This article focuses on the search for gender equity among women faculty in the university setting in the United States. The author advocates for the use of university task forces and the institutionalization of best practices for achieving gender equity as means to remove the persistent barriers to professional advancement experienced by many women faculty. Discriminatory treatment of faculty based on gender may be hidden and remain unacknowledged in some universities, so the process of uncovering such treatment and formulating recommendations for change is an important first step in the process of creating a work environment that is both fair and inviting to women. Many universities have achieved positive outcomes for faculty using this approach, which has the potential to benefit a wider group of women faculty in a more targeted fashion than a strategy that relies on the use of litigation and government agency proceedings. This article documents the disparities in employment status experienced by women faculty in U.S. universities compared to their male counterparts through the use of statistically based gender equity indicators, explores explanations for the existence of such inequities and proposes reasons for their elimination, develops a model framework for the structure and process to be used by a successful gender equity task force, and identifies best practices that have the greatest potential to advance the status of women university faculty. The author draws upon case studies of successful task forces at several U.S. universities, the work of professional organizations representing university faculty and administrators, and the academic literature on the employment status of women faculty in the United States.
This piece contributes to the literature on employment discrimination based on gender in the United States in a novel way by approaching the topic from the perspective of mechanisms for institutional change rather than from a litigation perspective. It fills a gap in the literature by exploring the topic of gender inequity among university faculty from a strategic perspective by drawing on the work of successful task forces and emerging best practices that show promise to improve the status of university women faculty.
Wagner, Constance Z., Change from Within: Using Task Forces and Best Practices to Achieve Gender Equity for University Faculty (2017).