With the release of the University’s Action Plan for Faculty Diversity, Penn has taken a step toward fostering more diverse hiring practices.
The Penn Forum for Women Faculty met on Thursday to continue this dialogue.
Thirty-five women faculty members from the forum gathered to discuss gender biases and stigmas at the seminar, “Removing the Gender Hurdles that Hinder the Pace and Success of Women Faculty in Higher Education.”
“We are teaching women professional skills: how to negotiate with others, how to assert themselves in the workplace, how to react to changes in the industry,” said Geraldine Richmond, a Chemistry professor at the University of Oregon, who spoke at the event.
Richmond is the founder and chair of COACh, a national nonprofit with the mission of assisting the career advancement of women faculty in the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
The Diversity Action Plan addresses the issue of hiring more female faculty members within the STEM fields, Vice Provost for Faculty Lynn Lees explained.
Across universities, there are far fewer women faculty members than men “who gain Ph.D.’s in these fields because they choose to go into an industry job, leave academia or leave the field entirely,” Lees explained.
The plan looks to “lower the barriers to gender equity in those fields and make it possible for more women to continue in those fields,” she added.
During the forum, Richmond also urged women faculty members to not only develop “supportive networks,” but also gain the confidence to step away from the sidelines and insert themselves into the middle of “more powerful professional networks.”
Richmond also stressed that raising awareness about gender biases in higher education starts with educating students. She praised universities such as the University of Washington, which offers a course to STEM majors every year that addresses the issues facing women in academia.
Chemistry professor Marsha Lester would like to see similar programs be established at Penn for faculty as well.
“COACh held a workshop for graduate students here a few years ago, but it would be nice to see that expanded to faculty,” she said.
Nevertheless, Lester felt that Richmond’s lecture was beneficial.
“We are really excited to have her here because she really is a pioneer in these empowerment programs,” she said. “She is encouraging women to develop the skill set necessary to succeed in STEM fields where they are a minority.”
Ultimately, the shared sentiment among attendees was that gender biases and stigmas in higher education should be a topic discussed more openly across university campuses.
“It’s not just a women’s issue. It’s everyone’s issue,” Richmond said.Comments powered by Disqus
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