Emory Report

 November 3, 1997

 Volume 50, No. 11

First Person

PCSW will continue to discover
what women want at Emory

Have you heard of the PCSW? Do you know what it does? Do you know what the letters "PCSW" are an acronym for?

My hope is that you do know what these letters stand for-because the President's Commission on the Status of Women, an advisory body to President Chace and now 21 years strong on campus, will continue to play a major role in giving voice to "what women want" on the Emory campus. By definition, the PCSW "serves as a focus for matters pertaining to the status of women; conducts studies on the status of women at Emory; publicizes Emory's resources in the area of women's studies; and coordinates programs and activities designed to further the interest of women at Emory." The PCSW's influence on campus is evident; it has been the catalyst for the emergence of the Emory Women's Center, the Clifton Child Care Center, the annual student writing awards and other programs.

The three subcommittees of the PCSW-faculty, staff and student-make up the working body of the organization. The women of the commission are drawn from a very diverse population, many of whom have been active on campus for years. I am the current chairperson of the staff concerns committee, of which I have been a member since coming to Emory in 1994. All subcommittees act independently of one another, usually focusing their efforts on a variety of issues and "hot topics" of which we believe the president should be made aware.

However, when President Chace came to Emory in 1995, the PCSW decided to focus the entire year on collecting data on the women of Emory and their concerns. The faculty concerns committee directed their efforts at maternity leave and tenure issues; the student concerns committee dealt with issues including safety, health, classroom climate and support services; and the staff concerns committee elected to focus on a pay inequity study between men and women in similar pay grades. During 1995-96, all three subcommittees actively pursued both quantitative and qualitative data, diligently aiming their goals at providing President Chace with a realistic picture of "what women want" at Emory.

Staff concerns began a two-pronged approach to data collection, requesting a breakdown of all pay grades by gender from Human Resources to determine if any salary discrepancies were evident. The data HR furnished amazed us-according to their "average salary comparison by pay grade and gender" statistics, there was virtually no discrepancy in salary between men and women in similar jobs. Across the board, it appeared that women were being fairly compensated.

Were we skeptical at this revelation? You bet! Next we embarked on an effort to conduct focus groups with a random sample of women staff. We divided the staff into four classes based upon pay grades. The numbers of women in each focus group were proportional to their numbers in each pay grade. We invited these women to lunch and a discussion about quality of work life for women at Emory.

After completing the focus groups, our taped discussions were transcribed, and our findings revealed a general perception that women are paid less than men working in the same pay grades. But HR data did not support those conclusions.

We went back to HR for a complete salary report on four pay grades, again broken down by gender. We received cumulative raw data that listed current salaries of all employees-no names were used-in those four pay grades. We asked educational studies professor George Englehard to plot the salaries and to determine if any inequities were evident. He found no statistically significant distinction in this qualitative data.

President Chace raised the issue of the "glass ceiling" as a concern at Emory. The "glass ceiling" refers to an invisible, artificial barrier that prevents qualified individuals from advancing within their organization; typically it describes the point beyond which women managers and executives are not promoted.

The next step for the staff concerns committee is to determine whether indeed there is a glass ceiling at Emory, what is the nature of women's experience of the glass ceiling on campus, and where the barriers might be. While the study will involve looking at some quantitative data, much of our data will be done in confidential, one-on-one interviews with women staff across the University. We anticipate this study will touch the working lives of Emory women on many levels,. If you are called on to participate, we hope you will answer the call to help us know and let others know "what women want" at Emory.

I invite and encourage your feedback; please send e-mail to me at dfloyd@law. emory.edu.

Deborah Floyd is assistant director for student affairs at the law school.

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