UH needs more women in leadership positions
When the University Commission on Women released its report in 2007 on the status of women at UH, a mere eight percent of the positions at the highest levels of the administration were held by women. It has now been four years since the publication of the report. In that time, UH has gained a female university president, Dr. Renu Khator – also the first female chancellor of the UH system. Additionally, the number of female faculty members at UH has increased by two percentage points since 2007.
Students of the Bauer College of Business were fortunate to recently see the interim dean of their college, Latha Ramchand, formally named to the position of dean. Ramchand is a successful scholar and proven administrator within the college, and Bauer and UH are very lucky to have her. Unfortunately, Ramchand is one of very few female administrators at the University.
Even though UH has made great strides in diversity in a very short period of time, we still have progress to make. The CLASS Commission on Diversity found that, despite significant improvement since 2007, of the 2010 chairs, directors and deans, only 21.8 percent were female. Of the UH faculty, only 29 percent are women. This is less than the national average of 37 percent for four-year universities. Half of the UH student population is female, and female college students have outnumbered their male counterparts nationwide since 1979. Why shouldn’t we have an administration that reflects the gender dispersion of the student body?
The glass ceiling in the US has certainly been raised – but it still stands between women and leadership positions. Girls are taught from an early age to be less aggressive and competitive than boys. Such traits are seen as “unladylike,” but they are important traits for an effective leader in any field. Female UH students deserve an opportunity to see women in leadership positions, women who can show them that they can be strong leaders without sacrificing their femininity.
Research published in the Harvard Business Journal by Columbia professor Sylvia Hewlitt asserts that one reason women are thought to be left behind at the higher levels is due to a lack of sponsorship. It is typical for individuals who rise to these levels to be mentored by an older professor or colleague who can aid them in networking and teach them tricks of the trade. Most of these mentors are male, and are often concerned that such a close relationship with a female student or young colleague could be perceived as inappropriate by others who assume that a sexual relationship must exist. Hewlitt’s research shows that two-thirds of male senior executives are fearful of sponsoring a junior, female colleague, and half of the women in question are afraid to accept such a sponsorship. Clearly, there is a need for women in these mentorship roles.
Women have come a long way in the last 50 years, but our work is not yet complete. The Current Population Survey has found that, on average, a woman will still earn only 81 percent of the earnings of a similarly qualified man in the same position. Furthermore, only three percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. By making an effort to increase the number of qualified women in our faculty and administration, UH can help to develop and enrich a new generation of female leaders.
Emily Brooks is an economics senior and may be reached at [email protected].