This Date in UCSF History: Stagnant Progress

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Originally published in Synapse - The UCSF student newspaper on April 7, 1983.

Despite years of concerted affirmative action efforts during a time of unprecedented growth in numbers of faculty, the status of women faculty at UCSF has remained virtually unchanged since 1972.

This is the conclusion of the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on the Status of Women, in a report issued last month. It is the most extensive analysis on the subject in a decade.

The committee found the percentage of women on the faculty here has actually registered a slight decline, going from 25.7 to 24.2 percent from 1972 to 1981. During the same period, women on the tenure-track faculty declined from 15.7 to 14.8 percent. When the traditionally women-oriented School of Nursing is eliminated from the tenure-track figures, the total for women goes down to 8.9 percent.

A mere 8 percent of tenured full professors are women — declining to 5.1 percent when School of Nursing figures are eliminated.

The tenure-track is particularly important, because with the exception of a tiny number of “security of employment” jobs for lecturers, such slots are the only “hard money,” guaranteed positions on the faculty.

Of the four professional schools, Pharmacy has the worst overall standing, with women comprising only 11.1 percent of its faculty. In academic administration, there are only two women associate deans, and no deans, department chairs or assistant deans.

The School of Medicine’s only female associate dean, Marion Nestle, headed the advisory committee.

She told Synapse that the report “shows clearly that women and minorities cannot possibly have equal opportunity for faculty jobs on this campus.”

The problems of women in obtaining faculty jobs are certainly not unique to this campus or university — far from it.

For example, the UCSF School of Medicine is close to the national average for proportion of women faculty although

it is slightly below the average for administrators, according to data compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges. Ironically, during this 10-year period, enrollment of women in medical colleges across the nation shot up dramatically — from 15 to 37 percent of all students here at UCSF.

Those working for improvement on the faculty question cite discrimination as a major factor. Such discrimination manifests in a variety of ways, according to Nestle.

In general, young women M.D.’s get little encouragement to pursue an academic career and can see few role models. In addition, the “old boy network”—through which vital information for jobs and advancement travels — systematically excludes women or discounts them altogether.
This is one reason the flood of women medical students provides only a trickle of applications for academic positions.

Chancellor Julius Krevans believes another reason for the student-teacher discrepancy is the 7 to 9-year time lag — typical between graduation from medical school and gaining the necessary qualifications for a faculty post.

Despite these problems, the larger pool of women medical students could make its mark over time.

Associate Professor of Radiology Gretchen Gooding, chair of the Women Faculty Association (WFA) of the School of Medicine, feels “The many women who are now students will (eventually) filter into the faculty.”

Deja vu Women or racial minorities who have been around for a while may get a sense of deja vu about the committee’s findings.

Years pass, yet conditions remain static. A 1974 report covered many of the same concerns as this year’s analysis.

While the old report dealt mostly in generalities, however, the recent effort pushes for a variety of permanent procedural changes which the committee hopes will have substantial impact.

Recruitment, retention and promotion all depend on a greatly strengthened and

broadened system of internal publicity to women and minorities, combined with greater incorporation of women in search committees, the report maintains.

Says Nestle, “I’m continually amazed at how poorly informed our women faculty are about the rules for promotion in the various faculty tracks. We want to make all this information available to everyone, not just those who have access to the networks.”

She says a big part of the solution is to announce each and every job opening in general interest publications, such as Today/Tomorrow.

The way things stand, formal advertisements for openings are often made in obscure academic journals or other ways which may only be seen by a narrow band of (primarily male) individuals who know where and when to look.

Two other suggested innovations would seriously police the affirmative action process for the first time.

An “affirmative action advocate” is proposed for every faculty search committee — to make this priority explicit in the hiring process. Greatly strengthened monitoring for programmatic evaluation is also seen as a high priority.

In the past, such evaluation has been haphazard at best.

According to Nestle, the Affirmative Action Office “was never set up to handle objective and independent evaluation” of data it collects, and the job has not been done adequately or consistently.

Talk or action?

In question is whether the well considered list of suggestions will lead to real action. Or will it suffer the fate of so many advisory reports in large organizations — receding into oblivion almost as soon as the ink is dry?

The response of the chancellor is one part of the answer.

As dean of the School of Medicine from 1971 to 1982, Krevans ushered in a period of tremendous growth of the school’s faculty and vast improvement in women-student affirmative action.

Although he cannot claim success on the faculty question. Nestle and leaders of the WFA remain hopeful that he will act forcefully on the issue.

“There is reason for optimism.” WFA Steering Committee member and Associate Professor of Epidemiology Virginia Ernster said in an interview, “because the report and the committee were put together with the blessing of the former chancellor (Francis Sooy) and the current chancellor.”

At this early stage, Krevans docs seem to be taking the report quite seriously, immediately passing it along to the vice chancellor for academic affairs and all deans for detailed review and discussion.

“I’d be very surprised if we implemented 100 percent of what’s listed (in the report),” Krevans told Synapse, “but there is no quarrel about the issues.”

In general, the chancellor expressed strong support for the committee’s recommendations and agreement with its conclusions.

But Krevans predicts widely differing opinions among faculty members and administrators on how to achieve affirmative action goals.

He anticipates hot debate, for example, on the question of an “affirmative action advocate” being attached to faculty search committees, but declined to take a position on the issue until after he hears faculty views.

Despite anticipated differences, the chancellor expects every one of the committee’s recommendations to be addressed. He will hold initial discussions with the committee on April 20.

Money factor

The other key element of successful affirmative action is money.

If during the boom times of the ‘70s, UCSF saw no improvement in the percentage of women on the faculty, what can be expected during the current period of retrenchment?

Even if all the committee recommendations are put into place, Gooding points out, it would be some time before a surge in hiring of women for the all-important tenured faculty jobs could take place.

Little hiring — of men or women — is happening at this time. Tight money also means cutbacks.

Because most women faculty have low seniority and insecure funding, they are likely to suffer a higher lay-off rate than men, exacerbating already discouraging statistics.

Gooding believes this should be a vital consideration as budget reductions are increasingly felt.

The long-term difficulty of the affirmative action problem, coupled with a bleak economic prognosis for the immediate future, highlights the importance and timeliness of the committee’s work.

But the recommendations may be a realistic program for treading water, rather than moving forward. Even if aggressively implemented, the ostensible result of the measures will be to slow or stop affirmative action backsliding over the upcoming thin years.

Short of a radical change in university operations, it will probably be on the other side of those years when clear progress will be possible.