The Greatness Game

I think in many ways some of the people who ask why
this is this such a big deal are the very ones who are
keeping the status quo.

—Nadine Kaslow, Professor of Psychiatry and Chair, President’s Commission on the Status of Women

Vol. 9 No. 6
May 2007

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The Greatness Game
Strengthening faculty distinction at Emory

On leave

“We have a distinctive institutional culture and history that is what we have to offer in the higher education world, and I don’t want to give that up in order to chase some abstract image of excellence.”

“I think in many ways some of the people who ask why this is this such a big deal are the very ones who are keeping the status quo.”

Faculty in Flux
Opportunities and challenges

The End of Work?
Riding the Retirement Wave

Hard Money/Soft Money
The two cultures



Academic Exchange: What issues are you examining in your look at gender inequities at Emory?

Nadine Kaslow: One is whether women are disproportionately at the rank of associate professor. We’re collecting data on that. The second major issue is whether women get hit disproportionately with service responsibilities—and ones that don’t count all that much for promotion and tenure, such as serving on lots of little committees and mentoring lots of people, while the more powerful committees are still more populated by men. Third, women in positions of senior leadership: when you get to the rank of assistant dean, you see more women. But when you’re looking at the highest levels, it’s still very male dominated. And gender equity in terms of salary is also of concern.

There are concerns about more subtle forms of discriminatory practices, things like in a meeting a woman says something and gets ignored, and five minutes later a man that makes the same point gets paid attention to. You’re not going to take that to the Equal Opportunity Office, and you can’t get quantitative data on that. But if you’re in a committee meeting and that happens six times, then the man is going to be viewed as the person who moves forward.
There are issues about childcare and family, work/life, family leave, those kinds of concerns. Women are held more responsible for those responsibilities, or choose more of that responsibility.

AE: How are you gathering data?

NK: It’s a two-pronged approach. Claire Sterk is spearheading the quantitative data collection. The deans have been asked to address a set of questions, such as what’s the percentage of women who went up for promotion and got it versus the number of men who went up for promotion and got it. I think we’ll see that there are really some differences between departments. For example, there are some departments in the college where they say it’s really not an issue any more. Women get promoted, women have power, they may even have a woman as chair. And there are other departments where it’s terrible. Women go up and don’t get promoted. Did they not meet the criteria? Did they meet criteria and weren’t fairly treated? If they didn’t meet the criteria, is it because they were not that good or is it because they did not get the mentoring? There’s the quantitative data and then there’s qualitative. We’re planning on doing focus groups with women faculty, all the deans, assistant and associate deans, and chairs. Presently women from all of the schools within the university are working together to craft the focus group guide.

AE: In the recent AAUP report on gender equity, Emory fell along the middle of our peer group. Some will say, Why are we still worried?

NK: It’s good that we’re in the middle of our peer group, but when we’re doing our benchmarking as an institution, I don’t really see that what we strive for the middle. Many of our benchmark institutions are making a major push. If the goal is to have 17 percent women full professors and our student body is 50 percent women, that seems imbalanced. Is it so great that our goal is 17 percent?

There are lots of women in the pipeline, and something keeps them from keeping moving forward. Many people talk about multiple leaks in the pipeline. I don’t think you just put a woman in a job. You need to create an environment where people of color and of both genders and of various sexual orientations are equally welcome at the table. And I think in many ways, some of the people who ask why this is this such a big deal are the very ones who are keeping the status quo. I got an email from a woman who said, “I’m an assistant professor and I’m the only woman in my department, I’m very shy and quiet, I’ve never spoken out on these matters, nobody would ever think to invite me to a focus group because I’m not on committees, I just do my research. But I’ll tell you my story if you want to hear it.” She’s invisible. There are a lot of people in this bind. And then people see that it keeps happening, and they leave, so you never get the stories.

We need to see how much consistency and variability there is. But what we really need are some effective strategies in place for making Emory a destination university for women. We need to create not only policies and procedures but also a climate in which women feel they are treated, promoted, and valued equally to their male colleagues.