About The Gazette Search Back Issues Contact Us    
The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University March 7, 2005 | Vol. 34 No. 25
Milestone for Women Profs at SOM

Janice Clements

100-plus women have now reached rank of full professor

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

In late 2003, oncologist Judith Karp was appointed to the position of full professor at the School of Medicine to honor her many accomplishments in the field. A notable achievement in its own right, the promotion was also a major milestone as she became the 100th female faculty member in the school's history to achieve the illustrious rank.

Since Karp's promotion, which went unheralded at the time due to lack of tracking, 10 more women have been made professor at the school, most recently Pamela Ouyang from the Department of Medicine. In comparison, 789 men have achieved the rank of professor since the school opened in 1893.

To honor the great strides made in recent years to women's advancement at Johns Hopkins Medicine, the School of Medicine will host a symposium later this year that will draw top female scientists and academics from around the country, including Nobel laureate Linda Buck, who has agreed to be the keynote speaker. The event will be titled "The Legacy of Mary Elizabeth Garrett, 100 Women Professors at Johns Hopkins Medicine."

Garrett, heir to the great Baltimore and Ohio Railroad fortune, provided the key financial gift that enabled the School of Medicine to open and to enroll its first class in October 1893. She did have one major stipulation to her gift: that women be admitted to the school on equal terms as men and be "admitted on the same terms as men to all prizes, dignities or honors that are awarded by competitive examination, or regarded as rewards of merit."

Janice Clements, the Mary Wallace Stanton Professor of Faculty Affairs and vice dean for faculty at the School of Medicine, said that with Karp's promotion, Johns Hopkins reached a landmark number that not long ago seemed out of reach.

"One of the reasons this milestone is so important is that the School of Medicine was endowed by a woman, Mary Elizabeth Garrett, and [also by] someone who made sure that women be included equally here with the edict that we have women as students and faculty," Clements said. "The more than 100 women professors we now have had in our history shows us the importance of her gift and contribution. And it's important to note that you don't get to be made a full professor at Johns Hopkins without having made an important impact in your field. We don't know what would have happened if she didn't say that women should be educated here and be such an important component."

Clements said that an informal survey of JHU's peer institutions uncovered that many do not track the number of female faculty promotions. One exception was Harvard, which has promoted 106 women to full professor yet has a faculty body more than twice the size of Johns Hopkins'.

Up until 1959, the School of Medicine granted only department chairs the title of full professor, a rank given to those who are considered leaders in their field, have an international reputation and have made a unique contribution. Among the rare exceptions before this were two women: histologist Florence Sabin, who became professor in 1917, and pediatric cardiologist Helen Taussig, in 1959. These two women achieved such a lofty stature in their professions, Clements said, that tradition was put aside.

For more than a decade after the promotion policy was changed, no woman achieved the professorial rank until Caroline Thomas, in the Department of Medicine, broke the barrier in 1970. During the next 15 years, the school averaged one promotion of a female to full professor a year. Clements said that part of reason for this slow growth was that there was not a critical mass of women faculty until the mid-1980s.

In 1990, Clements became the 24th female faculty member to earn the rank of professor. She said it's a significant achievement that in just the 15 years since, the School of Medicine now has five times that number.

Clements said that Cathy DeAngelis, former vice dean for academic affairs and faculty and now editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, should be credited with turning the tide and shining attention on the issue of female promotion at the School of Medicine.

In 1993, DeAngelis established the Women's Leadership Council, whose mission is to advocate for the professional development and advancement of women faculty in the School of Medicine and to educate the leadership and faculty regarding the critical issues they face. The council has a 16-member steering committee and includes representation from all the basic science and clinical departments.

The University Committee on the Status of Women was established in fall 2002 with Linda Fried, professor of medicine, epidemiology and health policy at the schools of Medicine and Public Health, appointed as chair. The UCSOW had been preceded by the Provost's Committee on the Status of Women, the first universitywide committee to focus on that subject. This committee grew out of an action taken by the Women's Forum, an organization for female faculty and staff, that exists today as the Johns Hopkins University's Women's Network.

Clements, who sits on the steering committee of the Women's Leadership Council, said that what these organizations have done is promote mentoring opportunities for women at Johns Hopkins, enhance recruitment and retention efforts, and advocate for women to be placed in positions where they can be leaders.

"Despite our progress, and even with the 100 milestone being reached, we are still not where we should be," Clements said. "Since 1994, nearly half of the School of Medicine's graduating class has been women, and we simply don't recruit enough from this pool. What these committees are doing is trying to uncover some of the impediments to being recruited, retained and succeeding in medicine. The Department of Medicine uncovered the fact in 1988 that women were not being promoted because they were not being recognized and recommended for promotion. When recommended, women are promoted with the same frequency as male faculty. This addresses [president of Harvard] Larry Summers' recent comments about the abilities of women to succeed in science and math; it is not about ability but opportunity and environment."

In 2003, a Committee on Faculty Development and Gender was established to examine the status of women in medicine at Johns Hopkins. Last year the committee conducted an online survey that focused on elements of salary, leadership representation, attrition and other factors.

Cynthia Wolberger, a professor of biophysics and biophysical chemistry who chairs the Committee on Faculty Development and Gender, said that the results of the recently completed study will be included in a final report to be released sometime in May.

"What we were looking at primarily is what women need to succeed here and feel included in the power structure," Wolberger said. "We looked at how we are training people and [at] hiring policies and how we can do better."

The committee will include in its final report a list of recommendations for the school.

"The No. 1 issue seems to be retention," she said. "We have a growing number of women at the assistant and associate professor level, plenty of people in the pipeline, so we need to find ways to keep them here."


The Gazette | The Johns Hopkins University | Suite 540 | 901 S. Bond St. | Baltimore, MD 21231 | 443-287-9900 |