University initiates equality programs

In 1999, only 4 percent of full-time faculty members were female. Now, after the formation of a task force and conscience efforts by the university to address the issue, 10 percent are female.

Five years have passed since University President the Rev. Robert A. Wild announced the formation of a gender equity task force to address inequality issues among faculty. Though statistics show the situation is improving, some faculty said Marquette has a long way to go. Wild announced the creation of the task force at the Pére Marquette Dinner in May 1999.

It consisted of 18 faculty members and was chaired by Phoebe Williams, associate professor of law. The task force investigated whether Marquette increased salaries, offered promotions and dealt with other faculty situations based on gender. In 2001, the task force returned with results and recommendations.

The task force found 61.5 percent of female faculty perceived their gender had less access to positions of authority while 60 percent of male faculty said women have an equal chance to obtain positions of authority.

Women faculty members have also been torn between raising a family and obtaining tenure, according to the task force report. The report said many women who choose to have children while aiming for tenure may encounter difficulties in research because their families take up time.

The report also said more women tend to be faced with gender harassment. Roughly 58 percent of women and 34 percent of men said they encountered sexually suggestive jokes or stories at least once.

After the findings were compiled and revealed, another task force addressed the problem. Their recommendations included departmental faculty evaluations, a full-time ombudsperson appointment — who serves as an impartial facilitator of inequality discussion — and more support for female faculty with children, Maranto said.

"I think we have made some signs of progress," Maranto said. "The addition of the ombudsperson office is important. You can think of it as the canary in the coal mine."

The university is just starting to implement the task force's recommendations, according to Lauren Leslie, chair of the School of Education.

University Provost Madeline Wake said the findings are important to the university as a whole.

"It's a matter of internal justice that is very close to our mission," Wake said.

The recommendations and policies stretch beyond the university, Leslie said.

"We want our children — both male and female — to grow up believing they can be anything they want to be independent of gender, race, ethnicity," she said.

Other Jesuit schools nationwide do not have similar problems, said Cheryl Maranto, management department executive associate dean and a member of the task force.

Wake said the university did not recognize gender differences in the system. For example, women tend to push less for a higher salary than men. Women are more likely to participate on committees, which could make their climb up a little longer, Wake said.