Three years ago, state Senator Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) requested an audit to determine if the University of California’s hiring policies adversely affect employment opportunities for women.

The audit determined that a significant disparity existed between the percentage of women doctorates nationwide, 49 percent in 2002, and the percentage of female professors being hired by the UC. Since the findings were announced, the percentage of women faculty hires throughout the UC system increased from 25 percent in 1999-2000 to 31 percent in 2001-02. In that time, all but two of the eight traditional UC campuses increased the percentage of women faculty hired.

One the two universities that did not is UCSB. In 2001-02, 28 percent of new faculty hires at UCSB were women, down from 32 percent the previous two years after a peak of 41 percent in 1993-94. However, Chancellor Henry Yang said the statistics were improving as the percentage of women faculty hired for 2002-03 was 40 percent.

Gender equity in hiring became a problem for the UC when the percentage of women hired steadily declined for three years following Proposition 209, which repealed affirmative action in California in 1996. With UC student enrollment expected to increase by 50 percent before 2010, the University estimates it will need to more than double its current faculty, from 6,400 currently to 13,000 in 2010.

“Given that faculty members remain at an academic institution for the majority of their professional life, UC’s 7,000 hiring decisions will impact its academic environment for the next 30 to 50 years,” Speier said.

Senator Speier, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Government Oversight, held a hearing in January 2001 to gather information to assist the auditors, who then reported their findings in May 2001. The audit found specific aspects of UC hiring practices that reduced the chances of women faculty being hired, including the use of predominantly male search committees and hiring at the senior level.

Subsequent hearings in March 2002 and February 2003 found significant improvement at some campuses, most notably Berkeley and Davis.

Davis raised its percentage of women faculty hired from 26 percent in 1999-2000 to 42 percent in 2001-02. Davis Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef wrote in an e-mail that his school has been aiming for 80 percent of its hires to be at the junior, or assistant professor, level. The pool of potential hires at the junior level has far more women available for hire. The UC has traditionally made 60 percent of its hires at the junior level.

Susan Koshy, professor of Asian American studies, said the issue of availability has affected UCSB’s hiring numbers in multiple ways.

“Though the fact is that the pool of women candidates is smaller in the fields of physical sciences, mathematics and life sciences, the hiring is still often below the availability of women Ph.D.s and postdoctoral scholars,” she said.

UC President Richard Atkinson wrote in an e-mail that the availability of women Ph.D.s in certain fields is “one of the reasons why campuses that have a heavier concentration in the humanities – like UC Santa Cruz – tend to do better in terms of faculty gender equity.”

Forty-five percent of new Santa Cruz faculty hires in 2001-02 were women.

UCSB administrators have plans to improve further upon the 8 percent increase since last year. In a memo to all campus deans, provosts, department chairs and Academic Senate faculty, Acting Executive Vice Chancellor Gene Lucas outlined several plans to make UCSB more attractive to female employees, including improved policies with regard to childbearing. Faculty seeking childbearing leave previously had to apply to their individual departments, who then had to foot the bill.

In his testimony at the February 2003 hearing, President Atkinson said, “When departments are required to pay for family-related teaching release time out of their own budgets, this is a burden for small departments and departments with larger numbers of women faculty.”

Under the new program, central campus funding will be set aside to provide one quarter of paid childbearing leave and one additional quarter of active service with modified duties for new parents of a single child (two quarters for multiple births).

“With the new program, people are less intimidated to ask for leave,” acting Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Policy Maria Herrera-Sobek said. “If the department had to pay, people might be reluctant or afraid it would reflect badly on their careers.”

Herrera-Sobek said the UC-wide Faculty Enrichment Program has enjoyed more success at UCSB than any other campus. UCSB has hired five postdoctoral fellows and five researchers in gender and ethnic fields. Herrera-Sobek said she and Lucas would make a presentation May 14 at the Office of the President to other chancellors outlining how to successfully implement FEP.

Koshy said it was “good news” that Atkinson, Yang and Lucas were all “on board on promoting gender equity and diversity.”

“UCSB has taken some steps to address the problem,” she said, “but the numbers still need to move up.”