Report presents mixed results on women’s status on campus

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Although female faculty, staff and students at the University of Houston are making progress and achieving success in some areas such as enrollment and graduation, they still face challenges, according to a newly released report.

The University of Houston Commission on Women compiled the report “The Status of Women at the University of Houston: Students, Staff, and Faculty.” Formed in 2004, the commission informs and advises the president on issues and concerns that impact women on campus. The group’s mission includes identifying the concerns of women on campus, promoting gender equality and recommending ways to address the concerns of women.

In response to its charge, the commission created the report that addresses the status of women on campus in the areas of leadership, education, salaries, athletics, violence against women and child care. The report includes data gathered by several departments such as the Office of Institutional Research, the Department of Human Resources and the Athletics Department.

“The report provides a snapshot of where women stand at the University of Houston,” said Rebecca Szwarc, commission co-chair. “The commission plans to use the data in the report and the 2007 Campus Environment Survey to determine what sort of issues the organization will address in the future.”

“Over the years, the university has made great strides in enhancing the status of women on campus,” said Interim President John Rudley. “The report will assist us in furthering our efforts to ensure equity between men and women, as well as help us focus our energies on the areas of greatest concern.”

The report highlights several achievements made by women in recent years, including in enrollment and graduation. In 2006, women comprised 52 percent of the student body and were awarded 55 percent of degrees. In that same year, women held leadership roles in Staff Council, serving as president and vice president. The council’s executive board was 68 percent female.

The report, however, lists several issues of concern, said Beverly McPhail, Women’s Resource Center director and the study’s author. McPhail also is a commission member.

“One of the issues is the low number of female faculty members who are full professors,” she said. “Men outnumber women six to one at the rank of full professor and two to one at the associate professor level. One of the next steps the university can take is to determine how it can help women earn tenure and become full professors.”

The report states that UH had 931 ranked faculty in 2006. Of that number, 677 men were ranked faculty compared to 254 female ranked faculty.

McPhail and Szwarc noted the need for more women in leadership positions, notwithstanding UH’s newly appointed president, Dr. Renu Khator.

In 2006, women comprised 10 percent of the UH System Board of Regents, 11 percent of senior administrators, 7 percent of deans, 25 percent of faculty senators and 26 percent of Student Government Association Senators.

The commission’s report also explored child care options on campus in 2006. Only 153 spots were designated for the children of faculty, staff and students at the UH Child Care Center, which is housed in 30-year-old temporary buildings, according to the report. A waiting list of more than 50 people existed for nine infant care slots during that year.

Despite UH’s efforts to increase the participation of female athletes, their numbers are declining. Two-thirds of student-athletes are male. Six out of seven head coaches for the women’s teams are male, according to the report.

In the area of violence against women, the report found that six sexual offenses were reported on the campus in 2005, while a 2003 state study reveals that only 20 percent of sexual assaults are reported to law enforcement agencies. UH’s Daily Crime Bulletin reveals numerous other crimes against women on campus, such as harassing e-mails and phone calls.

To tackle this and the other issues raised in the report, the commission makes several recommendations, such as ensuring that qualified women are considered for administrative or faculty positions.

Other recommendations include the university conducting a campuswide survey to assess the need for child care for faculty, staff and students and continuing to increase its offerings of family friendly benefits. The commission also wants one of its members to join the Athletics Advisory Committee and The Equity and Student-Athlete Welfare Subcommittee to monitor the status of female athletes.

The final proposal deals with violence against women on campus. The commission proposes that the UH Department of Public Safety report all crimes by gender and note the relationship between the perpetrator and victim, if known, to better assess the extent and scope of the problem.

“This first report is a baseline for the commission, and we plan to compile the reports every two years to observe trends over time,” McPhail said. “We also hope the campus community will provide us with comments on the report.”

Visit www.uh.edu/wrc to review the report and recommendations.

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