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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University November 13, 2006 | Vol. 36 No. 11
Committee on Status of Women Issues Report

Committee chair Linda Fried presents the report, the result of three years' work, to top university administration.
Photo by Will Kirk / HIPS

Document will be 'road map' for making JHU a leader in gender equity

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

The university announced a bold commitment last week to achieve, by the year 2020, complete gender equity at Johns Hopkins in terms of the makeup of the faculty and in senior leadership positions, as well as significant changes in institutional culture.

The ambitious goal was laid out in the University Committee on the Status of Women's final report, which was presented by committee chair Linda Fried to university leadership at a luncheon meeting held on Nov. 8 in Levering's Great Hall on the Homewood campus.

President William R. Brody; Steven Knapp, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs; and Jim McGill, senior vice president for finance and administration, were joined at the event by other top university administrators and deans, in addition to those on the 35-member blue-ribbon committee that formed in 2002.

The 163-page report, titled Vision 2020, identifies three overarching themes — leadership, work/life balance and cultural dimensions — that need to be addressed in order to resolve current gender-based career obstacles for women faculty, staff and students at Johns Hopkins. The document provides an examination of the root causes of gender inequity at the university and offers a series of recommendations to achieve substantial change in this area.

The committee's primary recommendations are to achieve, by 2020, 50 percent representation of women in senior faculty and leadership positions and to realize gender equity with respect to every measure of career satisfaction and advancement at Johns Hopkins.

Currently, the report says, the university ranks last in its peer group for its percentage of women executives and leaders. The committee's findings also point to substantive, systemic and cultural obstacles based on gender in every division of the university; these obstacles hamper career growth for females and create an environment where collegial relationships often seem elusive.

Today, 35 percent of the full-time faculty and 18 percent of the full professors at JHU are female. In addition, while women make up nearly two-thirds of Hopkins staff, they remain significantly underrepresented in terms of leadership positions.

Fried, director of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology in the School of Medicine, said that this report will become a "road map" for Johns Hopkins' taking a leading role nationally among universities on the issue of gender equity.

"We have the opportunity at this moment in time, this moment in history, to create the first university with true equity for women," Fried said in her presentation. "We think that this report offers a plan to accomplish that and have Johns Hopkins become a model for gender equity practices."

Fried said that while Johns Hopkins has made significant progress in terms of gender equity and hiring practices in the past 20 years, a more universitywide and sustained approach is needed to make even greater strides and enact definitive and substantial change.

Specifically, the report calls for the university to make a commitment to leadership equity; transform the culture at JHU to make the university a more attractive environment for female students, faculty and staff; and focus on underlying issues that cause gender inequity problems.

In terms of its leadership goals, the committee recommends that the university consider redesigning leadership roles to be more attractive to women and more supportive of their success; develop new hiring practices for both administrative and senior faculty positions, such as revising search committee processes; and commit resources to increase representation of senior female scholars and to the development of an Institute for Next-Generation Leadership.

The report claims there no longer exists a "pipeline" issue when it comes to hiring and promotion practices, as there is a vast pool of well-qualified female candidates for faculty and administrative roles.

For work-life balance, the committee recommends that the university's divisions consider the establishment of "flexible" career paths, especially in terms of the tenure track, while not sacrificing the university's commitment to excellence or devaluing those who expect flexibility.

The report states that the current environment at Johns Hopkins continues to be male-dominated and, overall, nonsupportive of women. To confront this, the report says that "substantial cultural change" is needed to address the issue of gender inequity, such as learning to value and reward women's contributions; provide more career development opportunities for women; confront the issue of "isolation" from colleagues that women experience; and "institutionalize" equity and a culture of equity and work/life balance through procedures, policies, training and organizational structures.

After Fried's presentation, President Brody announced that Charlene Hayes, vice president for human resources, and Myron L. Weisfeldt, the William Osler Professor and director of the Department of Medicine in the School of Medicine, will co-chair a newly formed universitywide commission that will implement the recently adopted "Principles for Ensuring Equity, Civility and Respect for All." As part of its charge, the commission will help implement the Vision 2020 recommendations and advise senior leadership on gender equity issues.

Brody, who applauded the committee's efforts, said that the university needs to commit itself to the goals laid out in the report.

"And we need to get the entire university committed," Brody said. "All of us in leadership, starting with me, have to embrace this report and lead the organization to change the ways we offer this academic environment to all members of the community."

In his talk, Brody challenged each division to re-evaluate its promotion and tenure policies in order that "more people come through the system and live their lives how they would want." He also made a direct appeal to department chairs and directors to immediately begin seeking to achieve a 50-50 gender split in terms of faculty appointments.

As a model for success, he pointed to the gender equity accomplishments in the Department of Medicine, which set out in 1990 to transform its hiring practices and both recruit and promote more women to faculty and leadership positions. In just five years, the department witnessed a 550 percent increase in the number of women at the associate professor rank, and one-half to two-thirds of women faculty reported improvements in timeliness of promotions and decreases in manifestations of gender bias. Since that time, the School of Medicine has adopted the department's hiring principles and in 2003 appointed its 100th female faculty member to the rank of full professor, a milestone achievement among its peers.

"The School of Medicine is a very different environment for women than it was in 1990," Brody said. "Is it perfect? No. But it's a whole lot better than other parts of the university in this area, and we can build on their leadership."

The release of Vision 2020 coincides with similar gender equity reports issued by the Association of American Universities and the National Academy of Sciences, Fried said.

"Both these organizations offered findings that were consistent with our own and called for recommendations that are met by what we provide in our report," she said.

The University Committee on the Status of Women was formed in 2002, replacing in effect a 13-year-old women's advocacy group that had been led by the provost. The president and provost charged the re-formed committee — made up of faculty, staff and students, both women and men — with studying the needs of women in the university community and examining and making recommendations on such issues as diversity, salary equity and advancement.

The committee, which met monthly for a three-year period, consulted with experts in the field of gender research, analyzed reports and conducted surveys and extensive interviews with female students, staff and faculty.

In his final remarks, Brody encouraged the entire university to read the report — available at — and act on it.

"These findings challenge all of us," Brody said. "I can tell you that this is something we have to get right. We can't be rehashing the same issues without measured progress forward."


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