Janet Dukerich

Janet Dukerich, senior vice pro-vost for faculty affairs, is the head of the University Gender Equity Council. The council was created to combat issues related to gender inequality at UT.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

In an effort to combat gender inequality in UT's faculty, University Gender Equity Council, a committee formed by the University administration to research the issue, began meeting in early October.

The council, which consists of at least one faculty representative from each college or school at UT, met to discuss and advance gender equity efforts on campus. In 2013, the University employed 784 male full professors compared to 230 female full professors, according to data from the University’s Institutional Reporting, Research, and Information Systems.

Janet Dukerich, senior vice provost for faculty affairs and head of the council, said the 25 council members split up at the first meeting into three separate subcommittees to tackle different issues relating to gender inequality at UT: family and health, employment and climate.

“Each of these standing committees, over the next year, will meet regularly and gather data in terms of what’s going on at the University, in the colleges, in the departments,” Dukerich said. “And then [they will] make recommendations to the provost in terms of where we can make improvements.”

This is not the first time the University has looked into the issue of gender inequality. In 2007, Steven Leslie, the executive vice president and provost at the time, established the Gender Equity Task Force to research faculty gender inequality issues on campus and provide recommendations for improvement. The task force published its findings in 2008 and cited promotional lags and salary gaps between male and female professors.

Dukerich said the state of faculty and administration gender issues have improved at the University since 2008 but more growth is still needed. For instance, the report called for an increase in the number of child care centers available on campus to help faculty and administrators balance their family and professional lives. Since the report was released six years ago, there still remain only two child care centers on the University campus.

“Space is such a premium here,” Dukerich said. “The committee on family and health said that is one of the areas they want to work on. I think [the report] really raised awareness that these are issues we have to continually monitor and work on.”

Other issues highlighted in the 2008 report include concerns involving harassment and discrimination, attitudes about family-friendly policies, opportunities for administrative leadership and the sense of isolation among senior women.

Engineering lecturer Hillary Hart, member of the climate subcommittee, said this year’s council would survey faculty and administration to determine which further actions should be taken to improve issues surrounding gender equity on campus.

“The climate issues are harder to attack because the data is more qualitative and more anecdotal, so we’re trying to figure out how we’re going to do this,” Hart said.

Natasha Beretvas, educational psychology professor and member of the subcommittee on employment, said the employment committee would likely focus on faculty recruiting, salaries, start-up packages, endowments, promotions and spousal hires.

“It is very early in our deliberation process,” Beretvas said in an email. “We will endeavor to find relevant data to investigate how we are doing as a university in terms of equitable employment practices at various levels. All committees include highly qualified quantitative and qualitative data analysts and researchers, so that should help ensure alignment of research questions with the analyses conducted.”

Dukerich said as the University becomes more equitable, it must also remember that it is competing against other colleges in the nation in terms of providing supportive environments and equal opportunities across genders.

“We have to continually ask ourselves what we could be doing better, and that’s what I’ve charged this gender equity council with,” Dukerich said.

For couples in academia, finding a job is often a familial balancing act.  

As a result, universities can negotiate faculty or staff positions for partners of existing or recruited faculty members as a means of being competitive among peer schools. 

A document obtained by The Daily Texan shows that from August 2008 to June 2014, the University hired 58 dual-career couples. 

UT created an official policy regarding dual hires in 1995, according to William Beckner, Faculty Council chair and mathematics professor. Now, spousal hiring is primarily used for recruiting faculty.

While dual hiring is an important aspect of recruiting faculty, Janet Dukerich, senior vice provost for faculty affairs and management professor, said hires are only successful if the second partner meets the needs of the department in which he or she is seeking employment.

“We’re not going to hire somebody who’s not going to meet the requirements of what we would want for the initial hire,” Dukerich said. “These have to be opportunities, and, oftentimes, they are.”

Dukerich said each department handles individual hires differently, but, in couple hiring situations, both the initial hire’s department and the department of the secondary hire contribute funds to accommodate the second partner. When each partner is being hired into a different department or college, the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost is often financially involved as well.

Couple hiring policies are applied to gay and lesbian couples. The University does not require couples to be legally married in order to benefit from a spousal hire, according to Dukerich.

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said the University does not have a specific budget allocated for dual hires, but they identify resources as needed. 

More than half of the dual-hires listed in the aforementioned document were made in the College of Liberal Arts. David Ochsner, College of Liberal Arts spokesman, said couple hiring usually creates a win-win situation.

“We get some of our best faculty, some of our best teachers and researchers, through these partner hires,” Ochsner said. “We see it as a plus when we bring in a faculty member we’re seeking and they bring in a partner who further enhances our college and our ability to teach and do research.”

According to a Stanford University report, 36 percent of full-time academics with employed partners have a spouse who is also a professor.

One such case is Andrea Gore, pharmacy and psychology professor. She left her faculty position at Mount Sinai School of Medicine to join her husband, a professor in the College of Natural Sciences. Gore and her husband commuted between Austin and New York City for five years before she secured a position in the College of Pharmacy through the couple hiring system.

“There are always personal issues when you have a dual-academic couple kind of relationship,” Gore said. “I think there is an automatic inferiority complex that comes along with being the spouse — even if you are incredibly competent.”

Gore said these feelings of inadequacy are more commonly dealt with by women whose partners are the initial hire. 

“It really is a women’s career issue,” Gore said. “I think things will change when it becomes more and more common and when it happens that the woman is the initial hire and the man is secondary. That will help dignify the position a little bit more.”

From an employer’s perspective, Gore said it’s important to seek input from other faculty when it comes to hiring partners. 

“If [faculty] are left out, that will also engender that sense of inequality of the spouse, even if it’s not intended,” Gore said. “If there’s an enthusiastic embracing of the person, then that goes a very long way toward doing away with that insecurity that you might otherwise have when you come to a new position as a spouse.”

According to Gore, partners of existing or recruited faculty also tend to be doubtful of the conditions under which they were hired and the fairness of the deal because of the informal nature of the dual-hiring process.

“Having at least some general guidelines would be helpful both to the department who’s hiring people as well as to the people who are being hired, as far as making it feel fair,” Gore said. 

David Bell, former dean of faculty for the arts and sciences school at Johns Hopkins University, said there are certain inequities in the way couple hires are typically handled. Bell wrote an editorial in The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2010 that addressed a lack of formal policies regarding spousal hiring. It is not unusual for universities to grant more leeway in terms of couple hiring to the more experienced and prestigious faculty they recruit, according to Bell, who is now a history professor at Princeton University. 

“There’s a free market in labor, and, the reality is, certain people will command more perceived value in the academic labor market than others, and often one of the conditions they will lay down, if they’re going to take a job, is for their spouse to be hired,” Bell said.  

Younger professors, who are more likely to have young children, tend to gain less from the dual-hire system than more established professors do, Bell said. 

“Superstar faculty are going to often have children who are raised. They are wealthier; they are more easily able to handle a long-distance commute,” Bell said. “I think universities need to be cognizant of this and try to avoid simply bending over backwards for the superstars and telling everybody else, ‘too bad.’”

Bell said universities should also be wary of policies, even if informal, that are too accommodating or give the impression that a faculty’s partner has a right to a position. Despite its trade-offs, Bell said universities typically view dual-career hiring as an advantage for both the faculty and the departments into which they’re hired.

“You cannot hire people who are not qualified for the job, but there’s a big difference between hiring someone who is qualified for the job and hiring the person you think is best for the job,” Bell said.