by Alison Ramsey
When two reports on employment and pay equity were tabled at Concordia in 1993, they detailed some salary differences that could not be justified by age or experience. They also gave a comprehensive action plan to correct a historic imbalance based on gender.
Affirmative action was prescribed for faculty, because numbers were lacking. A system of training, recruitment and career development was deemed necessary for staff, because numbers were high but most women had low-paying secretarial jobs.
Recommendations ranged from "surveying all groups of women every three years to monitor attitudes and services," to regular evaluations of child-care needs, to "establishing apprentice programs especially for women" in male-dominated fields.
These recommendations and dozens more were written in a climate of encouragement and restitution. Aided by provincial and federal support as well as internal commitment, improving the status of women seemed an achievable goal.
It hasn't happened. Some people are speculating why. Are there too few qualified women? Other universities seem to find suitable candidates. Concordia has 30 per cent women full-time faculty; Montreal as a whole has 36.6 per cent women faculty.
Is Concordia, as some state, in survival mode, doing what it needs to thrive without wasting precious resources on equity issues? Part-time faculty union president Maria Peluso says employment equity needs resources and money: money to advertise, recruit and train. Director of Office Equity Programs Nicole Saltiel says non-material resources such as "energy, willingness and commitment" can make an important difference.
If a qualified woman candidate presents herself along with male candidates of the same calibre, hiring the woman may come down to willingness and commitment to equity.
Peluso points to exterior barriers. Engineering, for example, has problems finding anyone -- female or male -- because its salaries can't compete with the private sector. Where there is a glut of candidates, she adds, competition becomes a problem.
Males tend to have better-looking rŽsumŽs because they are more mobile. Male-dominated maths-based disciplines tend to scoop up scholarships, thanks to corporate support and the ease of measuring success in the sciences.
Female students, who tend towards other disciplines, have more difficulty attaining top marks for scholarship qualification. Or, as Peluso puts it, "even if you're the best Japanese silk-screener, chances are you don't have an A-plus. Even Aristotle didn't give himself an A-plus."
Attitude is, perhaps, the most significant barrier -- a barrier that could become a boon.
"In times of financial restriction and budgetary constraint, an organization is confronted by its true values," Saltiel said. "The university's mission statement holds equity as a value, and these challenging financial times are a test of that commitment."
by Alison Ramsey
Some of the people interested in advancing the number of women at Concordia are discouraged and disillusioned by the lack of progress.
The current hiring spurt "presented a tremendous opportunity" to boost the number of women faculty, says Nicole Saltiel, Director of the university's Office for Equity Programs, but this potential is not being realized, for a variety of reasons.
Women accounted for 17 per cent of full-time faculty in 1981. By 1996, women comprised 29 per cent. Three years later, the picture is virtually unchanged, at 30 per cent. Of 20 new tenure and tenure-track hires in Arts and Science this academic year, six are women. Of the 19 hires last year, six were women.
"The pattern of hiring is pro-equal-opportunity, not pro- equity," Saltiel explained. "Employment equity describes programs to address discrimination in the workforce. It means more than treating everybody the same way, and requires the accommodation of differences.
"Equal-opportunity means you attempt to level the playing field. You give everyone the same opportunity to compete. Subtle things that are nevertheless well documented, such as the tendency to hire people in your own image and from the same culture, are not addressed."
The result is that tremendous gains made in the late 1980s and early 1990s are being eroded.
"There is a natural, corporate resistance at the university that mitigates against employment equity," said Maria Peluso, president of CUPFA, the Part-time Faculty Association. "In this climate of economic constraint, I see things going totally downhill."
Morton Stelcner, president of the Faculty Association, said he is "not aware" of favouring pro-equal-opportunity over pro-equity. "We ended up hiring two women in Economics, and not because they were just better than the men." The number of women teaching economics, including the new hires, is two.
Peluso said that maintaining progress is "a numbers game, and we don't have the numbers. I'm not very optimistic at all."
Since most senior administrators' appointments have recently been renewed, and Concordia is favouring internal hirings, "there's not likely to be any change soon in the ranks of the senior administration," Saltiel said.
In the 1980s, Concordia had an Office for the Status of Women, a separate Employment Equity Office, a Sexual Harassment Office, an Academic Women's Caucus, a female dean, female Secretary-General and female Vice-Rector, Academic. It has none of these now.
"Some women faculty tried very hard to revive the Academic Women's caucus, where they could discuss common issues, but that didn't go anywhere," Saltiel said. The issues that are brought to her attention are individual problems, and there is no way to detect trends without a forum for exchange.
Why strive for a 50-50 male-female split? "It makes for a culture of women feeling comfortable," Peluso said. "They become less isolated, and then you really see changes."
The Joint Employment Equity Committee reviews all recommendations prior to hiring with an eye to ensure fairness in the search, and to stay on track with increasing the number of women at Concordia.
Professor Michael Oppenheim, who chairs the committee, said he is "surprised and disappointed at the numbers. I thought it would have been 40 per cent or higher" these past two years.
He added that the committee has been rigorous in its reviews, and that he believes men are not being favoured. "I'm happy with the way the process [of hiring] is working, but 30 per cent is not satisfactory."
Saltiel said, "Ample documentation argues that when you have role models of the same gender, they are able to mentor students in a more efficient and appropriate way," noting that half of Concordia students are women. "The corporate world, for example, has to understand that there are compelling business reasons to have a diverse workforce in the service of their clientele.
"I think we have to make a concerted effort to provide mentors and role models, not only at the university level, but at every stage, including elementary school and high school. Access to all opportunities and disciplines in education will improve students' opportunities in employment."
Saltiel said she hopes that the newly constituted Rector's Advisory Board on Employment Equity will make progress towards goals expressed in the university's Employment Equity Plan of 1996.
The plan includes measures to increase representation of four groups in the workforce: women, visible minorities, First Nations, and people with disabilities. Membership on the Board comprises several senior administrators and representatives of the bargaining units.
Data obtained from CUFA, the Concordia University Faculty Association, show a steady rise in the number of women across all Faculties, from 18.3 per cent of probationary and tenured faculty in 1989-90 to 30.4 per cent in 1998-99. In the largest Faculty, Arts and Science, this rise also holds true.
The spate of retirements over the past few years was mainly of male faculty members, which helped to boost the proportion of women who remain.
The proportion of new hires is more mixed. In 1989-90, 37 per cent of the new hires across the university were women. This rose to more than 60 per cent in the early 1990s, but has dropped off to only 13.3 per cent in 1997-98 and 33.3 per cent last year. However, there weren't nearly as many new hires to count. They dipped from 46 in 1989-90 to half that number in the early 1990s before starting to climb back up in the past two years.
Hiring of women faculty in Arts and Science has varied over the decade from 29.2 per cent in 1990-91 to 75 per cent in 1997-98. The latest figures for Arts and Science (1999-2000) show a 70/30 per cent split between male and female new hires.
In terms of hiring, there is a wide variation in specific disciplines, partly due to small numbers; one new hire a year can send the gender percentages veering from 0 to 100 per cent.
The Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science remains heavily male (92.6/7.4 per cent as of last year), as does Commerce and Administration (79.3/ 20.7). Fine Arts cadre of probationary and tenured faculty in 1998-99 were 48.8 per cent male, 51.2 per cent female.
Oral history being compiled on women academics
The experiences and reflections of the "first generation" of female professors at Concordia is being documented, thanks mainly to a grant from Shell Oil.
The researchers are themselves members of the first generation: Professors Marianne Ainley, who taught women's studies here and is now at the University of Northern British Columbia; Susan Hoecker-Drysdale (Sociology), Rosemarie Schade (History) and Katherine Waters (English). Archivist Nancy Marrelli has recently joined the group.
A number of interviews have been taped with women academics here and at Loyola College and Sir George Williams University. They touch on such subjects as influences in pursing advanced higher education and in choosing a particular discipline; perceptions by predominantly male colleagues and administrators, including instances or absences of discrimination; and the challenges of combining an academic career and family responsibilities in an era that preceded paid maternity leave.
The tapes will be indexed and copies will be available in the Library and Archives. More information will be posted on the project's Web site as the work proceeds. The researchers hope that it will be open-ended, with plenty of new material added in the future. - BB
Copyright 2000 Concordia's Thursday Report.