As last week’s International Women’s Day posts fade from front page headlines and newsfeeds, women faculty at Cornell are still striving to gain equal footing — in both representation and respect — with their male colleagues.
The assessment of inclusivity at Cornell comes just two years after the University implemented new hiring protocols to include more women and underrepresented minorities among faculty across the University.
According to Yael Levitte, associate vice provost for Faculty Development and Diversity, the protocols require that each college put in place “formal search accountability measures that actively engage the dean’s office … at the time of search initiation, when the applicant pool is reviewed, candidates are invited for on campus interviews and before an offer is made.”
The number of women faculty at Cornell has seen an increase since the 2014 protocols. According to Levitte, the number of women faculty has increased from 421 women faculty in 2010 to 536 women faculty in 2016.
“In fall 2016, 110 of the women were women of color … 60 of whom were from underrepresented minority backgrounds,” Levite said.
Because Cornell is a federal contractor, it is required by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to create an annual affirmative action plan, as stated in Cornell’s Executive Order 11246 Affirmative Action Program for Women and Minorities. According to Angela Winfield, director of workforce diversity and inclusion, the plan is meant to be more inclusive.
“In job groups where we have significant underrepresentation as defined by OFCCP regulations, we have what is called a goal, and we take proactive steps to [reach out] to women,” Winfield explained. “The outreach is a coordinated effort between a number of departments and can include Human Resources, Workforce Recruiting and Retention, Faculty Diversity and Development and the unit and college where the open position is located.”
Winfield added that the plan “includes women and is a statistical analysis by job group that highlights areas in the employment process where women are underrepresented based on availability in our geographic recruiting areas for each job group.”
The plan corresponds with the vision of Interim President Hunter Rawlings III. In his statement on affirmative action and diversity in employment at the beginning of the academic year, Rawlings noted that the “benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace accrue not only to the individuals for whom opportunities are expanded, but also to the entire University and to society at large.”
“I also reaffirm the university’s pledge to affirmative action and equal employment opportunity for all,” he said in a statement. “Cornell’s enduring commitment to diversity extends beyond adhering to applicable local, state and federal anti-discrimination laws.”
Yet, in spite of these efforts and improvement over the years, the University reports that only 32.5 percent of the 1,648 faculty members at Cornell are female.
As stated in the book History of Women at Cornell: The Myth of Equal Education, Cornell became the first coeducation school in the Ivy League in 1870, when it admitted its first female students. However, the admission of female students was limited by the construction of Sage Hall, which served as the women’s dormitory in 1872.
Early in the history of the university, female students were separated from male students in many ways, including separate entrances and lounges in buildings, a separate student government, separate drills for ROTC, separate cafeterias and separate pages in the The Sun, as stated in the book.
Though the 1970s were a transformative time for women at Cornell — with the implementation of Title IX and coeducational dormitories — it has taken several decades for the University to elevate female faculty to their male counterparts.
As misogynistic rhetoric from the Trump administration has intensified, some have begun to question whether or not women have been fairly or accurately represented on campus.
As one example of campus segregation, a Facebook cover photo of the computer science faculty featuring only Caucasian men ignited fierce debate over the discrimination that women face in computer science, The Sun previously reported.
For Prof. Yimon Aye, chemistry, this lingering segregation is detrimental to progress.
“The better way forward is to minimize segregation at any level,” she said. “As far as I know, innate human power is limitless, and that is equal between both gender[s] and regardless of where the individuals come from.”
Though the University has come a long way since its first female student, Aye admits that there is still a long way to go.
“Segregation … hinders the success of women in many instances,” she said. “Everyone should be exposed to the same level of challenges, as well as opportunities, not more and certainly not less.