Initiative to improve faculty diversity gains momentum

By Diane Ainsworth, Public Affairs

31 January 2001 | Work toward the chancellor's cabinet initiative to improve faculty recruitment and retention in the next two years took another step forward last week as a systemwide conference to address gender equity in the UC system convened on the Berkeley campus.

The initiative targets improvement of underrepresented minority women and women faculty as a whole and it addresses such issues as gender bias in the hiring and tenure processes, the academic climate for women and underrepresented minorities, barriers to women's career success and issues such as the "mommy track," housing and wage disparities.

"Working Toward Gender Equity in the Academy" was sponsored in part by the Committee on the Status of Women and Ethnic Minorities, chaired by Evelyn Nakano Glenn, who holds a joint appointment in Women's Studies and the Ethnic Studies Center.

"The idea behind this conference was to look at recruitment and retention patterns of women faculty in the UC system and at Berkeley," she said. "We need to find ways of getting at the roots of gender inequities and the problems that women and women of color face."

A panel of women faculty and administrators from UC and MIT gathered to discuss invisible biases at work in the free interplay of market forces that drive recruitment in higher education. The devaluation of women's achievements were discussed, as were best practices for enhancing scholarly reputation through a more diverse faculty.

Attempting to address those concerns, Berkeley's Committee on the Status of Women and Ethnic Minorities is planning another series of workshops this spring. The trainings will be designed for underrepresented minority faculty and for women faculty in the sciences and engineering.

"These workshops will be modeled on a highly successful workshop for university women in chemistry from around the country," Nakano Glenn said. "The workshops will provide training in communication skills, with the goal of improving the campus climate and facilitating constructive dialogues with colleagues."

Chancellor Berdahl has called for intensified efforts to identify productive methods to promote faculty diversity without violating standards of excellence. Two years ago, he convened the first meeting of the Chancellor's Committee on Diversity to develop a set of recommendations, both long and short term, and strategic in nature, to sustain and promote diversity in all of its manifestations on the Berkeley campus.



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