CSUN shows gender equality in administrative roles

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Attempts at CSUN to create equal opportunities for women to advance to higher-level administrative positions have been successful, with data showing the gender breakdown as about 51 percent male and 49 percent female, according to statistics provided by John Chandler, campus spokesperson.

Nationally, however, data suggests that this type of equality is not the norm.

Claire Van Ummersen, vice president and director of the American Council on Education’s Office of Women, said although the number of women in higher-level administrative positions in education has increased during the past 30 years, the process has been slow, and it will take time before complete equity is achieved.

Van Ummersen said data shows only 22 percent of those in president positions at higher education institutions nationwide are women, and the number is probably lower for other senior-level administration positions.

Although the education field is made up of 62 percent women, men still hold most senior-level positions, Van Ummersen said.

Jolene Koester, CSUN president, said the university has a history of creating an environment that allows women the possibility of reaching senior-level positions. Koester said the last three presidents before her have been women.

Women have also filled the provost position in the last 15 years, and five of CSUN’s current deans are women.

Koester said women have had increasing opportunities from the ground up, which has later made it possible for them to apply for administrative positions. These opportunities have given women the chance to gain experience at lower levels, which serve as “stepping stones” to higher-level positions.

Koester said her first opportunity at a lower level was when she became a department chair. She then advanced to assistant vice president, and then to associate vice president.

“In each position, I had the opportunity to learn new skills and (learn about) new parts of the university,” Koester said.

According to Van Ummersen, many times when women are put in charge, they are not offered the same opportunities as men. For example, she said a woman might be assigned to advising, whereas a man might be put on a budget committee.

There are a number of outside barriers that can also keep women from advancing to high-level positions, Van Ummersen said.

She said care-giving and relocating for a new position are potential barriers for women. Seventy percent of all care-giving is still done by women, including child and elderly care.

Men are more likely to relocate, because they are less likely to have the responsibility of staying home to care for children or the elderly, Van Ummersen said.

“I think there is a need for the institutions to change some of the structure, so they are more flexible for both men and women,” Van Ummersen said.

Mary Pardo, professor and chair of the Chicano/a Studies Department, said although women have made advancements in obtaining some administrative positions, men are still making more money.

Women are getting educated and advancing into administrative positions, but the bigger issue now is that men in the same level positions as women are still getting paid more, Pardo said.

She also agreed with Van Ummersen that women are also still expected to meet their obligations as mothers and primary caretaker, as well as fulfill the duties of their jobs, Pardo said.

But Koester said what should be emphasized is the fact that women are now given access to these positions, which is something they did not have in the past.

Although data suggests there is still not complete equity, Koester said it is important to focus on the progress that has been made.

Women still face challenges, however, such as familial responsibility, which puts more pressure and time constraints on them, Koester said.

Women are fighting their way up to these high-level positions, but improvement is still needed, Van Ummersen said.

If over 50 percent of the population is made up of women, one would expect that at least 50 percent of the country’s leaders would be women, Van Ummersen said.

Pardo said Koester is a key example of a woman who has been aware of gender issues, and is well-equipped to hold a prestigious position as university president. She said Koester is a woman with critical perspective and understanding of the university, who recognizes the issues that need to be addressed.