Status of women report IDs improvement but also inequity

A just-completed report on the status of Iowa State women concludes that they remain underrepresented in key populations (top-level professional and scientific, tenured faculty and undergraduate students) and face unmet needs in mentoring, professional development and policies that support work-life balance. The report also concludes that many faculty, staff and students in the university community lack basic knowledge about diversity and diversity initiatives, which creates an unwelcoming environment for many in underrepresented groups – including women, ethnic minorities and LGBT.

"Status of Women at Iowa State University" (PDF), completed by a subcommittee of the University Committee on Women, builds on a 2002 report of the same name. One of the report's authors, associate professor of sociology and UCW vice chair Anastasia Prokos, said the intent was to provide a report that is helpful to university leadership – including deans and department chairs.

Diversity audit

A report on ISU's diversity programs and resources also is under review by the president.

"Our goal was to be constructive, to point out progress the university has made since 2002, in addition to making recommendations for actions that would improve the environment for women at Iowa State," Prokos said. "Leaders should be able to see trends in their units."

Prokos noted that Iowa State's entry into the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program in 2006 resulted in, among other things, more data collected about ISU women. So, while the 2002 baseline report focused largely on women faculty, the 2014 report has separate sections on women merit and P&S employees, post docs, faculty and administrators, as well as sections for women undergraduate, graduate and professional (veterinary medicine) students. Each section contains statistics, discussion of issues and recommendations for that group.

In addition to annual data collected by the institutional research and registrar's offices, the report includes information from the 2011 University Life Survey, the 2012 (American Association of Universities Data Exchange) Faculty Satisfaction Survey and a 2012 survey of women graduate students conducted by the Graduate College.

An implementation plan

President Steven Leath said he will thoroughly read and consider both this report and a diversity audit (PDF) recently completed by The Jackson Consulting Firm. Additionally, the president will appoint a working group, with representatives from each division, to study both reports, consider the recommendations and come up with a plan for implementation within the coming months.

"I appreciate the hard work of Jerlando Jackson and the University Committee on Women subcommittee," Leath said. We'll make good use of these reports as we work to strengthen the diversity and welcoming character of this university."

Improvements over 12 years

The report noted these improvements achieved since 2002:

  • The proportion of women faculty at all levels of the tenure track has increased from 
25.9 percent to 31.2 percent
  • Women now hold six of nine university dean positions. While 26 percent of department chair 
positions are held by women, they remain underrepresented in this key position which 
impacts departmental culture.
  • The proportion of women graduate students increased from 40.4 percent in 2002 to 43.6 percent 
in 2013


The report includes targeted suggestions within these four broad recommendations:

  • Improve the representation of women at Iowa State
  • Increase opportunities for mentoring, training and professional development
  • Improve work-life balance
  • Improve faculty, staff and student knowledge about diversity and diversity initiatives