Women’s program celebrates 25th anniversary with guest lecture
Claire-Elise Baalke/Sun Star Reporter
October 2, 2012
On the 25th anniversary of UAF’s Women and Gender studies program, the research and expertise of Sharon Bird, an associate Professor in Sociology from Iowa State University, was presented in the Schaible Auditorium on Monday Sept. 24 at 5:30 p.m.
The lecture was called “Navigating Barriers: Women Faculty Members Personal Career Strategies and the Advancement of Collective Goals” and was meant to promote women and minorities, especially those who work in the university systems.
Bird’s presentation was based on the research she did starting in 2002, involving 278 men and women, when she helped write a proposal to the National Science Foundation. This led to a $3.3 million institutional transformation grant for the Iowa State University. This grant created programs such as the arrival of children policy, partner-spouse accommodations, the part-time tenure and the delayed tenure clock. All of these are meant to assist university staff, especially women, with the barriers that they struggle with that hold them back from succeeding in work and educational environments.
According to Bird’s slideshow the main career barriers include low levels of decision making, educational processing, and balancing work and family. Bird said women opt out of opportunities: recruitment, mentoring, retention and advancement.
She focused on those women in areas such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics, she called it a pipeline issue. The pipe being those areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics that not enough women enter into or come out of, but with many leaking out in the middle, as Bird put it.
“Departures cause less promotions, or they don’t apply,” said Susan Heinrich, the Provost of Women and Gender Studies, in response to UAF’s faculty barriers. “But I expect more advances in women to full professors, yet usually not enough stay to become full professors.”
Bird’s advice to UAF was to connect the campus, since West Ridge is so far away from main campus and the demographic difference causes a stretch between the two sides of campus that is not often crossed. She suggests having networking events to build a common understanding of career barriers and to put together mixed committees to find common ground.
Many students and staff at UAF appreciated Bird’s presentation. “I never look at it from the professors point of view,” said Megan Carpenter, a sociology and women and gender studies student. Carpenter said that the talk was very relevant to UAF, because it is such a science based college.
“Its nice to have research backing it up,” said Mercedes Anderson, a fisheries student, in response to gender barriers in the university system.
“These aren’t unique to only personal experience of women,” said Kara Dillard, an Assistant Professor of Sociology. “Together we can solve this problem not just for women but the whole school.”