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The Daily Texan, February 28, 2007
When Harvard appointed Drew Gilpin Faust as its first female president this month, she said she didn't want her gender to become an issue, but understood the discussion would be inevitable.
In its 124-year history, the University of Texas has had only one female president, who served from 1974 to 1979, and a glance at the University's leadership paints a uniform picture of white males.
While UT has incrementally become more diverse, both in terms of gender and race, progress is gradual, said Elspeth Rostow, public policy professor and former dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs.
"Like it or not, we've got to address the issue, and what we've got to do is get to critical mass, so it's no longer an issue, and that's the ultimate goal," said College of Engineering special projects director Sherry Woods, former Women in Engineering program director.
While women have made gains in degree acquisition, they are still largely left out of leadership roles, partially because too few women are promoted to full professor—the gateway to upper-level leadership.
Women comprise 36.4 percent of UT faculty, according to UT's Office of Institutional Research. This number falls roughly 6-percentage-points short of the national average, according to a report by the American Association of University Professors.
With regard to leadership positions at the University, women make up much smaller numbers—only five of UT's 18 deans are women, according to the University's Web site.
Among faculty, women constitute the majority of UT lecturers, but only 18 percent of full professors, according to the University's Office of Institutional Research. In most University departments and colleges, candidates for department chairs and deans are required to serve as full professors first.
During a 2004 University forum addressing issues faced by women on campus, women faculty emphasized a lack of administrative support and promotion, said Mercedes de Uriarte, an associate journalism professor and diversity expert.
"I think the numbers speak for themselves," de Uriarte said. "There is something wrong in the process, because the only other explanation would be that the University of Texas does not know how to hire talented women."
The lack of women leaders and women full professors indicates a failure on the part of the University to promote talented women faculty, de Uriarte said.
Though the University's administrators and decision-makers are predominately male, both men and women play into gender stereotypes, Woods said.
Woods cited a study in which both men and women looked at the exact same resume, and based on whether or not it had a male first name or a female first name, rated them differently. Men were not the only ones to choose the male candidate more often, women did it as well.
There is a certain rhetoric that often surrounds women leaders, such as former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who was criticized for having an abrasive style, Rostow said. Men with similar demeanors don't receive the same criticism, nor to the extent that some women do, she said.
"A series of stereotypes and a series of assumptions underlie, I think, so much of our dialogue on the subject," Rostow said.
"I hope we can get to the stage were we don't talk in stereotypes, don't talk in generalizations about race, color, degree of color, female, straight, lesbian, etc., but we haven't reached that goal yet."
As dean of the LBJ school from 1977 to 1983, Rostow said the University's progress may be slow, but she remembers when women, let alone women leaders, were scarce at the University.
"I don't remember having many female colleagues, I don't know that I had any except in the School of Nursing, but that kind of progress is frustratingly slow, and it's incremental rather than revolutionary," Rostow said.
Progress may be slow for women in leadership positions, but women surpassed men in other areas of academia long ago.
Women trailed men until 1981 in the number of master's degrees awarded, but that year about 2,000 more women received their master's degrees than men, according to the University of Chicago's Survey of Earned Doctorates.
"Females currently have greater success than males in attaining postsecondary education," according to a 2005 report by the National Center for Education Statistics. "More than half of all bachelor's and master's degrees are awarded to females."
Despite the proficiency with which women have succeeded their male counterparts, women have yet to match men in doctorate degree attainment, according to the survey.
Women are steadily making progress in this area, with the number of women doctorate recipients up to 44 percent in 2000 from 22 percent in 1975, according to the survey.
While the gap between the number of men and women awarded doctorate degrees narrows, men still outnumber women each year in doctorate degree enrollment.
"The number of doctorates awarded to men rose by 772 and increased for women by 407 in 2005 compared to 2004," according to the survey.
In gender discussions, arguments about biological and environmental influences are still hotly debated, but women are still more likely than men to take family into consideration when thinking about their career, Rostow said.
Women's childbearing role requires them to face problems unaddressed by men, Rostow said.
"We're genetically programmed for greater aptitudes in some areas, and that very fact means that you have to give up some dreams along the way," she said. "Women have had a harder choice, because over time, all the burdens of family or a large number of them except being the meal ticket, have tended to be female rather than male."
Still, the University has stepped up some efforts to hire and promote women, with some departments sponsoring mentoring programs and others, such as the College of Engineering, actively recruiting women.
In 2006, the University hired 30 new male faculty members and 81 new female faculty, according to the UT's Office of Institutional Research.
"Until you have people there who are enough in number that you get more than a prevailing view of issues that all coincide with one another, you're not going to have an environment where real leadership emerges, because real leadership emerges from a meeting of minds," de Uriarte said.
Copyright 2007 The Daily Texan