The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.

Only 25 percent of top penn administrators are female. The percentage at other Ivy schools is comparable. Each day, Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Virginia Clark checks her numbers. With the University typically slated to take in $300 million a year in donations and gifts, Clark and her staff are responsible for a guarantee: that Penn can absorb $850,000 a day for 365 days. For Clark, the high-ranking job has meant weekly traveling, speaking at functions and meeting with a hefty pool of Penn's 225,000 alumni around the world. It may seem taxing, but Clark is just doing her job, one that has secured her a top spot in the University's senior planning committee. Together with only five other senior-ranking females at the University, Clark is one of the most powerful women at Penn. Currently, women like Clark fill a quarter percent of the top-ranking posts in the Penn administration -- a statistic similar to that of the other Ivy League schools. But none of the other schools has taken on the number of search committees Penn has in recent years, where opportunities may have arisen to bring more women to top posts. Despite seven major searches for top administrative positions, the number of female administrators at the University has remained relatively stagnant over the past three years. Standing alongside Clark at the top are University Secretary Rose McManus; Affirmative Action Executive Director Valerie Hayes; Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman; Vice Provost for University Life Valarie Swain-Cade McCoullum; and University President Judith Rodin. The other top-flight women at the University include three of the 12 University deans: Annenberg School for Communication Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Graduate School of Education Dean Susan Fuhrman and Nursing School Dean Norma Lang. That leaves Penn with six women on its 20-member senior planning committee and three female deans out of 12. With few notable exceptions, the majority of the women are in posts that do not receive much on-campus attention from students. Though the numbers and visibility seem low, Penn isn't alone -- the percentages of top women are small at most major colleges and universities. "We do an awfully good job of looking for women, but we and everyone else needs to do better," McManus said. At Princeton University, five out of that school's 24 officers are women. At Cornell University, six of the 23 executives are women, while at Dartmouth College, only one of the 10 senior officers is a woman. And Penn is the only Ivy with a woman as the school's permanent president. During the past three years, the University has searched for seven major administrative positions: a Law School dean, Wharton School dean, Engineering School dean, School of Arts and Sciences dean, College of Arts and Sciences dean, University secretary and provost. Though all of those committees interviewed women for the job, only one position -- University secretary -- was given to a woman. According to the final reports last year, the search committee for the provost considered 165 candidates, 37 of whom were women. The Wharton dean search committee of last year reviewed 213 candidates and 18 women. The Engineering dean search committee came up with similar numbers, reviewing the credentials of 211 candidates, 19 of whom were women. And the most recent Law dean search committee considered 99 candidates, including 23 women. Despite the low numbers, administrators and University Trustees stress that Penn is gender-blind in its search process, pointing to other reasons why the number of women interviewed by Penn is, in all cases, paltry. Elsie Sterling Howard, the outgoing president of Penn's General Alumni Society, suggested that the current pool of women is low both in academia and Fortune 500 companies, areas from which deans and administrators are often selected. At Penn, she said, "If there were a woman as good as or better than the other male candidates, I would think the woman would get the position without a doubt." Women today represent 11.9 percent of corporate officers in America's 500 largest companies, according to an annual census published by Catalyst, a non-profit research organization that aims to advance women in the workplace. "Higher education, in my experience, hasn't been particularly enlightened by women," Scheman noted. "When I look at my colleagues in other institutions, the vast majority of people with my title are men." Added McManus: "I think the net has been cast as wide as possible -- Penn's outreach for female candidates is definitely there." Others point to the historic differences in opportunity among men and women in the top ranks. "In leadership positions there have always been more men," Fuhrman said. "For most of us, that's the way life has always been." NBC News chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, a 1967 College of Women graduate and University Trustee, added, "I think it's always difficult with these search committees for new deans because most often it's men doing the selecting." One top member of the administration, who wished to remain anonymous, said many candidates for deanships -- both men and women -- refuse the offer because "being a dean is not always an attractive position. Many turn it down because it forces you to let go of your research, writing and teaching." While Rodin may be known to publicly push for the advancement of women, the rules of the search process preclude her from playing an active role. Though she says she pushes committees to specifically consider women for the job, Rodin does not participate directly in the search process. "When it's a formal search committee, I always strenuously ask the committee to search all over the country particularly for women or members of minority groups," Rodin said. "I think this is a particularly gender-friendly administration that tries to get it right more often than not," she added. Indeed, Penn has established a number of organizations dedicated to the advancement of women at the top, including the Association of Women Faculty and Administrators, the Trustees Council of Penn Women and, here on campus, the Women in Leadership Series. And for now, the women who do sit at the top say they are proud to be where they are. "[The female deans] haven't even talked much about being women here because we aren't uncomfortable in the slightest," Fuhrman said. "We certainly do not feel isolated."

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.