Editorial: Inauguration of UA President Hart just first step
Given that a majority of all college students now are women — a trend reflected at the UA, where 52 percent of all students enrolled are female — it is easy to take equal educational opportunities for granted.
But the inauguration of Ann Weaver Hart, the first woman president in the UA’s 127-year history, shows progress cannot be allowed to stagnate.
It’s obvious that more women have been enrolling in college and pursuing four-year degrees. Nationally, women made up 57 percent of undergraduate students in fall 2009, and 59 percent of graduate enrollment, according to National Center for Education statistics.
But the rise in the number of female students enrolled in college ought to raise the question: Where are their role models and mentors?
The first woman to become president of a major research university was Lorene L. Rogers, who took the helm at the University of Texas in 1975. But women in higher education still lag.
At the UA, there are 1,055 male tenure track faculty members, compared to just 505 female tenure track professors.
Nationwide, female professors, on average, earn about four-fifths as much as their male counterparts, according to statistics compiled by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
Furthermore, though more women have made gains in historically male-dominated fields like medicine and law, they lag in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields — disciplines where the UA has much to offer.
Hart is a pioneer. Her achievements at the UA and at Temple University in Philadelphia, where she was also the university’s first female president, demonstrate how much women can do in higher education. Still, the UA must make a commitment to furthering the progress that Hart’s generation has made for gender equity in education.
Students and faculty should be aware of the threat stereotypes may pose to female student recruitment and retention, particularly in science and technology fields.
Additionally, attracting and retaining female faculty ought to be clearly named a priority to administrators at the UA and elsewhere. Female college students need role models and mentors who relate to them and can demonstrate where their potential may take them.
Earlier this month, the Women’s Studies Advisory Council hosted the 16th annual Women Who Lead reception, where Hart was honored with an award and an engraving of her name in the Women’s Plaza of Honor.
“I’m tremendously honored to be here,” Hart said at the event. “I’ve been the first woman president in other positions, so for me, it’s ‘you’re the president,’ and you just move in and get your work done.”
But that kind of attitude is what lays the foundation for the next generation of women.
Hart’s inauguration is a solid first step. But there’s still work to be done.
— Editorials are determined by the Arizona Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Bethany Barnes, Kristina Bui, Jason Krell and Alex Williams. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions.