University Will Commit $50M to Women in Science
Harvard to create senior position to facilitate increase in hiring of female and minority faculty
Two faculty task forces, first established in the wake of Summers’ remarks, released a broad set of recommendations today, and the University said many of the proposals—on issues ranging from student research to faculty hiring—would be implemented immediately.
Acting on one of the central recommendations of the reports, the University said it would form a new senior administrative post to spearhead an increase in the hiring of female and minority faculty.
The new position, senior vice provost for diversity and faculty development, will oversee recruitment efforts and review junior faculty appointments and tenure decisions at all of Harvard’s schools, according to the report issued today by the Task Force on Women Faculty, which was chaired by Evelynn M. Hammonds, professor of the history of science and African and African American studies.
“In spite of more than three decades of concern, Harvard has made only limited progress in its efforts to create a genuinely diverse faculty,” the task forces concluded in a joint statement introducing their reports.
The University said it would commit $5 million a year for the next decade to the reports’ proposals, and in an interview this afternoon, Summers said additional funding would be allocated as the recommendations are implemented.
“This is an initial commitment, and we expect, given the importance of these issues, that there are likely to be more resources that are allotted down the road,” Summers said.
Part of the money will fund 40 new faculty appointments over the next five years “with priority given to the hiring of women and underrepresented minorities,” according to the report from the Task Force on Women Faculty.
Other funding will help establish a summer research program, including on-campus housing, for undergraduates in the sciences.
The task forces offered a litany of proposals in the two reports, recommending the University’s science departments focus on establishing more hospitable environments for female students and faculty.
“Unfortunately, in some departments, women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows report hearing disrespectful criticisms of their abilities from male colleagues and a lack of a supportive environment,” reported the Task Force on Women in Science and Engineering, chaired by Higgins Professor of Natural Sciences Barbara J. Grosz. “Although some female students and postdoctoral fellows of all disciplines face these problems, the problem is especially acute in certain departments, where women are rare, isolated, and sometimes poorly supported.”
Addressing those concerns, the task force recommended the University establish more formal mentoring and advising programs for female students interested in the sciences. And they proposed requiring all doctoral students in the sciences to take a training course for teaching fellows “that includes a component of gender bias.”
“Female undergraduate students continue to report and express concerns about gender bias of teaching fellows in science courses,” the task force reported. “Although the bias is described as subtle, and almost always unintended, it decreases confidence and discourages women students from pursuing more advanced study in science.”
Among other proposals, the task forces recommended Harvard adopt policies—including paid maternity leave and childcare scholarships—to accommodate familial obligations of female graduate students, post-doctorate fellows, and faculty. In a press release, the University said it would wait to “consider the overall balance, cost and feasibility (in terms of legal, pragmatic, and resource concerns) of the proposals.”
A comment period, during which members of the Harvard community and the public may comment on the task forces’ recommendations, will extend through June 30.
But the University said it would move immediately on some of the task forces’ proposals, including a program on leadership and diversity focused on educating the University’s top administrators at their annual summer retreat.
The search to fill the new senior vice provost position will begin soon, and Provost Steven E. Hyman said the appointment was likely to come from within the University.
“I think people are very desirous of getting moving on these recommendations,” Hyman said, “and I think it’s important that it be somebody who understands our culture.”
In a conference call with reporters and top administrators arranged by the University this afternoon, Drew Gilpin Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, was asked about the process of following through on the reports’ myriad recommendations.
“We’re laughing here at the horror of thinking we have to implement all this,” Faust said.
—Check thecrimson.com later today for more updates.
—Staff writer Zachary M. Seward can be reached at email@example.com.