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Members of Panel Decry Paucity Of Women on Harvard's Faculties

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Panelists deplored the dearth of tenured female faculty members at a panel discussion at Radcliffe's Bunting Institute attended by about 60 people last night.

"It's important for undergraduates to be able to imagine the Harvard professor as something more than just a man in a tweed jacket smoking a pipe," said Susan R. Suleiman, professor of Romance languages and comparative literatures.

The panel, "Choosing to Lead: The Equality of Women at Harvard," was sponsored by the Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard.

"We are hoping to get support from the entire Harvard community so the administration will pay attention to the issues," said Ann R. Shapiro '58, who moderated the panel.

According to Peggy Schwertzler '53, chair of the committee, addressing the gender gap is especially important now since the University is in the process of raising funds to increase the number of faculty positions.

Eleven percent of Harvard's tenured faculty is female, which is less than half the national average of 23 percent. Dartmouth leads the Ivies with 25 percent, and only Yale has a smaller proportion than Harvard, according to a report by the committee.

William Silen, dean for faculty development and diversity at Harvard Medical School, called the faculty gender gap a "problem of promotion."

Silen cited a Medical School internal study that showed that although woman comprise nearly 38 percent of instructors and lecturers at the Medical School, they constitute only 7 percent of full professors.

Suleiman also addressed the issue of promotion, especially as it concerns faculty mentoring.

"No junior faculty member at Harvard gains tenure without support from a powerful member of the senior faculty," she said.

Because most current professors are male, they tend to mentor male members of the junior faculty, she added.

The panelists also addressed the gender gap in student leadership.

Undergraduate Council President Robert M. Hyman '98 and Vice President Lamelle D. Rawlins '99 added the students' perspective on the gender gap in leadership.

"I am very pleased that the committee has opened channels between students and alumni," Rawlins said.

Women students comprise only about 25 percent of the council and tend to be less vocal in meetings, according to Rawlins.

To help address some of these concerns, Rawlins said that she intends to form a women's caucus on the council.

"Reform must come as a matter of simple justice," Rawlins said.

The Committee for the Equality of Women at Harvard was formed in 1988 by a group of Radcliffe alums. Its mission is to achieve equality in the number of women professors University-wide and equity for all women at Harvard, according to the committee's official statement.

Audience members said the discussion was helpful in raising many of the issues that concern women at Harvard.

"This committee is very important because alums can speak out without being censored," said Stephanie B. Russek '98, the student liaison between the committee and the Radcliffe Union of Students.

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