Wednesday, April 09, 2008

MAU co-founder Juliana Forbes at Ohio State this month.

From The Lantern.

Women's Place fights for gender equality

Michelle Fehribach
Issue date: 4/8/08 Section: Campus

Only about 30 percent of Ohio State's faculty in 2006 were women, while 66 percent of graduate and 49 percent of undergraduate students were women.

"We listed the number of female students compared to female faculty. In general, that ratio is quite a bit lower than the ratio of male students to male faculty," said Deb Ballam, director of The Women's Place.

TWP is a small organization working to change those numbers and create an environment of equality in which women can thrive and fill leadership roles.

"The main mission we look at is this institutional change mission. To change the climate so that all women - faculty, staff and students - can be successful at the university," Ballam said.

TWP was established in 1999 and was created to be different from other resources on campus.

"When the office was set up we did not want to duplicate existing efforts," Ballam said.

There are only two other universities in the country Ballam knows of with offices similar to TWP - the University of Michigan and Oregon State University. TWP works with other offices to change policies such as the consensual sexual relations policy, which clarified the dynamics of romantic relationships between faculty and students.

"It was a controversial topic that went through almost a year of debate before it was changed, but it educated a lot of people and resulted in better policy," Ballam said.

One of the guiding principles of TWP is to address stereotypes that affect men and women.

"Anything we do to change the institutional culture to support women will also make a better culture for men. I do truly believe that," Ballam said.

Every October, TWP and the President's Council on Women publish a "Status Report on Women," profiling the diversity of the faculty, staff and student body while highlighting one particular issue each year.

Last year's report focused on stereotypes faced by members of the OSU community such as race, sexual orientation and gender.

"I would not have guessed you were from Appalachia because you speak so well," is one of the prejudiced statements found in the report.

TWP also works with other offices to bring speakers to OSU to talk about what changes need to be made, Ballam said.

Juliana Forbes, the communications director of Mothers Acting Up, will be at OSU April 22 and Wilma Mankiller, the first Deputy Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, is coming May 15.

"Individual services and programming are not offered, but TWP never turns students away," Ballam said.

TWP directs students to the appropriate office and often collaborates with resources such as Women's Student Services, the Multicultural Center and Counseling and Consultation Services, Ballam said.

Michelle Fehribach can be reached at