Gender Equity: How Does UCSF Stack Up?

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

How does UCSF stack up when it comes to gender equity? A panel discussion of high profile UCSF administrators uncovered some good and not-so-good practices during the September 13 session entitled “Pursuing Gender Equity at UCSF.”

Some gender inequities include incidents of salary and bonus pay gaps between men and women, as well as unsatisfactory paid parental leave.

The introductory seminar in an on-going series organized by Women in Life Sciences and the Science Policy Group, two student-driven registered campus organizations.

They intend to highlight current programs targeting gender equity at UCSF, while giving students, postdocs as well as faculty an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback regarding their experiences.

“Using this conversation as a starting point, we aim to follow up on this panel discussion with future seminars delving deeper into issues of gender equity and potential actions,” said Nikole Kimes, co-organizer and Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Medicine.

As an attendee, I was surprised to learn about the inequities, but I left feeling hopeful because of the administration’s efforts to establish transparency in the process and their commitment to improving our campus climate.

Renee Navarro, the Vice Chancellor of Diversity and Outreach, launched the session by stating that the goals for the discussion were two-fold: to spread awareness about the current demographics and policies at UCSF, and to get feedback from the UCSF community about current policies.

The panelists included, Brian Alldredge (Vice Provost of Academic Affairs), Dr. Elizabeth Watkins (Dean of the Graduate Division and the Vice Chancellor of Student Academic affairs), Talmadge King, (Dean of the School of Medicine), and Denise Caramagno (a confidential CARE advocate).

The panelists started off by sharing results of recently released studies on current demographics, policies and gender inequities.

The “Leaky Pipeline”

UCSF is a majority female campus with 63% females and 37% males. However, at faculty positions and higher-level leadership positions men outnumber women.

In a UCSF climate survey, when faculty members were asked whether they had experienced exclusionary behavior at UCSF, women agreed more than men. Additionally, women were more likely to disagree when asked whether UCSF provides sufficient resources to maintain work-life balance.

Diane Barber, a professor and the department chair of Cell and Tissue Biology and Chair of Women in Cell Biology, said that while participating in a number of panel discussions about this issue, she noticed that gender differences in “resiliency” versus “lack of resiliency” is often brought up as one of the causes for fewer women in higher-level positions. She asked the panelists to share resources for trainees and students to support and bolster resilience.

As a graduate student, I have certainly begun to realize the merit of maintaining resiliency to succeed in scientific professions. So through this panel discussion, conversations about resiliency as a cause for gender differences through the “leaky pipeline” resonated with me — the notion that women tend to disappear from career ladders even though an equal number of women and men start off as trainees. But the support systems in place remain unclear to me.

Navarro, agreed with Dr. Barber, adding that she’d like to emphasize the need for a more inclusive campus culture, while Watkins highlighted the importance of normalizing flexibility in work schedules as a way to encourage trainees and students to prioritize their life alongside of work.

Is there pay equity it UCSF?

According to a faculty equity study done at UCSF in 2015, when factors like rank, type of degree, school of affiliation and department were controlled for, women earned 3% less than men.

The survey also revealed a significant difference between the amount of bonus pay received by men and women for clinical incentives. Although they are equally likely to receive bonuses, women received 29% less in amount than men.

Further research done by the individual departments revealed that there were no gender based inequities in pay in the school of Pharmacy, Dentistry and Nursing, however inequities in pay were identified in the school of Medicine. The school of Medicine corrected for these inequities by making payment corrections of up to $1.8 million dollars to the salaries of around 175 employees.

Alldredge said that while conversations to prevent such inequities are ongoing, the main solution is to make initial salaries more equitable.

Talmadge said that an additional fix would be to have the same template letters for new faculty hires and a requirement to justify any alterations to the letter.

Maternity and paternity leave

According to current policies, postdoctoral trainees receive only four weeks of paid parental leave whereas graduate students get a full 10 weeks.

Michelle, a postdoctoral trainee at UCSF expressed her desire to have children and a family as a trainee, but currently postdocs have zero paid parental need and no subsidy for childcare.

“Are UCs interested in gender equity and for women to succeed as postdocs?” she asked. “Then why the lack of support?”

The postdoctoral union is currently advocating against these policies, but with less success. She said it did not seem like the UCs want women trainees to have children or get postdocs.

Watkins said she empathized with her situation, adding that the terms of postdoc parental leave is a UC-wide negotiation, and in those conversations, UCSF is advocating for higher pays for postdocs and an increase in durations for parental leave.

In addition, at the level of the university, the administration is thinking about pooling resources to make for better incentives and support through this process. Watkins advocated for “normalizing having children” and said the UCSF community needs to remember that having children in 20’s, 30’s and 40’s is absolutely normal and not a woman only problem.

“Men should also take parental leave,” said Watkins while addressing the need for a better approach towards work-life integration for trainees and students.

Networking: Women supporting women

I was pleased to learn that Women in BBC and Women in Life Sciences had organized their very first meet and greet with female faculty at UCSF on September 21 at Mission Bay.

The purpose was to foster conversations between professors and students to strengthen the network of support at UCSF, especially for women in science.

Faculty members shared their challenges in striking a work-life balance. But more importantly, they emphasized how their drive to pursue a scientific career stemmed from their passion for mentoring, discovery and pursuing novel scientific dreams.

I thought this event was extremely motivating and successful at strengthening the sense of community among attendees.

Through these events, it has been inspirational to learn that there’s great support at UCSF to recognize unacceptable trends and focused efforts towards improving training environments.

Want to get involved in shaping conversations about gender equity? Find out how at future events organized by Women in Life Sciences, the Science Policy Group and Women in BBC.