The University Record, April 18, 1994

President announces Agenda for Women

By Deborah Gilbert
News and Information Services

The University is launching a bold initiative that it hopes will foster the professional success of women faculty, staff and students.

The initiative, the “Michigan Agenda for Women: Leadership for a New Century,” sets the year 2000 as a target date for becoming “the leader among American universities in promoting the success of women of diverse backgrounds.”

Drafted by President James J. Duderstadt in consultation with numerous women and men throughout the Univer-sity, the Agenda proposes a range of goals and specific strategies and actions.

“The draft is just that—a draft,” he cautions. “We will be seeking the suggestions and contributions of many individuals and groups throughout the University community as the draft is refined. But it is important to get on with the task of evaluating and implementing the recommendations,” he adds. “To achieve the vision proposed by the Agenda, it will be necessary to change the University in very profound, pervasive and permanent ways.”

Duderstadt notes that he has a strong personal interest in the Agenda. “I am fortunate to be a friend and colleague to many talented, wise, energetic and determined women, and I have seen first-hand some of the barriers that continue to prevent women from achieving their full potential and contributing their great talents and leadership, not just to this University, but to society at large. And I have learned that at times, my male-biased view of the world was just plain wrong,” he adds.

Duderstadt notes that the University has made some progress over the past two decades. “For instance, in 1950, women were only 32 percent of the student body. Today, women comprise 48 percent of undergraduate and 40 percent of graduate enrollments. Professional schools have made similar progress, and women have assumed more roles in middle and upper management.

“Yet, it is also clear that the University simply has not made enough progress. Our actions to date, while characterized by the best of intentions, have been ad hoc and lacking precise goals and strategies,” he says.

The Agenda, which proposes such goals and strategies, will augment the Michigan Mandate, the University’s plan for evolving into a diverse, multicultural institution.

“We recognize that women at the U-M are an incredibly diverse group in terms of race, age, educational background, sexual orientation, and many other characteristics. Women of color face a particular challenge as they struggle for success in the face of both gender and racial prejudice in our society.

“Today,” Duderstadt says, “we draw on the experience gained through the Michigan Mandate. The Agenda is an inclusive plan that will draw on the strength of our diversity, ensuring that all women at this institution are full beneficiaries of the various components of the plan.”

The Agenda calls for the following:

  • Create an institutional commitment to national leadership in providing expanded roles for U-M women in higher education.

  • Develop and implement a targeted strategy specific to each unit for dramatically increasing the presence and participation of women staff and faculty at all ranks where they are underrepresented, with special attention to increasing the presence and participation of women of color.

  • Develop and implement measures to ensure that women of color are full beneficiaries of all components of the Michigan Agenda for Women.

  • Develop and implement ongoing internal assessments of gender patterns in compensation and resource allocation to staff, faculty and students.

  • Establish a Presidential Commission to evaluate and restructure faculty tenure and promotion policies “to better reflect the contemporary nature of University teaching, research and service, and the increasing diversity of U-M faculty.”

  • Create a climate that permits and develops opportunities for the full participation of women staff, faculty and students in decision-making processes.

  • Commit the full resources required for the appointment of 10 new senior (tenured and tenure track) women faculty over the next five years. (In fall 1993, there were 281 senior women faculty and 1,683 senior male faculty.)

  • Create a career development awards program for women faculty members who make significant service contributions to the University, to assist them in their capacity to carry out research.

  • Appoint more women to key Univer-sity positions such as executive officers, deans, directors, and chairs.

  • Establish career development and training programs for U-M staff and faculty with potential for administrative or academic leadership roles.

  • Charge the President’s Advisory Commission on Multicultural Affairs and the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues to develop specific goals and recommendations that will address the concerns of women of color, including opportunities for staff and faculty advancement.

  • Address the unique challenges faced by women students of color.

  • Assess University policies and practices from the point of view of family responsibilities (e.g. child and elder care), and implement appropriate actions.

  • Analyze those job categories that traditionally have been dominated by women, such as the “office” job category, to address gender and racial equity concerns and provide better opportunities for advancement.

  • Achieve proportional gender equity in opportunities for varsity competition for men and women students by 1996. (Currently the ratio is approximately 35 percent women to 65 percent men.)

  • Design and implement a campuswide education program for students, staff and faculty aimed at eliminating violence against women and discouraging behavior or activities that degrade women.

  • Fully implement the University’s policy prohibiting sexual harassment.

  • Develop and execute a plan to make U-M the leading institution for the study of women and gender issues.

    Many of the recommendations in the Agenda draw upon the work of the President’s Advisory Commission on Women’s Issues, which formed in 1988.

    “We will continue to draw upon the efforts and support of the commission, and we invite—indeed, we will depend upon—the participation of other groups as well, as the Agenda evolves over the coming months,” Duderstadt says.