WAVE Council town hall provides progress report on current and future initiatives to support women on campus

As their first year as an established council begins, WAVE makes ripples in the Vanderbilt community by analyzing university practices surrounding women

(Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University)

(Photo courtesy Vanderbilt University)

Nathaniel Day

The Provost’s Women AdVancement and Equity (WAVE) Council held a town hall in Central Library Sept. 25. to share information about the Council’s purpose on campus. WAVE was formed in 2018 by Provost and Interim Chancellor Susan Wente and was initially known as the Provost’s Steering Committee for Initiatives Focusing on the Status of Women. In 2019, the council rebranded as WAVE. 

Led by political science professor and WAVE Council Chair Cindy Kam, it also updated attendees on the council’s goals and progress thus far and allowed Vanderbilt faculty and staff to voice their opinions and concerns. Initiatives undertaken by WAVE include compiling a report on salary equity at Vanderbilt, investigating the role of implicit bias and taking a closer look at Vanderbilt’s childcare and parental leave policies as compared to peer institutions.

One WAVE subcommittee, the Institutionalized Professional Practices Committee, has gathered information on women occupying leadership positions of Vanderbilt faculty. The subcommittee found that women appeared less often in leadership positions within Vanderbilt’s administration than men. Of the 27 Board of Trustee members, only six are female, and only two of the ten Vice Chancellors are women. While Interim Chancellor and Provost Susan Wente has set a new precedent of female leadership at Vanderbilt, the subcommittee revealed that many prominent university roles continue to be dominated by men.

WAVE was created to evaluate and study the university’s practices, culture and policies surrounding women on campus. Based on such investigation, the council is charged with making recommendations for progressive solutions and practices to ensure that all faculty members and students, regardless of gender, are able to succeed at Vanderbilt.

The WAVE Council includes representatives from each undergraduate and graduate school at Vanderbilt, along with members from various administrative departments and leaders of student associations, including VSG president Frances Burton and Graduate Student Council president Kelsea Best. The Council formed four subcommittees to represent WAVE’s four thematic pillars: Campus Climate, Compensation Equity, Institutionalized Professional Practice and Parental Leave, Childcare, & Family-Friendly Policies. 

According to its speaking representative, the Campus Climate Subcommittee is concerned with the status of women on campus related to sexual harassment and misconduct, implicit bias and micro-aggressions.

The Compensation Equity Subcommittee is charged with analyzing the distribution of salary, space and research funds to faculty and students. The subcommittee revealed plans to assess the degree of compensation equity by first commissioning a salary study conducted by an outside third party. Upon the results of this study, recommendations will be made by the subcommittee regarding data handling and analysis, potential consultants and new principles. The subcommittee’s goal is to recommend practices to avoid future compensation inequity.

The focus of the Family-Friendly Policies Subcommittee is concerned with studying how Vanderbilt may improve its family-friendly policies surrounding parental leave and childcare. Currently, the subcommittee is studying peer institution’s family-friendly policies. The subcommittee is also compiling information concerning parental leave across Vanderbilt schools and is adjusting the Vanderbilt website to communicate family-related policies more clearly. 

“We are looking forward to partnering with faculty and students to make Vanderbilt a place where truly anyone can succeed,” said WAVE Council Chair Kam.

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