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Gender Equity Report of the
Senate Committee on the Faculty

March 4, 2002

I. Introduction

The Senate Committee on the Faculty ("SCOF") has read and discussed the report of the joint faculty/administration committee on Gender Equity (the "Report") and the administration's reply to that report (the "Reply"), both of which were published in Almanac December 4, 2001, at three meetings. Our discussions were informed by an exchange of views with, and additional information provided by, Professor Phoebe Leboy, co-chair of the Gender Equity Committee, Associate Provost Barbara Lowery, the other co-chair, and Provost Robert Barchi, all of whom met with SCOF.

SCOF believes that the Report and Reply represent an important step in ongoing efforts to ensure that gender equity becomes a reality at the University of Pennsylvania. We commend the Gender Equity Committee for the immense effort required to gather and analyze the data underlying the Report and for the serious and balanced approach taken in its analysis and recommendations, and we commend the administration for the determination apparent in, and the comprehensiveness of response augured by, its Reply.

Both the Report and the Reply quite properly focus on the problems revealed by the work of the Gender Equity Committee, which are numerous and some of which are serious, their authors having learned from the experience that progress towards gender equity--even substantial progress of the sort we have seen in many schools and departments at Penn--can be evanescent. The gains made over a few years, as in entry level hiring, can quickly be undone, as when tenured women are lured away to other universities. Similarly, our goal in this brief report is to be helpful to the faculty and the administration in the critically important business of solving the problems revealed in the Report. To that end, we have found it helpful to organize our discussion and recommendations in the three categories of data, structural barriers and incentives/disincentives.

At the outset, it is important to state explicitly our premise that primary responsibility for gender equity at the University of Pennsylvania, and hence primary responsibility for solving the problems revealed by the Report, rests with the faculty. The administration can, and it has clearly signaled that it will, provide leadership and support, but real progress cannot be made without the substantive and procedural commitment of the faculty. Indeed, faculty ownership of gender equity is not only a logical corollary of the faculty's traditional primacy in academic decisions but also a practical necessity if that traditional role is not to be impaired.

II. Data

The Report raises questions about data of two different sorts: internal and external. As to the former, our discussions make clear that a distinction should be drawn between salary/compensation information available for the non-medical areas of the University and those available for the various departments within the Medical School.

A. Internal Data

Appropriate safeguards for the confidentiality of the data aside, we believe that salary data for the non-medical areas of the University should be readily available in the future for approved study and analysis by those with a legitimate institutional interest. Now is the time to ensure that the necessary data are routinely collected and stored in a format (or formats) that protect legitimate privacy interests but that are conducive to the sorts of analysis that experience has taught us need to be made on a periodic basis. We understand that the administration is committed to this effort.

The Gender Equity Committee had serious difficulty obtaining the salary/compensation data it sought from the Medical School, or at least from clinical departments in that school. SCOF was told that the data ultimately provided were so fragmentary and flawed as to be virtually useless. There has been disagreement about (1) whether it is possible rigorously and fairly to assess gender equity within clinical departments, and (2) whether, therefore, attempting to collect and analyze relevant data is worth the effort. There may also be underlying normative disagreement concerning the relevance of the enterprise to the business of treating patients.

We understand that compensation for clinical work is a very complex matter that has proceeded largely on a decentralized basis and that, therefore, the data may not currently exist in a form capable of analysis that would permit a comprehensive assessment of gender equity within clinical departments of the Medical School. The organizational level at which salary policy is set is not our concern. We are concerned, however, about the unavailability of the data necessary to determine whether policy yields gender inequity. Fortunately, we understand that (1) an effort is underway by the Clinical Practices at the University of Pennsylvania to gather and rationalize data from the different clinical departments and (2) the Provost has agreed that his office will independently collect and analyze data from a much larger sample than was available for the Report, with the participation of the Senate in the design of the study. We encourage those efforts. In that regard, so long as clinical practice is considered part of the academic mission of the Medical School, we entertain no misgivings about the relevance of the inquiry, and we would note that gender equity is a matter about which all employers, academic and non-academic, should be concerned. Ultimately, we believe, no responsible judgment can be made about the limits of social science for this purpose until there has been a serious effort to assemble existing data and to explore what other data might be made available.

B. External Data

In making comparisons with experience at other universities, the Gender Equity Committee was limited by the data that were available. As a result, the institutions with which Penn was compared may or may not be the best frame of reference. We recognize, of course, that data on this subject are sensitive and may not easily be obtainable. With the benefit of our own past experience, including that reflected in the Report, however, we believe it important that the administration actively seek additional data from other universities, both as they become available as a result of efforts already undertaken at those institutions, and in collaborative efforts that Penn might lead.

III. Structural Barriers

The Report "suggests that the problems reside primarily in individual departments rather than at the University-wide level." That makes the task of solving them more difficult and suggests to us that the most promising institutional line of attack may lie in the direction of identifying and seeking to take down structural barriers to gender equity. Our discussions attempted to identify such barriers, both those revealed in the Report and others that occurred to us, but our efforts in that regard are simply suggestive. We focused on two groups of structural barriers: procedural and accountability.

A. Procedural Barriers

Lawyers know that procedure is power and that the rules for playing a game often determine the results. We believe that an important part of the faculty's and administration's response to the Report should be a commitment to analyze the procedures currently used in connection with the appointment and retention of faculty, appointments to leadership positions, and the selection of those who are to receive honors and awards, to ensure that those procedures are so formulated as to serve, rather than frustrate, the shared goal of gender equity. To us that means, for example, that women must be adequately represented on standing personnel committees and on ad hoc search committees. We also believe that, if a school or department has been identified as having a serious gender imbalance, any recommendation for the appointment of a male that it submits, or that is submitted on its behalf, to the administration should be reviewed on this dimension. Such a recommendation should be returned if the group initiating it did not include adequate representation of women. In some situations, this would require the designation of a member of the faculty from outside the department or school to serve on the committee charged with primary jurisdiction.1

Procedure not only can change substance; it can take the life out of it. Thus, our discussions suggest that at least in some quarters the current affirmative action process and procedures at Penn are regarded as a paper tiger, a set of bothersome formalities the original spirit behind which has been lost and which in any event can easily be negotiated. We therefore strongly urge a wholesale reexamination of that process and those procedures, and of the assignment of responsibility for their implementation, a reexamination that is in any event warranted to the extent that, as we believe, some procedural changes are independently deemed appropriate.2

B. Accountability Barriers

Experience has demonstrated that accountability is critical to the goal of gender equity. It is not always easy to obtain; indeed and ironically, the quest for it may be inimical to the underlying goal. So, for example, it was suggested to SCOF that a structural barrier to gender equity reposes in the short terms of department chairs in the Arts and Sciences. If, however, one were to lengthen those terms in order to secure greater accountability, there would be fewer leadership positions available for women faculty. Here, it seems, accountability must lie with the Dean. We believe more generally that matters of gender equity should be a serious concern of every evaluation made of a Dean's performance, whether in connection with a mid-term evaluation or consideration of reappointment, as well as of department and school reviews.

IV. Incentives and Disincentives

As recognized in their Reply, although the primary responsibility for gender equity rests with the faculty, the President and Provost can provide important leadership and assistance, facilitating efforts to identify problems and to monitor progress, ensuring that, where central decisionmaking is required, procedures appropriate to the goal of gender equity are in place ex ante and that accountability is assessed ex post, and otherwise using the powers and resources of the administration to encourage progress and discourage behavior that can cause or exacerbate problems.

As to incentives, the most obvious and best potential source of central assistance in the pursuit of gender equity are funds that might be made available to schools or departments that are seriously interested in furthering that goal, whatever their record in the past. As we understand it, from the central administration's perspective, hiring is not a matter of slots but of resources. Thus, a program like that used at some other institutions, in which a unit authorized to hire at a junior level is granted an "upgrade" in order to attract a distinguished senior woman faculty member, would not fit our circumstances. But slots are dollars, and the same functional result could be achieved if consequential funds were committed to the enterprise on the model of the funds currently committed to increasing minority presence. We encourage the administration so to commit central funds.

As to disincentives, we have already stated our recommendation that the central administration turn back proposed appointments found to have been recommended by a process that is not conducive to gender equity. But we believe that some of the problems revealed in the Report are sufficiently serious and have proved sufficiently intractable to warrant a more substantive remedy. Thus, even where the process has been impeccable, we believe that schools or departments in which women have consistently and in a statistically significant way been seriously underrepresented (as determined by comparing their representation on the faculty with their representation in the relevant recruitment pool) should bear the burden of justifying any recommendation concerning an offer of appointment to a male for a position within an area of such underrepresentation. We recommend, in other words, a system of pre-offer approval for such units, the details of which (notably, the precise criteria that determine whether a school or department must secure central approval before making an offer) should be agreed by the administration and the faculty after broad consultation. The criteria finally adopted should be published, if only themselves to serve as an incentive for departments or schools to make the progress necessary to avoid (or eliminate the need for) pre-offer approval.

V. Conclusion

Gender inequity is a chronic disease. The good news in the Report is that, in many schools and departments of the University, the disease is in remission. But experience tells us that complacency can quickly lead to relapse, and thus that periodic examination is in order for all academic units, while vigilant management is necessary for some. Regrettably, it appears to us that some academic units require stronger medicine, and in this report we have recommended a combination of procedural and substantive steps that we believe are indicated. Our recommendations are preliminary, partial and only suggestive. Some of them will be distasteful to some members of the faculty. We hope, however, that all faculty recognize that this disease can spread and thus that our collective gender equity health depends on the health of all parts of the complex organism that we call the University of Pennsylvania.

Emily A. Blumberg (Medicine)
Stephen B. Burbank (Law), Chair
Charles Dwyer (Education)
Vincent Price (Communication)
Gino C. Segre (Physics & Astronomy)

Ex Officio
Faculty Senate Chair David B. Hackney (Neuroradiology)
Faculty Senate Chair-elect Mitchell Marcus
(Computer & Information Science)

1 SCOF also discussed the designation of holders of chairs. There does not appear to be any uniform process by which such appointments are recommended, and we are not advocating that. We are concerned, however, that the means by which a Dean arrives at a recommendation may not well serve the goal of gender equity. This might be true, for example, if a Dean relied heavily on the advice of existing chair holders, who were disproportionately male, or if the Dean reserved a substantial portion of chaired positions to bolster the process of lateral recruitment, and if that process itself were flawed in this respect. As we recommend, Deans should be accountable for gender equity in respect of such matters, as also in connection with leadership positions in a school, but the administration can help by providing means to share information about current practices and alternatives better suited to the attainment of the shared goal.

2 An important part of this process, we expect, will be an examination of the criteria by which the field of a proposed search is defined. Everyone knows that the result of a search can often be pre-determined by an artfully crafted statement of the desired skills and competencies of the successful candidate.

Almanac, Vol. 48, No. 27, March 26, 2002


March 26, 2002
Volume 48 Number 27

Five innovators and luminaries will receive honorary degrees at Commencement.
Total undergraduate charges for tuition, fees, room and board will increase 4.6 percent for the coming year.
The Senate Committee on the Faculty reports on the Gender Equity Report published December 4, 2001.

INS Restrictions on automatic visa revalidation could affect international scholars at Penn.

This year's Antiques Show will benefit Penn's Institute for Environmental Medicine.