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Baylor Hosts Women In the Academy Conference

April 12, 2013

To the casual observer looking at the university system women's academic liberation might appear to be fully realized. At Baylor, for example, the undergraduate population is 58% female, on par with the national average of female undergraduate students. Women also earn their share of post-graduate degrees including 59% of master's degrees and nearly half of all doctoral degrees.

WITA logo

Why then do women only compose a quarter of university professors? Why are women even more underrepresented in the top jobs like university presidents and provosts? Where are women falling out of the academic pipeline? And how can we fix this problem?

These questions will be asked at Baylor this weekend. The Graduate School, in conjunction with Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA), will present the fourth annual Women in the Academy Conference on Saturday, April 13th.

The Women in the Academy (WITA) program and conference began after the suggestion of a female graduate student who recognized the different needs of female students and faculty on campus have. In the years that have followed, WITA has continued to develop in scope.

Baylor's Dr. Laine Scales, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Kaitlyn Rothaus, a Baylor HESA graduate student have worked hard to ensure the continued success and growth of the program. A lot of that has to do with understanding that being a grad student is often only one aspect of a person's life.

"Administrators try to be mindful of the fact that graduate students have needs and they do have personal lives," Dr. Scale states. "We need to invest in them as whole people."

Under the leadership of Scales and graduate dean Larry Lyon, Baylor has developed a number of student support programs including family leave, stipend adjustments, and informational sessions like "Life on the Grad Line." While many of these programs benefit all, several are intentionally focused on the needs of women.

Academic women face similar obstacles to women in all other professions. Lifestyle choices like marriage, children, and household work affect a woman's role in a university. Women between the age of 30-50 reported spending fifteen more hours a week devoted to professional, care-giving, and household responsibilities than did their male counterparts.

One thing Scales has learned is that being a professional and being a wife and mother takes some careful planning.

"It is important for both men and women to think very intentionally about their personal life and their work life," she says. "Balance is important for everybody."

Baylor has been at the forefront in expanding the opportunities for women in the university. Baylor is one of the few Baptist institutions to have a female provost, Elizabeth Davis. Davis also serves as Executive Vice President.

This year's Women in the Academy program seeks to support students in all areas of their lives. Conference discussion topics will include building and sustaining meaningful mentoring relationships, increasing diversity in female leadership within the academy, and tips on how students and faculty can more successfully integrate their personal and professional objectives.

"It is important for female graduate students to realize they are going to have to work at in terms of figuring out a balance," say Rothaus. "Things like having a mentor, attending the conference, and finding positive role models are all really important."

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