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Friday September 29, 2000

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ABOR votes to continue women's commission

By Shana Heiser

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Percentage of UA women faculty the lowest among

TEMPE-The Commission on the Status of Women, an in-depth study and observation of the roles of women working at Arizona universities, will continue after celebrating its 10-year anniversary yesterday.

However, the percentage of University of Arizona women faculty members is the lowest among the state universities, with only 27 percent of the faculty being composed of females.

"We agreed that we should do something quite substantial on our campus to better understand the life experiences of women," said UA President Peter Likins. "I believe the commitment is there."

Likins acknowledged the discrepancy between women's and men's salaries and tenured positions, but he said he remains "very optimistic."

"We all know we have a long way to go," he said. "As long as women are disadvantaged on our campus, we are all disadvantaged. We are grossly under-represented in our engineering faculty."

Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University reported similar inequalities, so the Arizona Board of Regents unanimously voted to continue the commission.

"I think it's important this commission continue," Regent Kay McKay said. "I'm not going to let this one drop."

The movement toward gender equality means details need to be examined, such as the different ranks of female faculty and staff, said Margaret Briehl, a member of the tri-university task force on the status of women. The numbers may say one thing, but the truth may be another.

"Even when (women) have equal representation, their voices are not being heard," said Briehl, also a UA assistant pathology professor.

While the regents were satisfied that some progress was made, Regent Judy Gignac said more needs to be done to ensure fairness between genders at the universities.

"Today's document tells a story of forward movement but with gaps yet to be closed," she said. "The cost will only increase if we don't do it now."

Forty percent of NAU's full-time faculty and staff are female because of recent changes in hiring and focus on gender equality, said NAU President Clara Lovett.

"We welcomed minorities and a much larger number of women than we had," she said. "They have also moved every year to broaden the agenda for the institution - for instance, you will see substantial progress in reclaiming women faculty."

In a breakdown of women faculty, staff and students by department, Briehl said she observed a significant decrease in females involved in sciences and a decrease as titles moved up toward professor.

"If you look at graduate students who are women, it's overall about 50 percent, but at each level you go up, they're dropping out," she said. "The harder the science, the faster the women leave. In social sciences, they do a much better job."

UA's advances included a 24-hour protocol for responding to sexual assault cases in hopes of making the university a safer place for women to work. Other efforts are also commended, Briehl said, by acknowledging "people who are bringing about, in their own way, the vision."