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The Women’s Place highlights Ohio State’s struggle toward gender equity in annual event

Jennifer Beard, Director of the Women’s Place speaks during its annual reception. Credit: Joe Thompson | Lantern reporter

The Women’s Place, a group of faculty and university leaders, held its annual reception Tuesday to honor women in positions of power at Ohio State, as while also highlighting areas of gender inequity at the university.

“OSU women are amazing. We work really hard. And yet, we always take a moment to congratulate another woman who has a success,” said Clara Lee, a surgeon at the Wexner Medical Center and the event speaker. “We hear stories in the media — really bad stories of harassment — and we experience them too, and yet, we come back to work even more determined to succeed. We work at Ohio State University, which has challenges, but we see opportunity.”

The night opened with an address from Jennifer Beard, director of The Women’s Place. In her address, she congratulated newly hired and promoted women at the university, many of whom were in attendance.

“We are grateful and excited for the progress that we’re seeing for the women here at the university,” Beard said. “However, and unfortunately there is a ‘but:’ scholarship has constantly shown that racial and ethnic diversity has both direct and indirect positive effects on the educational outcomes and experiences of students, which is of course, why we’re all here.”

She said scholarship is an area for growth at Ohio State, specifically for minority students.

Beard went on to highlight university demographic statistics. She said women constitute 43.14 percent of total tenure female hires at Ohio State and 49.38 percent of total clinical female hires from 2013 to 2017.

University Executive Vice President and Provost McPheron and The Women’s Place director Jennifer Beard with reception attendees. Credit: Joe Thompson | Lantern reporter

However, she said the percentage of women of color has increased at a slower rate since 1999, adding African-American women making up 1.8 percent of all faculty, Hispanic women 1.55 percent and American-Indian women 0.74 percent.

Beard listed ways The Women’s Place and university administration plan to curb demographic disparities. She said university leaders want to “practice an evidence-based approach and focus on maintaining a culture where women and all members of [the] community, including those who are underrepresented, can thrive and make their full contributions.”

She said current initiatives include mentoring programs, fair-hiring-practice education and the newly launched Advocates and Allies for Equity, a network designed to make men aware of implicit bias, male privilege and gender equity, to make them become better allies.

The reception promoted peer-education programs like the advocacy network as the next steps toward gender equity at Ohio State.

“In a big university like ours, you don’t have a chance to meet people across the campus that much and so The Women’s Place provides that for women,” said Helene Cweren, a program manager for the College of Public Health.

While the reception focused largely on faculty and staff, a tie to Ohio State students was present.

University Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce McPheron speaks at The Women’s Place reception. Credit: Joe Thompson | Lantern reporter

“The undergraduate student experience really is a manifestation of the faculty and staff that surround them. And we know that we need to do a better job of sort of matching what role models students have among the faculty and staff,” said Bruce McPheron, the university executive vice president and provost.

Drawing on personal experience, McPheron said different perspectives at the university are important in securing a more diverse student and faculty population. He said his experience as a STEP mentor allows for him to discuss issues stemming from representation at the university.

“Talking to members of my cohort, they talk about how different, even after a year, they think about problems than before they came into the university,” McPheron said. “Much of that is just being exposed to that different way of thinking and ensuring that we have great balance between men and women on our faculty staff.”

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