Emory Report

November 1, 1999

 Volume 52, No. 10

Nov. 3 panel to discuss PCSW 'Invisible Barriers' study

Two years in the making and nearly 150 pages long, the President's Commission on the Status of Women's long-awaited "Report of the Study on Invisible Barriers to Women's Advancement at Emory" will make its public debut Nov. 3 at a lunchtime panel discussion, sponsored by the PCSW, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Carlos Museum reception hall.

The report, researched and compiled by the PCSW's staff concerns committee, arose out of a 1997 study examining whether male and female Emory employees were paid on an equal basis (the study found that they were). Following that finding, the PCSW decided to expand its scope to determine if simply the perception of inequity existed.

"Emory is a very good place for women to work; generally people have high levels of satisfaction," said Kathy Reed, who chaired the staff concerns committee during the study and kept the project moving. However Reed added there are "pockets of concern."

For example, 69 percent of African-American women reported that they have not received a promotion, compared to 52 percent of Caucasian women, according to the report. And one-quarter of respondents said they had been denied a promotion or had not received a response to an application for promotion in the last 10 years; the response was more likely among women with male supervisors than those with female supervisors.

Still, Reed said, "no overwhelming majorities expressed discontent," and the findings were more or less in line with national trends. But that's no reason not to talk about things.

"Our goal was not just to find out the status of perceptions but ultimately to improve the lives of women on campus," Reed said. "I'd like for Emory to be better than the national standard. It's almost our obligation to set the moral standard for the rest of society."

She added that the committee refrained from making recommendations in the report, saying that's what the Nov. 3 event is aimed toward accomplishing. Joining President Bill Chace on the panel will be Irene Browne, associate professor of sociology and women's studies; Robert Etheridge, associate vice president for Equal Opportunity Programs; Joan Herold, associate professor of behavioral science and health education; and Alice Miller, vice president for Human Resources. Dean of the Chapel and Religious Life Susan Henry-Crowe will moderate.

"We've assembled the key people to make decisions on these issues, so we're hoping a set of recommendations comes out of this," Reed said.

Chace, in particular, has expressed interest in the report's findings. Reed and other PCSW members met with him after the report was finished and briefed him on its contents. "I am interested in any study that analyzes the difference between what the 'facts' say and how people behave, with or without a command of those facts," Chace said. "This report does exactly that, and with scholarly precision."

Indeed, the 148-page report is filled with both quantitative and qualitative data from anonymous surveys of female University staff; female faculty were not covered, nor were employees of the Emory hospitals. The published report contains a description of the methodology, along with appendices detailing the survey instrument, verbatim written responses and a list of references.

One of Herold's graduate survey methods classes compiled the raw data into usable form, and the staff concerns committee put everything together for printing. Reed, associate director of the Association for Emory Alumni, gave special thanks to Allison Adams, managing editor of the Academic Exchange; Deb Floyd, assistant director of student affairs in the law school; and Catherine Howett Smith, associate director for academic services at the Carlos Museum and the current PCSW chair. The total number of women who contributed to the project was more than 25.

"This is a well-organized and well-conducted study of an important issue," Chace said. "Its conclusions should prove supportive of the belief that women here can indeed be appointed and promoted to positions carrying influence and authority. Not every indication is positive, but most are. I think the report should encourage us to continue this progress."

For more information about the study or the Nov. 3 event, call Alicia Starkman at 404-727-2001.

-Michael Terrazas

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