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President's Task Force on Women at UB

Bernice Noble and John Staley September 1997
(photo by K.C. Kratt)

The President's Task Force on Women at UB was convened by President Greiner in 1994 and charged with six areas to investigate:

  • Charge 1: University policies and practices in hiring, advancing, and compensating women faculty, administrators, and staff

  • Charge 2: Strategies for addressing inequities

  • Charge 3: Improving the campus climate for women, with full consideration of the special needs of diverse groups

  • Charge 4: Methods for developing a campus environment that is free of sexual harassment

  • Charge 5: Methods for identifying, encouraging, and developing women leaders

  • Charge 6: Developing a process of accountability at all levels regarding the progress being made toward achieving equity for women

Inspired by Ann London Scott's "The Half-Eaten Apple", a report that they called "probably the most significant study for its time on the status of UB women in the university's history." The Task Force worked for 20 months resulting in a report that was printed by the Reporter in February 1997

In the report, they gave a summary of all of their findings and a number of recommendations on each of the areas that they were asked to pursue, but their main observation was that there was not going to be a quick-fix solution to the gender-based problems at the University. The group's overall recommendation was to extend the task force's mandate until a permanent advisory group was in place.

The Task Force's findings were not unexpected by members of the UB community

  • A thick glass ceiling at UB and a predominance of white men in administrative positions

  • Female enrollment was well below the national average

  • "Chilly climate" for women at the University, especially in athletics

  • A gender-based salary disparity of $8,500 at the full professor level, $1,800 at the associate professor level, and $2,700 at the assistant professor level

  • Only 10% of full professors were women compared to 85% of part-time classified staff. 26% of full-time faculty were women, while only 17% of tenured faculty were women

  • Lack of a written policy on sexual harassment

  • All schools, except Nursing and Information and Library Science, were deficient in the number of female faculty relative to the national pool. Some schools had a shortfall of 49 and 50

  • Under-representation of women on policy-making committees

  • Failure to provide means for female employees to have both a family and career, as well as a general low priority of women's concerns on a university-wide scale

Some of the Task Force's specific recommendations

  • Adequate child-care facilities should be provided as soon as possible to meet existing demands and University personnel policies should be formulated that are friendly to caregivers, including flexible work schedules, job sharing, and tenure clock flexibility. (Charge 3)

  • A plan should be made for timely rectification of persistent gender-based salary disparities as well as inequities in representation on both a University-wide and unit level. (Charges 2 and 6)

  • Positive images of women should be incorporated into publicity and other documents that represent UB to the community and to potential donors. (Charge 4)

  • Regular updates should be made of the data in this report, describing distribution, compensation, and representation of women at UB. These updates, as well as other reports done on women in US academe, should be widely disseminated to the University community (Charges 1 and 6)

  • Significant representation of women should be required on all committees dealing with promotion, hiring, resource allocation, policy formulation, awards and honors, etc. (Charges 2 and 5)

  • A specific, detailed, practical program for dealing with complaints of sexual harassment should be an urgent priority in the next year. (Charge 4)

  • Specific initiatives should be supported to promote women's careers. (Charge 5)

  • The University's women's studies program should be strengthened and expanded. (Charge 3)

After the report was released, then-President Greiner requested that each area of the University complete a detailed reaction to the Task Force's findings and recommendations and write an action plan for appropriate response.

The Legacy of the Task Force's work

The Task Force's report had an impact from the moment that it was released. In the aftermath of the report's release, a number of changes happened at the University:

  • Creation of the Institute for Research and Education on Women and Gender (IREWG, also known as the Gender Institute)

  • Opening of a day care center on UB's North Campus

  • Convening of a special subcommittee of the University Committee on Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action to formulate policies and process for dealing with sexual harassment

  • Self-creation of the Association of Women Full Professors (AWFP)

  • Self-creation of the so-called "Women in the Kingdom of the Chairs", an association of the College of Arts and Sciences female department chairs

In 1998-1999, three faculty members (of the College of Arts and Sciences) prepared a report comparing the status of women at UB with that of their counterparts at other Research I universities.

That report confirmed that UB continued to lag behind its peers with regard to women's issues. However, at the time that the report was released Bernice Noble commented that, in the past few years, the President and Provost had made strides to solve some of the most egregious problems that had been raised in the 1996 report, including a significant effort to address salary inequities.

In 2000, after nearly two years of consideration, the Faculty Senate Executive Committee approved the creation of the Department of Women's Studies, making the Women's Studies Program a full-fledge academic department within the College of Arts and Letters.

Representation of women in faculty positions at UB has increased. At the time of report, women constituted 20 percent of UB's tenured and tenure-track faculty. In 2004, women are 25 percent.

An effort has also been made to include women in the highest echelons of University administration. In 2000, UB appointed its first female provost, Elizabeth Capaldi, making her the highest ranking woman in the University's history.

A Buffalo News article published in July 2004 addresses the issue of gender-based inequity in academe focusing on Buffalo-area universities. By all indications, the University has not made as much progress as it could. The article reported a $10,000 disparity in the average full professorial salary at UB, an increase of $1.5 thousand from the Task Force report. It also reported that only eight of UB's 110 engineering faculty members are women (7.3%), a slight increase from the numbers reported by the Task Force in 1996 (4 out of 102 or 4%).

The University still continues to warm the "chilly climate" for women. The President's Task Force on Women at UB, its work and its 1997 report, was a huge first step in identifying and prioritizing UB's problems.

Read Bernice Noble's article online: Glass ceiling still a factor for women in academe, but change is on the way printed in UB Today Spring/Summer 1998