GW should take these steps to improve female representation in top leadership positions

GW still has a long way to go when it comes to hiring females in the highest-ranking – and highest-paid – administrative positions at the University.

Tax forms reveal that a mere four of the 22 highest-paid employees at GW in 2016 were female. Even worse, an analysis by The Hatchet found that only two of GW’s 14 peer schools have fewer women on their list of highest-paid employees.

The University’s proportion of females to males on this list is certainly disappointing, but it points to a much larger problem. In order to land a spot on the list of highest-salaried employees at the University, an employee must be in one of the top administrative leadership positions in the first place. Unfortunately, females are still not well-represented in some of the highest-level leadership positions at GW. Three out of the University’s nine vice presidents are female, while only three out of 12 deans are female. The University must take immediate steps to improve those numbers through increasing transparency of hiring practices. The University should also launch a task force to assess why females are not being hired for these high-level positions and figure out how to fix this.

Low representation of females at the highest leadership level does not paint a positive picture for students. With a student body that is 57.1 percent female, it is unbalanced to have administrative positions dominated by males. The lack of women leading across campus is discouraging to see for young women hoping to move up in the professional world.

Low representation of women in high leadership roles indicates to the student body and community that GW does not prioritize gender diversity.

This low representation of women in high leadership roles indicates to the student body and community that GW does not prioritize gender diversity when hiring administrators. In recent years, the University has made efforts to increase the racial diversity of administrators, and this of course should be commended and continued. However, there should be more efforts to increase the gender diversity of hires. There is a long way to go, especially when it comes to not only hiring but also retaining these diverse administrators once they are selected. The University does not have to choose between improving racial and gender diversity. Both of these efforts should be made side-by-side.

The University should take action to reverse this trend now, and there several ways to improve representation of females at the highest level. University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar told The Hatchet last week that the 990 tax form “does not provide a complete picture” of University administrators. If officials believe the data presented on these documents is truly not representative, then they should release information to back up those claims.

The next step is for the University to become more transparent about the hiring process. While we do know that there are search committees for some administrative positions, the current hiring process for top leadership still raises many questions and concerns. We don’t know if there are any hiring practices that might stop women from applying or receiving these leadership positions. Considering the issue at hand, it seems like personal biases are bound to play a part in determining the number of women in leadership positions. For some positions, we are unaware about who makes each hiring decision and whether the final decision comes down to a committee or an individual. We knew who was involved in hiring University President Thomas LeBlanc, and we should have the same level of transparency with the hiring of other higher-level administrative positions. During the search for the president, the University released information about who was on the search committee and GW should do that for all top level positions.

GW should start a task force to review University hiring policies and practices and put forth solutions to increase gender diversity. Task forces can unnecessarily add to bureaucracy when it comes to improving the student experience, but in this instance, it would be helpful and integral to assessing what can and should be changed and how the University should go about doing that. The task force can answer the fundamental question of why more women aren’t being hired for leadership positions at GW. Then, it can propose recommendations for change and release them publicly so the University is held accountable. Equally important is the message sent by creating a task force. It communicates to the community that LeBlanc and University officials prioritize increasing gender diversity in high-level positions.

Students can and should advocate the hiring of more women as leadership positions open up.

The University should make a more conscious effort to increase diversity without resorting to quota systems. A blind review of applicants in the initial steps of the interview process can potentially help women get further in the hiring process. The aim isn’t to push the hiring of women without regard to qualification, but to ensure that qualified women are rightfully represented in our top-level positions.

Efforts to increase female hiring for leadership positions should not only come from University officials. Students can and should advocate the hiring of more women as leadership positions open up. The student body needs to tell the University that we want to see more gender diversity and representation in the people that lead the school. A push from students calling for more gender diversity conveys to the University that this is a priority for them and encourages GW to be more proactive in increasing gender diversity in high level positions.

Through increasing transparency and starting a task force to assess the University’s hiring practices, GW can assess why women are not represented in high-level positions. After that determination, changes can be made and hopefully, more women will land spots on the list of the University’s highest-paid employees.

The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Shwetha Srinivasan, based on discussions with managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Anna Skillings.

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