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Committee on women's status talks lactation rooms, fixed-term contracts

The committee on the status of women met Wednesday to discuss inequality and obstacles to achievement female staff and faculty members might face.

Specifically, the committee discussed lactation rooms, problems with obtaining gender statistics and how fixed-term contracts can mask inequalities in hiring decisions. 

Lactation rooms

The committee started the meeting by discussing a revised informational document advertising UNC’s ten on-campus lactation rooms.

Kelli Raker, a nonvoting consultant on the committee and coordinator for violence prevention programs, health promotion and prevention initiatives, suggested distributing paper copies of the document to staff with young children.

Raker explained that the paper-handouts would be informative in particular to staff members who may not have access to a computer.

Clare Counihan, program coordinator for the Carolina Women's Center, discussed the creation of a new feedback survey for users of the lactation rooms and lactation toolkits. 

“Now there’s a survey for people to give feedback of the toolkit as well as of lactation rooms, but one of the things that I wanted to include in both was: is there a language that this would be better, easier for you to understand in?” she said. 

Gender metrics for supporting analysis

The conversation moved to the issue of obtaining data for statistical analysis to support the committee’s actions. 

“To assess the status of women faculty across the University, we need expanded and more detailed desegregated data, which is very difficult if not impossible to obtain,” said Margot Stein, chairperson of the committee.

History professor Anne Whisnant said the committee was experiencing technical difficulties accessing faculty data. 

Whisnant said there is data, but the reporting mechanisms being utilized are not easily accessible to all of the female faculty members.

Unaddressed inequalities 

The committee discussed some ways in which inequalities among faculty may go unnoticed.

Neurology professor Ana Felix said influences on fixed-term faculty choosing not to renew their contract might lead to hostile work environments or the University being unsupportive of family situations. 

"I don’t know how that works in other places, but it would be interesting to see how. Especially since the University isn’t tracking it in the same way that they’re tracking retention for other folks,” Felix said.

Elizabeth Dickinson, a professor of management and corporate communication in the Kenan-Flagler Business School, said she sees inequality in her own department. 

“My area is the only one I think that’s predominately women, and it is the only area that does not grant tenure track,” she said.

The committee will meet again on December 3.

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