June 12, 2014

Gender equity Q&A with Dean Olian.

Dean Olian responds to questions about gender equity among UCLA Anderson faculty.

Recent news reports have drawn attention to an important issue here at UCLA Anderson and other business schools:  gender equity and gender climate.  Dean Olian answers frequently asked questions on this topic while explaining the efforts that Anderson is taking to better understand and address this issue.  Further discussion on this topic is invited and encouraged.  Anderson is fully committed to being a community where everyone - women and men - feel supported and thrive.

1. Tell me about your personal reaction to reports of gender inequity among faculty.
It's deeply troubling to me. As the dean and as a woman, I take it very personally when members of our Anderson community feel disrespected, unwelcome or underrepresented. 

While I've been dean, we've made steady progress in gender representation. But obviously, numbers alone are not enough. We need to take a hard look at ourselves and ask how we can make the culture at Anderson more hospitable and supportive for women and underrepresented minorities, and for anyone who doesn't feel appreciated. 

2. Over the last few years, what progress has been made to advance gender equity among the faculty?
While we have much more work to do, there has been significant progress in advancing gender equity. We've doubled the number of female faculty, tripled the number of senior female faculty and increased female student enrollment in every one of our programs, including and especially the MBA, FEMBA and EMBA programs. We've built and funded a behavioral lab that supports research by many female faculty members. I've made it a priority to highlight award-winning and trailblazing research by our faculty, including that of our female faculty, and to feature female role models as part of the culture, whether in conferences or as part of the Dean's Distinguished Speaker Series. Three of our last eight commencement speakers have been women. 

At Anderson, one-third of the top management team - the senior associate deans and above - are women. And the vast majority of associate deans and assistant deans are women. We were one of the first, if not the first, school at UCLA to appoint an assistant dean for diversity. 

3. Were you aware of any issues with gender equity/climate at Anderson prior to the Academic Senate Report?
Yes. Shortly after I arrived in 2006, I was presented with a just-completed gender-equity task force report. It described the imbalance in numbers in the school, particularly as women advanced up the ranks, and made recommendations to remedy this problem. We've certainly made major headway on most of the recommendations, implementing eight of the 11, including increasing the number of female professors at all ranks, supporting their research, improving the climate for teaching, introducing an orientation session for all faculty and creating awareness among the faculty by distributing and discussing the report. But as we've learned, numbers alone are not enough to effect profound change, so there is much more to do. That's something that I'm very committed to addressing.

4. Do you believe female faculty are treated differently than male faculty at Anderson?
I believe every faculty member at Anderson is treated fairly and respectfully. But, what I believe about how faculty are treated is secondary to what faculty members believe themselves. If anyone has concerns about how she or he is treated, I'm determined to address it. I recognize that no group is a monolith - people differ in how they perceive their circumstances in a group or organization. I hear from some women that the environment is perceived as very supportive. Other faculty may not be as happy - because of individual circumstances, or perhaps the school's culture. I am very concerned anytime anyone is dissatisfied at work.

The late John Wooden, the revered UCLA basketball coach, used to say that you can't treat everyone equally because people are different - with different needs and talents - but you should treat everyone equally fairly. And that's what I hope for at Anderson - that we recognize differences in circumstances, support different routes to success and treat everyone equally fairly. 

5. Recent news reports have focused on the Academic Senate Report, which raised concerns about gender equity and climate. How are you responding to that report?
The Academic Senate reviews each department at the university every eight years. These reviews look at all kinds of quality metrics related to research and programs. While the report was very complimentary of Anderson on the quality of research and teaching, it raised concerns about the climate for female faculty. Even before receiving the formal report, I formed a gender climate task force. We have a year to provide substantive responses to the points raised in the report.  

6. What exactly is the charge for the gender climate task force?
The gender climate task force has been asked to do four things. The first is to analyze the hiring, promotion and pay of female faculty versus male faculty at Anderson. Second, we've asked the task force to survey the school with regard to the climate for female faculty and students, and to suggest strategies for improvement. Third is a meta-review of literature to learn best practices for enhancing the climate for women and underrepresented minorities. The fourth priority is to produce a slate of recommendations on how Anderson can make its gender climate exemplary among business schools. 

7. Are there more immediate steps that you plan to take while the gender climate task force studies this issue?
Yes. We are going to implement a detailed pay-equity study. If we find any instances of gender-based disparities in pay, we will remedy these. Second, we will conduct a faculty research series throughout the year to showcase research and create personal awareness of unconscious biases, unintended behavioral consequences of unconscious biases and best practices for culture change around diversity. Third, we will host a series of community conversations among all constituencies to determine ways to enhance the culture and climate at Anderson for everyone, including women. And fourth, when the gender climate task force offers its recommendations, we will discuss them broadly and give them utmost consideration. 

8. How does Anderson's gender equity/climate for faculty compare to other schools?
Faculty gender ratio imbalance is an issue at all business schools, not just at Anderson. That this problem is shared across business schools does not absolve us of our responsibility to address it as quickly and aggressively as possible. We owe it to everyone in our community to be better than the norm, and to not accept the status quo. That said, it's also important to understand that the pipeline for female faculty candidates is narrower than we would like, and all schools are competing for the same high-talent pool. The result across all leading business schools is that women are still in the minority.

By the way, this problem isn't restricted to faculty. Women make up around 35 percent of the typical full-time MBA class, and less in MBA programs for working professionals. A primary reason is that, unlike law and medical schools, business schools require multiple years of professional experience as a condition of admission, thus competing with women's family plans at that stage in life. So there are a lot of complex and nuanced issues we need to tackle.

9. How do you think having a low percentage of female faculty affects students?
Students - male and female - need to experience diversity in their faculty, staff and student community as a precursor to their careers, because their bosses, their regulators, their customers and their peers are going to be diverse. They are going to encounter men and women of different nationalities, ages, ethnicities and races. We need to showcase these differences in every facet of our school. That's why I go out of my way to invite a diverse group of leaders to speak at Anderson and  demonstrate that leaders come in every form and from every background.

Contact Information

UCLA Anderson Office of Media Relations, (310) 206-7707, Media.relations@anderson.ucla.edu

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