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Panel adresses issues faced by women in higher education workforce

Despite gains in higher education, women in the working world still grapple with gender inequity, whether they are trying to negotiate a salary or balancing work and family, female members of Boston University’s faculty said at a panel Thursday.

The panel, which was hosted by the BU Women’s Guild at the Photonics Center, drew 100 participants. The panel gave them a chance to meet women who occupy important positions in BU’s faculty, said Anne DiNoto, the Woman’s Guild board member who organized the panel.

“Women’s issues in general are such a hot topic,” DiNoto said. “I hope [this panel] creates more networking and more support [for women], and its also a way for us to interact and hear from members of campus that we wouldn’t normally be able to hear from.”

Panelists questioned whether the progression of woman’s rights in the work place had come to a halt.

“In my industry and at my age, when you look at the pie chart of CIOs [Chief Information Officers] in higher education, there’s a sliver of women,” said panelist Tracey Schroeder, vice president of BU’s Information Services & Technology. “When I became a CIO I was 30 or 31. I was in this teeny tiny sliver of women under 40 who were CIOs.”

Erika Geetter, BU vice president and general counsel, expressed skepticism toward women earning the same compensation as men.

“I will hold out for whatever I can, but I don’t negotiate on behalf of myself,” Geetter said. “Male faculty are sometimes more successful in negotiating a salary than female faculty.”

Panelists also focused on how women can juggle excelling in their careers while keeping their family lives stable. Gillian Emmons, associate vice president and university comptroller at BU, said her work life has challenged her daughter’s perception of what a mother’s responsibilities should be.

“My daughter was convinced that she was always the last one to be picked up from day care,” she said. “During the week she would be sad, she would complain that I didn’t have a home day and her friends moms had a day at home, but when I was telling her I was going to be on this panel, she wanted me to mention to all of you that now she is very proud of that and plans on working full time.”

All four panelists said they feel a certain level of guilt when they are not working as hard as they think they should.

“Sometimes I feel like I need a crisis to feel like I’m at my best,” said panelist Carol Lovell, BU associate vice president of financial affairs. “There’s always this little guilty thing. How much is enough? Am I working hard enough?”

Because guilt was brought up so frequently during the event, Geetter clarified that guilt can sometimes work as a motivator.

“I hope we don’t feel guilty that we’ve chosen to do something different than the norm,” she said. “… I don’t want us [working women] to feel guilty about our identity, but its okay to feel guilty about your effort.”

Women who attended the event said they identified with many of the panelist’s thoughts on issues working women face.

“It was really interesting to see these four accomplished women,” said attendee Kara Peterson, marketing director at BU’s School of Public Health. “They worry about the same stuff I do, so it made me feel a little less isolated.”

Emmons said the panel was valuable because it connected a diverse group of women through a common theme.

“There are different paths that different women take to achieve their career goals,” Emmons said. “But there are common themes that come to the forefront when women speak about their paths.”

One Comment

  1. Great article Sophia. Please note the panel was administrators rather than faculty which was why it was a unique event.