Reginald Murphy College Case Study: Gender Equity Issues
Reginald Murphy College (RMC), located in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, enrolls 16, 000 undergraduate and graduate students and employs just over 4,000 faculty and staff. At this competitive institution, renowned for a beautiful campus and exceptional facilities, the curriculum emphasizes the liberal arts. The college also offers a number of professional programs.
Among the distinctive features of RMC is the particular emphasis on creating a congenial and collaborative learning environment. The college explicitly recognizes the institution’s commitment to collaboration, collegiality and respect in its slogan “Reginald Murphy College… Where collaboration, collegiality and respect for others are core values” The slogan is posted on the RMC website and in prominent locations in many buildings.
Consistent with these values, welcoming activities for students and for faculty and staff are extensive. The college has a number of residential learning communities where collaborative learning is emphasized. Within student affairs and campus life, the RMC ideals are also a conscious focus of attention.
Faculty “collegiality” is a familiar concept in describing ideals of faculty life, and “collaboration” is often mentioned in position descriptions for staff. Moreover, service to the RMC college community is a highly valued and recognized component of appointment and promotion reviews for all employees.
You serve as vice president of administration and finance. Five associate vice presidents report directly to you and serve as members of your senior leadership team—Rich Jerow, Toni Brown, Jane Martinez, Marvin Rice, and Gerry Watson. Each associate vice president has from two to four directors reporting to them.
You’ve worked at RMC for 26 years, and you’ve never seriously considered leaving. You enjoy your job and the people you work with. Your leadership team, particularly, is a source of great pride and pleasure for you. You’ve worked to build a strong and collaborative team and have tried to encourage social bonding as well as collaborative work relationships among members of the group.
Creating a welcoming and respectful environment for all staff has always been a personal and professional goal for you, and you take pride in having achieved that climate in your administrative area. You make an effort to be explicit about your commitment to the institution’s core values, are confident that your views on this topic are well known to the five associate vice presidents and others in the division, and have a personal commitment to “walking the talk.”
Last week, one of the direct reports and a long‐time friend, Gerry Watson, came to you to share parts of a conversation he had had over coffee with a highly regarded senior director who reports to a member the leadership team. Gerry tells you that the individual is a female and has worked in the division for less than five years, a profile which could describe a number of employees. He says he’ll refer to her by the fictitious name, “Jane” to honor her request for confidentiality.
Gerry explains that during the course of the conversation, Jane asked about the seriousness of the commitment to diversity issues especially as it relates to women within the Administration and Finance area.
Jane’s perception is that women in the Administration and Finance division are generally not treated in the same way as men in hiring and promotion decisions, or with regard to professional development, and she made reference to the departure of several women with great potential for more advanced positions elsewhere.
She explained that she also saw numerous gender inequities and insensitivities in day‐to‐day work practices such as a preoccupation with sports in the workplace. She referred to frequent conversations about the outcomes of sporting events, common use of sports analogies in meetings, the annual divisional softball game, and occasional afternoon golf outings, all of which are primarily “men’s events.” She also noted the fact that informal meetings are often scheduled before the beginning of the work day at times when women with families typically find it difficult to attend.
Jane also thinks that men speak considerably more and for longer periods of time in meetings than women, and she believes this is because men are more likely to be asked for their opinions and more likely to have their perspectives and suggestions taken seriously by senior leaders. Additionally, she commented on the nonverbal communication during meetings, sharing her observation that men, regardless of their roles, are far more likely to position themselves at the head of conference tables or in other positions of prominence in meetings.
The director’s view is that the marginalization of women she described is probably not intentional or conscious, but it’s troublesome nonetheless. She concluded her comments by noting how ironic it is that these problems would be prevalent at RMC and in this division given the ideals and philosophies of the institution and its leaders. For women, she said, “the rhetoric and reality simply don’t seem to match
Knowing your feelings about the importance of these topics, Gerry felt you would want him to share Jane’s concerns with you. You are stunned by what you hear. You ask Gerry for his take on the situation. He indicated that he hadn’t really thought previously about the issues the director had shared with him, but that she seemed very genuine and thoughtful in her comments. She obviously was frustrated, but seemed to be sharing her views more as observations on the contradictions she observed in the division than out of anger or personal resentment.
You thank him for the bringing these issues to your attention, and indicate that you need to give these concerns some thought.
As the vice president of administration and finance briefly summarize the case and prepare a report on the following criteria:
- What do you see as the problem, or problems, here?
- Analyze different perspectives you should follow in moving forward on understanding the Problem.
- Generate and Select the best Solution(s) and course of actions.