November 6, 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 38  

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Western's hiring practices: diversity and quality?

By Kelly Marcella and Maggie Wrobel
Gazette Staff

In 1955, the notion of a woman being hired for the same job as a man was simply unheard of. Now, nearly five decades later, one can't argue we don't live in progressive times; however, has hiring really become a level playing field for women and minority groups?

There is a concerted effort on the part of the university to expand the employment base and guarantee diversity. Maintaining a diverse faculty is important, however, the key is to diversify the university's faculty and staff, while ensuring the best candidates are employed at Western.

Western's distribution shows an immense discrepancy between the number of male and female faculty members, 927 to 279 respectively with 390 males holding full professorships to only 33 females in the same position.

"I think those numbers reflect reality," says Alan Weedon, vice-provost of policy, planning and faculty. "It takes 10 to 15 years to get a full professorship after a PhD," he says, adding this number reflects the small number of female faculty 15 years ago. He explains the proportion of women at higher age groups is much smaller, [but with the incoming new hires] the numbers will flow through the system and even themselves out.

"It's a matter of time. It doesn't reflect the fact that they are not being promoted. It is a reflection that 10 to 15 years ago there weren't many females being hired," Weedon says.

"The general theme of the Strategic Plan is to increase diversity," Weedon says. "We still have as our first criteria to hire the best faculty." "It's important to have a workforce that represents our diverse society, with people from many different backgrounds and with various points of view," says Carol Agocs, a Western political science professor and author of the book Employment Equity.

"It's hard to know anything about hiring policies at Western because that information is so decentralized," Agocs adds.

According to Jennifer Schroeder, director of Western's Equity Services, the University's hiring policies correspond with federal regulations. "Western is a signatory to FCP (the Federal Government appointed Federal Contractors Program) and according to the standards of the FCP, we should have a workforce representative of the Canadian population. If we're not representative of the population, then we need to [tell the government] why we aren't," Schroeder says.

Western's Compliance Reports to the Federal Contractors Program state that women make up roughly 22.6 per cent of all full time faculty members, while between 7.9 and 13.1 per cent of full time faculty are visible minority groups. The report further states that in both categories Western's numbers have fallen slightly short of their goal.

"Sources like Western's employment equity Web site show Western is not quite meeting its goals in terms of hiring visible minorities, aboriginals and people with disabilities," Agocs explains. "There's always more that can be done, especially in terms of offering support and training." "The university has acknowledged that there are some initiatives that need to be taken regarding these measures," Schroeder says.

Weedon says that while Western's Strategic Plan sets out guidelines, administration attempts to provide incentives, especially with regards to the hiring of women. He explains that in the Senate budget documents there is a fund available to hiring units to hire people from designated groups which include women, visible minority groups and persons with disabilities. He further explains these financial incentives consist of the reimbursement of half of the new faculty member's salary to the hiring committees.

"It seems to be very effective. In the last 10 years, each year has generally consisted of 70 per cent men and 30 per cent women being hired, but last year it was around 50 per cent women," Weedon continues.

"It's important for faculty and staff to represent students in their jobs and for students to see people like themselves in these positions [because] it allows them to realize they can aspire to those positions," Agocs says.

-with files from Lorraine Forster





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