The University Record, February 25, 1998

Maynard, McGowan urge women to share concerns, network among selves

Regents Olivia P. Maynard (center) and Rebecca McGowan (right) encouraged women to speak out on issues. Aline Soules (left) of the Academic Women's Caucus, chaired the forum. Photo by Bob Kalmbach


By Jane R. Elgass

Describing their role as Regents who are women as "our peculiar perch," Regent Rebecca McGowan last week urged women to share their concerns about climate and other issues directly with the Regents, who can then work to "get them on the table" for discussion. McGowan and Regent Olivia P. Maynard appeared at a question-and-answer forum in Rackham Amphitheater Feb. 18 that drew about 50 faculty and staff.

McGowan noted that their responsibilities as Regents are with them on a daily basis, not just the two days each month that they meet as a group. "This is a responsibility that we live," she said, adding that input from members of the campus community should go on all the time at all levels.

Commenting on the overall climate for women and the University's commitment to improving it, McGowan said: "I feel like this is an incredibly different place today than when I came to the Board five years ago. Climate issues continue to be important."

Maynard noted that while the Regents focus on overall policy issues, "I can ask questions and articulate my position publicly and privately on any issues you raise. There is a response, even though the resolution may not be one that you desire."

She also told the audience that while it is important to share concerns with the Regents, women need to work within their units and through their organizations to force discussion of issues important to them.

Responding to comments about advancement opportunities accompanied by a request that the Regents initiate action in this area, McGowan noted that "this is precisely the kind of proposal for the provost, deans and chairs to put forward. If you had the Board dabble in its own proposals, you would probably rue the day. That's not what we are here for. I can assure you that Provost Cantor is aware there are four pushy people on the Board [the four women Regents] who are asking the same questions you do and she's asked the same questions at the two institutions where she's been."

Among the other issues addressed:

 

President Lee C. Bollinger's stance on the Michigan Agenda for Women.

Carol Hollenshead, director of the Center for the Education of Women and chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Women's Issues, said the president supports initiatives launched under the Agenda and that work on them is ongoing. These include hiring more senior women faculty and addressing concerns related specifically to dual-career couples and women of color.

Also being looked at are a review of negative tenure decisions and the wages of low-income staff. Hollenshead noted that some low-income staff are below the HUD-defined poverty line even though they are working full time.

Hollenshead also said the University should "view every decision through a gender lens and see how it affects women before a decision is made," as well as determining if the impact is different for women than men. The same scrutiny should be applied when making decisions that affect people of color, she noted.

 

The effect on the University if it loses the admissions lawsuits.

"We don't intend to lose the lawsuits," McGowan said. "Every single bit of energy is being put into defending the University and articulating the place that affirmative action, diversity and inclusiveness have at Michigan."

Maynard noted that it is important that the University reflect the diversity of the population at large and remain committed "to training the finest and the best. It has to do with the health of society," she said.

 

Women of color and the glass ceiling. "The glass ceiling is there for women of color and white women," Maynard said. What is important is what is done on a personal level, and that as mentors "we must help others with whatever made us successful. As a university, we must always ask questions about the impact of actions on women and people of color. This will go a long way to change the climate. At the personal and policy level this can be very frustrating. We have to remember we're in it together."

 

Making sure voices are heard.

"Sometimes I walk around campus and people see me and seem to look at me and feel 'I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk to you,'" McGowan said. The eight Regents "are not really very different. Our responsibilities are to the same institution. I particularly urge you to express your views. I learned more in the last five years than in the first 40. If people don't know what you're thinking, they can't respond.

"Don't cut us out when you're having these discussions. We should be part of the conversation."

The forum was sponsored by the Academic Women's Caucus, the Center for the Education of Women, the Commission for Women, the Institute for Research on Women and Gender and the Women of Color Task Force.