Recall, if you will, the brouhaha centered on Larry Summers, previously discussed here. Recap: Larry was president of Harvard University. He was asked to give a speech speculating on the reasons for a lack of women in the upper echelons of academia, particularly the sciences. He mentioned one theory, that women don’t generally have the sameÃ‚Â capabilities as men when it comes to science. Outrage ensued. One year later, he resigned.
Before he resigned, though, he set up the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity to further investigate the problem and hopefully address it. One year has passed since then, and the Office has just sent out the bureaucratic equivalent of your family’s Christmas newsletter — what has been accomplished, what remains to be done in the short and long term, and how your cousin feels about his recent promotion to assistant manager of Cinnabon.
As it is only year one, the “what has been accomplished” list is a bit smaller in scope than the “what remains to be done” list. Some highlights from the former are things like “Supported a lecture series designed by graduate student women in the sciences to expose the entire graduate student population to issues around women in science.”
One of the biggest focuses appears to have been on facilitating women who want to have families: “Developed University-wide minimum standards for new faculty maternity/parental leave guidelines, which provide paid time off and teaching relief for birth and adoptive parents.” The University also increased funding to childcare centers Speaking to a number of women in academia, I have heard more than once the concern that a lot of women leave for private industry because it is much easier to have a life and a family there.
The Office plans to increase this focus on families by examining other options in the near future, like part-time work for faculty with major familial responsibilities and “childbirth accomodations” for post-doc women.
After one year, they seem to have worked to lay a decent groundwork of investigation and initial measures, but with women still representing only a fraction of the total faculty (8% of tenured profs in the natural sciences, for instance), it remains to be seen whether or not the effort is enough.
Here’s where you can see the full report.