12/06/2005 08:00:00

Caltech and Eight Universities Support Greater Gender Equity in Academia

PASADENA, Calif.- California Institute of Technology President David Baltimore has joined with leaders of eight other research universities to encourage continued advances toward the full participation of women in academia throughout the United States.

The group, called Nine Presidents, first met in 2001 in response to an MIT report that found institutionalized gender inequity at all levels of faculty. At their home institutions, the presidents convened task forces to examine whether similar patterns of gender disparity existed at their institutions. In many cases, institutions found such disparities and have moved to remedy them.

In 1999, Caltech established the Committee on the Status of Women Faculty to research these issues. In 2001, the committee released its report, which made a number of recommendations, including setting goals to hire more women, establishing mentoring programs, and pursuing programs to create a family-friendly working environment.

Since that time, Caltech has made considerable strides in improving gender equity among its faculty. In 2001, women constituted 11 percent of the Caltech faculty. This academic year, that number is expected to rise to 15 percent (43 out of 294).

Anneila Sargent, the Rosen Professor of Astronomy and Director of the Owens Valley Radio Observatory and the chair of the Committee on the Status of Women Faculty at Caltech, notes that not only have the numbers of female faculty risen, but also the numbers of women as administrators. Since 2001, the number of women in leadership positions at Caltech has grown from three to eight.

"I am really pleased by the significant increase in the fraction of women in the professorial ranks and among the Institute's administration since our report was presented. The effect of these nine presidents working together was to strengthen support across all their institutions for the kind of recommendations we presented," Sargent said.

Caltech's successful efforts include establishing a child-care assistance program and implementing new parental leave and automatic tenure-clock stoppage policies for professorial faculty. In addition, Caltech created a parental/maternity leave for graduate students (which is rare among research institutions), and the Women Mentoring Women Initiative program for postdoctoral and graduate student women. A task force on gender and academic climate led to the expansion of the purview of the Administrative Committee on Diversity and Minority Affairs to include gender issues. That committee, chaired by a faculty member and including representation by faculty in all six academic divisions, reports directly to the president.

"To my mind, the most important element in our increased success in hiring women has been the commitment of individual faculty, especially those on search committees, to finding and attracting superb female candidates," said Baltimore. "We now need to continue that commitment and extend it effectively to family life issues."

Making academic careers compatible with family responsibilities is essential if universities are to achieve full gender equity, the Nine Presidents said in a joint statement released today. All pledged that their universities will continue to develop academic personnel policies and institutional resources, and take steps to improve campus cultures to better support family commitments.

The statement was signed by Baltimore; President Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard University; President Susan Hockfield, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; President Shirley M. Tilghman, Princeton University; President John Hennessy, Stanford University; Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, University of California, Berkeley; President Mary Sue Coleman, University of Michigan; President Amy Gutmann, University of Pennsylvania; and President Richard C. Levin, Yale University.

For the complete Nine President's statement, go to http://ucfamilyedge.berkeley.edu.

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Contact: Jill Perry (626) 395-3226 jperry@caltech.edu

Visit the Caltech Media Relations Web site at: http://pr.caltech.edu/media

Written by Jill Perry