When Elis select their course schedules for the spring semester, they are almost twice as likely to find classes with a male professor than with a female one.

On Saturday afternoon, 350 female alumni, faculty and students gathered at the Gender Rules conference to discuss the implications of male-dominated academic leadership. Hosted by YaleWomen and the Yale Women Faculty Forum, the annual conference included a series of panels and dialogues held throughout at the School of Management. While attendees were impressed by the conference, many highlighted persistent challenges women face in academia.

“Getting a room full of women that care about gender issues is great, but that by itself is never going to move the needle,” said chair of YaleWomen Laura Grondin ’85.

Abigail Emerson ’14, the postgraduate associate at WFF who coordinated the event, said there were many public conversations about inequity and gender diversity during her time at Yale. However, these debates almost always reflected the views of just the student body, she said.

But the conference, she said, allowed for the incorporation of faculty perspectives.

“[The conference] allows for this group of informed and passionate people to come together and talk in a really productive and honest way about this difficult topic,” Emerson said.

Even though only 35 percent of the University’s faculty is female, Yale has a more gender-balanced faculty than its peer institutions. At Princeton, only 33 percent of the faculty are women, and at Harvard, that figure falls to 28 percent.

Still, Catherine Harmer ’15, a physics major, said that the difference between the number of male and female faculty is quite visible at the Yale. She added that the disparity directly impacted her undergraduate experience in STEM fields.

“Although I’ve had an overall positive experience as a female student in physics, the under-representation of female professors in class and research settings made it harder for me to feel confident,” Harmer said. “[The under-representation] has made me wary of pursuing a PhD in the physical sciences because I want to work in an environment where the voices of women and men are equally represented.”

In the 2014-15 academic year, Yale only employed 18 female tenured faculty within the physical sciences compared to 123 tenured male faculty members.

Alumni, graduate students and faculty who attended the event said they were drawn to the Gender Rules conference because the energy of the panelists and attendees inspired and empowered them.

“We share a certain level of curiosity and intellectual intensity about gender issues,” Nancy Alexander ’79 SOM ’84 said. “We are not just having superficial conversation.”

Carol Chiodo GRD ’14, who received her degree in Italian language and literature, said gender diversity is not as big a problem in the humanities as it is in the sciences. However, she added that leadership positions in humanities-related fields are still disproportionately occupied by men.

Panels on Saturday included “Educating Women Who Can Change the World” and “A System of Law: Gender and Equal Rights,” and featured speakers such as Kimberly Goff-Crews, University secretary and vice president for student life; Teresa Younger, CEO and president of Ms. Foundation for Women; and Mary Miller, former dean of Yale College.

 

Tasnim Elboute contributed reporting.