Interim University President B. Joseph White said he wants more women in executive offices at the University, during a talk with women faculty, staff and students yesterday.

Paul Wong
Interim University President B. Joseph White spoke last night about the concerns of women on campus yesterday.

“We need to have substantial critical mass representation of women at every leadership level as well as senior ranks of our faculty,” White said.

The President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues invited White to speak. “We’ve done so with each of the last two presidents, so we felt it was more than appropriate to ask interim President White to speak with women on campus,” Center for the Education of Women Director Carol Hollenshead said.

White told the audience his female colleagues are “simply invaluable.”

“It would be impossible for you to imagine how much they enrich my life,” he said. White expressed his concerns for the experiences of women at the University, touching on wage differentials, childcare and tenure issues, as well as the climate for women in specific University departments. “We need to make sure there is equal pay for equal work,” White said. “The data I’ve seen says that the gap might be a little smaller than in the country at large, but it’s still a gap.” Climate issues for the acceptance and support of women range from warm, supportive and fully inclusive in some departments to marginally chilly in others, White said.

Women in the audience were given note cards to write questions to anonymously ask White and representatives from women’s support networks about their problems. In response to a question about the lack of childcare options, White cited “the very intensive efforts in the last 72 hours in the University’s negotiations with the Graduate Employees Organization.”

“(Interim Provost) Paul Courant and I didn’t need much convincing on the importance of child care … we are committed to an ongoing, mutual effort on the issue of child care capacity.”

If people do not see women in leadership roles at the University, there will be a disconnection between the goals of the University and what is actually happening, White said.

The purpose of the event is twofold, Hollenshead said. “It gives the president an opportunity to hear from women on campus and for women to explain to him some of the women’s issues and potential actions,” she added.

The beginning of White’s address focused on the aspirations he has for all people who choose to make their careers at the University. “We need to continue to do everything possible to be the best public university in the nation and a model for others,” White said.

“That means preserving and developing areas of existing excellence. There’s no point in maintaining the University’s excellence in social sciences if we don’t simultaneously develop the capacity to do other great things such as the Life Sciences Institute.”

White stressed his belief that the University has to achieve academic excellence. “We are the opposite of a boutique,” White said in reference to the University’s academics. “We are very broad in our academic strengths, and we must value talented people as our most important resource.”

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