Call it the Provost’s Committee on the Status of Women, mach 2002. The 13-year-old advocacy group is being reconstituted, with a new structure and leadership, to give the universitywide committee a more independent voice and strengthen its ability to champion the entire female community at Johns Hopkins.
Linda Fried, a professor with joint appointments at the School of Medicine and the Bloomberg School of Public Health and director of the Center on Aging and Health, has been appointed as the committee’s first faculty chair and a search is currently under way for new membership. The entity will now be known as the University Committee on the Status of Women.
Convened in 1989 by then President Steven Muller, the committee is charged with studying the needs of women in the university community and examining and making recommendations on such issues as diversity, salary equity and advancement. In addition, the group--made up of faculty, staff and students, both women and men--educates the community about women’s issues.
The Status of Women Committee lists among its accomplishments an institutionalized faculty salary equity study and the enhancement of divisional efforts in areas where women are underrepresented. In partnership with the Office of Human Resources, the committee helped shape a number of staff training and WorkLife efforts, including the relocation and dual-career program, flexible workplace guidelines, dependent care vouchers, a development program for new supervisors, a mentoring program and the establishment of Parents in a Pinch.
Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, who previously served as the committee’s chair, says that while the Status of Women Committee has done much since its inception to enhance the environment for women at Johns Hopkins, the committee decided in a meeting last fall that the time had come to re-examine its structure.
In the past the committee’s members were appointed by the university’s deans. Under the new structure, however, membership nominations are being solicited from all members of the Hopkins community. [See below for details.]
“The idea is to give the committee more of an independent advocacy role, both by appointing a chair who is not a member of the university administration and by broadening the recruitment of its members,” Knapp says. “While the committee will continue to benefit from the efforts of those who have long been active in it, we are also expanding the outreach to prospective members by inviting self-nominations.”
Fried joined the Provost’s Committee on the Status of Women in 1995. An authority on gender equity issues, Fried was the leader of an initiative by the Johns Hopkins Department of Medicine from 1990 to 1995 that focused on career development for women in academic medicine. The study--the results of which were published in The Journal of the American Medical Association--asserted that long-term interventions by administration were essential in order to make substantive improvements in the development of women’s careers.
Knapp says Fried’s background and leadership abilities made her a clear choice to lead the Status of Women Committee through the beginning of the new century.
“Dr. Fried is not only a respected faculty leader and a longtime member of the committee but a national leader of efforts to improve academic institutions by making them more responsive to the needs of all their constituents,” Knapp says. “Her landmark study of conditions affecting the advancement of women in the Department of Medicine has played a key role in the national conversation about this issue.”
For her part, Fried says she is honored to receive this new appointment and is eager to continue the committee’s “vital” efforts. Fried says she applauds the university’s commitment to an “invigorated and more focused effort to understand and improve outcomes for women throughout the university.”
“The university’s leadership has been willing both to recognize that there are problems and to try to lead the development of solutions,” Fried says. “The first is hard, the second is harder.”
Fried says the next two months will be spent both recruiting new members and evaluating “where we are” in terms of women’s issues at Hopkins.
“There are many initiatives in place that I would imagine we are going to want to keep going and strengthen because they are very valuable,” she says. “And I’m sure there are areas where the committee may decide that more attention is needed.”
Fried says one particular issue that needs to be addressed is the continued underrepresentation of woman on the faculty, particularly in academic leadership roles. Since 1989, she says, there has been relatively little change in this area.
The committee’s new design is being modeled after the university’s Diversity Leadership Council, whose mission is to recommend and promote policies, programs and other initiatives that will attract and retain a diverse mix of faculty, staff and students.
Ray Gillian, assistant provost and director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Programs, says that while the two groups will work side by side on some issues, they will remain independent of one another. Gillian’s office will provide staff support.
Fried says that she anticipates the newly formed committee will convene in late April, at which time it will begin to develop an agenda.
“Our first order will be fact-finding,” Fried says, “to identify areas where attention can be placed on both short-term change and long-term initiatives.”