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PFWF activities are overseen by a council comprised of women faculty representing all 12 schools and all ranks at Penn. The Council also serves as an advisory committee to the Office of the Provost on issues of interest to women faculty, including the development of centralized initiatives for women faculty and relevant reports to the University of Pennsylvania community.
To build a community of women scholars that enriches the university, the Penn Forum for Women Faculty:
- Advocates for policies and practices that promote equity for women faculty;
- Creates opportunities for education, professional skill-building, networking, and cross-school and cross-disciplinary interactions for women faculty;
- Provides advice to Penn’s administration on matters of significance to women faculty;
- Enhances Penn’s visibility as a welcoming community for women faculty;
- Engages with prominent women scholars and colleagues at other institutions to identify best practices for enhancing opportunities for women faculty;
- Develops initiatives and programming to share with women faculty nationwide.
The Forum was conceived and developed by women faculty across all twelve schools at Penn, with support from the Office of the Provost and the Trustees' Council of Penn Women.
A recent history of advances for women faculty at Penn begins with five women—Phoebe Leboy, Helen Davies, Madeleine Joullie, Phyllis Rackin, and Mildred Cohn.
As part of a committee chaired by Cohn in 1969, they recognized severe gender disparities throughout the university. Such disparities prompted the release of the Cohn Report revealing that only 7% of faculty members were women and 14 departments had no female faculty. After the University failed to respond to the report, the women formed Women for Equal Opportunity at the University of Pennsylvania (WEOUP). The organization was committed to equality in campus life and became the voice of the women’s activist community. WEOUP helped develop the Women’s Studies Program, and, in response to a series of on campus rapes in 1973, organized a sit-‐‑in at College Hall that led to improved security measures and the creation of the Penn Women’s Center.
These women acted as a catalyst for many of the advances that women faculty enjoy today. In June 2000, Provost Robert Barchi and Faculty Senate Chair Larry Gross established the Gender Equity Committee to evaluate the status of women faculty at Penn. The committee released the first annual Gender Equity Report on December 4, 2001, which led to the creation of the Senate Committee on Faculty Development, Diversity and Equity. As the name suggests, this committee addresses issues relevant to women faculty and minority faculty, with a focus on the creation of mentorship programs for all junior faculty across the university.
Another organization called the Association of Women Faculty and Administrators (AWFA) was founded in 1948 and changed its name to Penn Professional Women’s Network in 2004. While no longer active, its charge was to address the needs of both female faculty and administrators across the university. In recent years, however, it has become clearer that the needs of women faculty differ from those of women administrators.
In order to address diverging interests and the disparity between the number of male and female faculty across the university, a few women faculty members began a discussion with Provost Vincent Price to find a way to address these issues. In 2009, the Penn Forum for Women Faculty was realized, and in February 2010, it hosted the first annual Celebration of Women Faculty.
Updated: February 26, 2019
To build a community of women scholars that enriches the University of Pennsylvania by:
- Advocating for policies and practices that promote equity for women faculty
- Creating opportunities for education, professional skills building, networking, and cross-school and cross-disciplinary interactions for women faculty
- Providing advice to Penn’s administration on matters of significance to women faculty Enhancing Penn’s visibility as a welcoming community for women faculty
- Engaging with prominent women scholars and colleagues at other institutions to identify best practices for enhancing opportunities for women faculty
- Developing initiatives and programming for sharing with women faculty nationwide
All women Standing Faculty (Tenure Track and Clinician Educator) within Penn’s twelve schools are eligible to participate in the Forum.
A Council of women in the Standing Faculty, representing all 12 schools, and all ranks, will be responsible for strategic planning and development of activities and programs, and the creation of informal alliances and relationships with women faculty at other institutions. Council shall also serve as an advisory committee to the Office of the Provost on issues of interest to women faculty, including the development of centralized initiatives for women faculty and reports to the University of Pennsylvania community (e.g. Gender Equity Report, Diversity Action Plan Report).
Every year, the Council will elect one member (at Associate Professor or Professor rank) to serve as Chair-Elect of the Faculty Forum; the former Chair-Elect shall begin a 1-year term as Chair, and the immediately preceding Chair shall then begin a 1-year term as Past-Chair. The Chair is responsible for overseeing the daily Council activities with administrative assistance, leading the Council meetings, and forming sub-committees. The Chair-Elect serves as an ex officio member of the sub-committees for Communication and Programming, is responsible for integrating activities of the committees and assisting the Chair in overseeing the continuing and periodic Forum activities. The Past-Chair serves in an advisory role to both the Chair and Chair-Elect, substituting for either as needed.
Council members will be nominated (e.g. by self, Deans, Forum members), vetted by the PFWF leadership, elected by Council members, and can serve up to six years.
Members wishing to serve for longer than six years may be appointed as members-at-large, at the nomination of the Chair and Chair-Elect. Their membership on the Council will be confirmed each year by PFWF leadership.