Status of Women at Miami

The college experience remains very “gendered.” Research demonstrates that, by and large, colleges and universities still fall short of true gender equity, despite women students being a numerical majority on most campuses. A “chilly climate” continues to be present, particularly for women with multiple marginal identities.

In Taking Women Seriously: Lessons and Legacies for Educating the Majority (1999, p. 141), Tidball et al identify eight essential institutional characteristics related to taking women seriously:

  • visionary leadership committed to the education of women
  • critical mass of women in all constituencies
  • belief in women’s capacities and high expectations
  • places and spaces for women’s voices to be heard
  • opportunities for women’s leadership in all aspects of institutional life
  • celebration of traditions and institutional history
  • a high degree of trust and responsibility
  • active and empowering alumnae association

The "Engel Report" (1977)

The "Engel Report," named for Alan Engel (project director), contained the results of studies conducted by two committees commissioned by President Phillip Shriver. Focusing on faculty and students, the two committees looked at the climate for women and people of color as well as equity issues related to student facilities, faculty hiring, tenure, promotion, salary and university service involvement.

Findings of the committee on women, chaired by Mary Sohngen, included: sharp disagreement by gender on the prevalence and significance of climate problems for women and significant differences by gender in perceptions of fairness of treatment (University hiring, rank and salary data showed that concerns about equity were legitimate). The committee oncluded that by virtually any measure taken…women lagged behind men in patterns serious, consistent and hard to explain and recommended a variety of actions including establishment of a women's center and child care center as well as monitoring and reporting on progress in improving the status of women.

President’s Commission on Improvement of the Status of Women Faculty, Staff and Students Report (1989)

Eleven years after the Engel Report was released, President Paul Pearson appointed a commission to look at ways of improving the status of women faculty, staff and students. Dr. Karen Maitland Schilling chaired the commission. Over the course of a year, this 15-member group met extensively with constituents and consultants and reviewed material from previous reports as well as from other institutions and professional associations.

The group's 1989 report contained 57 recommendations to improve the status of women at Miami. The recommendations focused on 14 areas:

  • Improving the representation and retention of women
  • Improving the climate for women
  • Enhancing women’s professional development
  • Examining benefits policies
  • Implementing new sexual harassment policies and procedures
  • Expanding support programs for women including a women's center
  • Attending to the special concerns of women of color
  • Addressing salary equity issues
  • Commissioning a study of ways to improve campus safety
  • Broadening the conception of university traditions and marketing to include the contributions of women
  • Transforming the curriculum to incorporate the perspectives and contributions of women
  • More effectively including women in development and alumni/ae efforts
  • Assessing and enhancing gynecological services for women students
  • Establishing a continuing commission to monitor and report on progress

Ten-year Retrospective Report (1999)

Ten years after the 1989 Commission report was released, a group of faculty and staff women convened by Dr. Sally Lloyd conducted an informal assessment of progress made by faculty women and faculty of color. The group looked at five areas – representation, retention, salary equity, climate and support programs for women.

The report revealed that Miami had made progress in hiring and promoting to the associate level but women were still underrepresented among full professors and those with tenure; faculty women of color were especially underrepresented; while the proportion of women who were tenured rose dramatically from 1988 to 1999, a gender gap still existed. In addition, four major reports on the climate for diversity, conducted from 1996 through 1999, revealed that women and minority faculty continued to report more instances of discrimination, harassment, threats and disparaging remarks due to gender or ethnicity and that female faculty continued to feel excluded from decision-making processes.

University Climate Report (2002)

The most recent campus climate report, published in 2002 as a follow-up to the 1996 climate report, suggested that, while the University has made progress since the Engel Report, disturbing echoes from the 1970s can still be heard. Findings included that over one-third of women faculty reported being discriminated against because of their gender, compared to less than 10 percent of men faculty and that women faculty are twice as likely as men faculty to report being treated rudely by students. Additionally, women are perceived to be inadequately represented on important campus governance committees, given fewer opportunities for advancement than men, and are less respected by students. The report also found that women students and staff of color are less likely than their male counterparts to feel that Miami is their institution.

Women’s Advocacy Group Report (2004)

The Women’s Advocacy Group, a joint initiative of the Division of Student Affairs and Women*s Center, was formed in Spring 2003 to take a proactive, comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing sexual assault, disordered eating and other gender issues facing women students. Student focus groups revealed pressure to conform to rigid physical images and material possessions; inability to achieve a desired image, leading to depression, eating disorders, low self-esteem and risky health behaviors; gender discrimination, voicelessness in the classroom and reluctance to assume leadership; safety concerns; and concerns about lack of diversity at Miami and the climate for LGBTQ students.

Status Report on Women at Miami University (2008)

The data contained in this report indicate that Miami has made progress on a number of fronts but still has work to do to achieve full gender equity. This report focuses primarily on the status of women faculty and staff. The data are from the 2008-09 academic year, primarily Fall 2008. Comparison data are also included, where available. For a printed copy of the report, contact Jane Goettsch.

What common themes can we see across the decades?

  • Concerns about equity in student enrollment, involvement patterns, and program support
  • Concerns about faculty and staff hiring, retention, salary, advancement and involvement in decision-making processes
  • Sharp disagreements between women and men on the prevalence and significance of climate problems for women
  • Desire for strong leadership and accountability in addressing the climate for women
  • Special concerns about the climate for women of color
  • Calls for establishment and enhancement of support programs for women
  • Calls for ongoing and formal monitoring and reporting of progress in improving the status of and climate for women