August 1, 1987 · Cavalier Daily

Women's Group Confronts Discrimination in Academia

A report issued by UVA President O'Neil's Task Force on the Status of Women finds various gender-based inequalities at the University, including a gap in salary whereby female professors early 64% of the salary of their male counterparts, and calls for various courses of action, such as a firmer stance on affirmative action, the creation of two women's centers, and the implementation of parental leave, which was previously unavailable.


1987-08-01 - Women's Group Confronts Discrimination in Academia.pdf
Catherine Capati
Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Women’s Group Confronts Discrimination in Academia
Cavalier Daily Staff Writer
According to a preliminary report prepared by the fourteen-member Task Force on the Status of Women, “There are significant problems facing women at the University.
The group was appointed by University President Robert O’Neil last October to study areas in which University women were faced with discrimination such as salary, luck of parental leave and child care, and promotions and tenure.
In its 66-page report, the task force compared the discrimination against females to the discrimination against blacks: “The small numbers of black and female role models among the tenured faculty and upper levels of administration indicate that although their presence here may be sought as students, perhaps to meet federally imposed goals, they are not welcomed back later as colleagues, and their future must be elsewhere.
One conclusion that the task force reached is that the University should definitely erase the notion that, since women here are no worse off than those of our immediate competitors [such as Harvard or Yale], “We can view ourselves as having succeeded in our mission and can thus declare victory and go about our other business.”
“We as a group are more interested in being a leader than a follower. We'd like to be best in terms of affirmative action," said Prudence Thorner, chairman of the task force and director of hospital supply at the University's Medical Center.
The discrepancy between men's and women's salaries was a main concern of the task force, which noted that “the current situation here regarding salary equity is generally far better than it is nationwide, where women on the average earn approximitely 64 percent (nationally) of the salary earned by men.”
At the University, the average difference between men's and women's salaries is S5,873. Thorner stressed, however, that "the numbers don't tell the whole story." Different faculty members have different salaries due to factors other than gender, such as publications, teaching experience, and degree of education, she said.
In its report the task force recommended to O'Neil that an expert in salary analysis check out its findings and correct any problem there might be in reference to the discrepancy between men's and women’s salaries.
The task force also recommended [sic] that the University strengthen its stance on affirmative action. Currently, the University is interviewing people to find someone to be director for affirmative action/ equal opportunity and assistant to the president.
According to Thorner, "The president is seeking to get someone with national recognition. [He] is really looking to hire someone outstanding." Thorner said that this move shows O'Neil's dedication to improving conditions for women.
In addition, the task force suggested the formation of two women's centers, one for social, cultural, and educational programs and the other, an academic center for research on women.
The second center would simply expand on the University's current women’s studies program, and the task force recommended that the position of director of the program, now held by Sharon Davies, be changed from a part-time to a full-time occupation.
The issue of parental leave one that the task force felt needed immediate attention. Currently, the University offers only sick leave and annual leave to its employees.
Therefore, if employees want to take tune off for any family need, they must use either or both of these breaks, leaving them no other vacation for the rest of the year. The task force said it felt it should be possible to have parental leave, during which employees can care for t heir newborn children, as well as sick leave.
The need for child care was also addressed by the task force. The main reason for the lack of child care is the high cost, according to Thorner.
Thornton said she felt that the University should “try to find creative ways to help parents find child care.”
She said, "We're telling the president to regard this as a very high priority, but not necessarily to place it above issues such as salary increase and research.”
In his response to the preliminary report, O’Neil asked the task force to review University publications for language or any other aspect that could be perceived as sexist.
An example of such sexism, according to Thorner, is a questionnaire that was released earlier this year the Task Force on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. Every person in the questionnaire referred to as a possible use of alcohol and or drugs was addressed as "he.
Thorner said it would be only fair to show that females, as well as males, might use drugs or alcohol.
The issue of promotions and tenure for women faculty members at the University is still one of much debate. The task force stressed that it feels qualification is more important than gender for promotion or tenure.
“We'd like the Promotions and Tenure Committee to be very sensitive to the need for women in faculty, but we do not want token women. Ultimately, our wish is for the best people, for excellence," Thorner stated.
According to Thorner, O’Neil has been very understanding about the needs of women at the University. Commenting about his attitude when he spoke at one of the task force meetings, she said, "He couldn't have been more upbeat and positive about removing barriers to the advancement of women."
The task force, which met weekly since October, submitted its preliminary report to O'Neil on April 30, and O'Neil responded to the task force's suggestions on June 8.
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Date Added January 30, 2017
Date Modifed December 9, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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