropology and psychology major, said he has had many female professors.

Professors’ teaching style matters more in shaping the classroom experience than gender, he said. Whether the professor’s gender is a factor in influencing their teaching style could be a possibility, but I don’t think it’s the primary influencing factor. If it is, I haven’t noticed it.

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