Creating Change for UC Women

Amy Levine and Linda Williams

By Donna Hemmila When UC Associate President Linda Williams and Presidential Staff Fellow Amy Levine hit the road last year, they had one goal: Find out what UC women need to develop professionally and advance their careers. They found out. And they mean to do something about it. "I think it is important for the institution to acknowledge that career development and advancement for women is important," said Williams. In the last half of 2007, she and Levine, along with Sheila O'Rourke, JD, assistant vice provost for equity and diversity at the UC Office of the President (UCOP), visited with women at all 10 campuses, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) and UCOP. At each location, they held an open forum - titled the "Creating Change Initiative" - which attracted 2,085 faculty and staff. What they heard at those forums has inspired a Universitywide effort to empower women's advancement and leadership. While women make up 64.8 percent of the UC systemwide workforce, they hold 31.7 percent of senior management jobs, according to an October 2007 study. That Career Staff Workforce Representation Summary for 2007 shows the demographics of men and women as well as underrepresented groups. At UCSF, women account for 33.3 percent of the senior management group. "Women need different tools available to them as they ascend their careers within UC," said Williams. "What a woman may have needed in the early stages of her career will change significantly throughout her advancement. We need to make sure to assist in helping her change the tools in her toolbox." Williams and Levine have recommended establishing a systemwide advisory committee on the status of women and a similar advisory committee on every campus that doesn't already have one. (Berkeley, Davis, San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Barbara each now have one.) Each of the 10 campus committees, as well as OP and LBNL, will have a representative on the systemwide committee, which will begin organizing in the first half of 2008. UC President Robert Dynes and each of the 10 chancellors have endorsed the idea, said Williams. The systemwide status of women committee will serve as a clearinghouse for sharing ideas about creating more opportunities for women staff, faculty and students. Campuses that have successful programs will serve as role models. "There are some phenomenal programs out there that are good models on the campuses," said Williams. "Some of those should be transported to other campuses." At each "Creating Change Initiative" forum, participants were asked what programs and policies at UC works best to advance the careers of women. Among the top responses, said Levine, were training and professional development, mentorship programs, and work-life balance initiatives such as flexible schedules and affordable child care. On the flip side, when asked what most inhibits the advancement of UC women, participants cited the lack of training opportunities, mentorship programs and work-life balance initiatives. Many of these issues affect male staff as well. "It's been very inspiring to meet all the women and receive their input," said Levine. "However, it's been very frustrating to hear about the obstacles in their career paths." Some women staffers who attended forums said that they'd never heard of the programs or policies other women on their campus were talking about or that their supervisor didn't support them taking advantage of the programs. That points out the need, Levine said, for equal access to training opportunities and programs that help boost UC women up the career ladder. Levine, who is director of the Center for Gender Equity at UCSF, works two days as week as a presidential fellow at UCOP. She is also the organizer of Women Leaders: A Symposium About Women in University Settings. Since 1998, the symposium has been held in San Francisco every two years. The 2008 symposium will be held Thursday and Friday, June 5 and 6, with a legion of distinguished women speakers, including legendary journalist Helen Thomas and United Farm Workers of America co-founder Dolores Huerta. Faculty and staff can register for the symposium online. To find out how to sponsor a woman staffer to attend, contact [email protected]. Donna Hemmila is editor of Our University, a publication of the UC Office of the President.