Women in leadership at Notre Dame
Richard Klee | Friday, September 13, 2013
Recently announced was the theme of this year’s Notre Dame Forum: Women in Leadership. The University’s press release anout the Forum notes relevance for the nation and the world, but its panel members and the description of the topic are not related directly to the University. This topic should be focused on Notre Dame. At Our Lady’s University, women are shamefully underrepresented in leadership.
The statistics should be provided at the outset. Among full professors at Notre Dame, according to a 2008 report, women compose 13 percent. With that said, I will focus on administrators and trustees here and discuss the underrepresentation of women among faculty and students in another column.
Among executive administrators, women number five out of 22, or 23 percent. Among deans, only two of eight are female. Among vice presidents in the Provost’s office, two out of six are female. Only 14 percent of departmental chairs, or five out of 35, are women. A woman has never been provost or executive vice president at Notre Dame. Some administrative divisions have more instances of female leaders than others. The president’s own office, for example, has women well represented. But among executives directly reporting to the executive vice president, for example, only one out of 10 is a woman.
The higher one looks at elected leadership at Notre Dame, the more poorly represented women are. Among the Board of Trustees, 15 of 50, or 30 percent, are women – the only leadership level besides the vice presidents of the provost’s office at which women compose more than a quarter of the membership. Among trustees emeriti, who may attend trustees’ meetings and serve on committees but not vote, only five of 49, or 10 percent, are female. And at the highest level, that of the Board of Fellows, but one of the 12 seats, or 8 percent of the total, is held by a woman. According to statute, six must be held by Holy Cross priests. The other six are to be held by laypersons.
For a community of priests, brothers and sisters envisioned as a family by its founder, Blessed Basil Marie Moreau, it is strange that no female religious of the Congregation of the Holy Cross are among the trustees or fellows, as there are Holy Cross priests among the trustees of St. Mary’s College. It is strange, too, that the female laity is represented as merely 17 percent of the lay fellows. The presidency of the Board, which may be held by a layperson, has always been occupied by a man.
One need only glance at Ivy League schools and well regarded state universities to find executive and elected leadership with women better represented. Harvard’s overseers have 18 women among 32 positions, or 56 percent; Princeton’s trustees are 41 percent female; five of Michigan’s eight regents, or 62 percent, are female, just to name a few.
Notre Dame should be promoting women to leadership for greater reasons than keeping up with Harvard and Michigan. To be more precise, women are proposed by the Church for leadership not because of reasons or causes. Women are qualified for leadership ipso facto as human beings, created and redeemed and loved by God, and gifted together with men by God for stewardship of the planet and the Church. The Church does not propose the advancement of women at every level of society as a fruit of peace or a flower of justice. The leadership of women is a precondition for peace, of the root and trunk, as it were, of the tree of justice.
There are many benefits envisioned by the Church for a society fully integrated with women at every level of leadership. Among them is a greater respect for human dignity. The Church has in its memory, after all, the scandal of the cross, from which the male disciples of Christ largely fled. The ones who remained to console Jesus, be sorrowful, and fulfill religious precepts regarding burial of the dead – in brief, the ones who did not flee when Jesus’ social stock plummeted, but offered acts of respect and love for his human dignity – were mostly women. The Gospel of Mark notes there were so many women present that it does not name them all. Holy women, out of repentance, mourning and grief, became the first apostles of the resurrection. It was from these women, faithful to God and to human dignity in every act at the end of Jesus’s life, that the men learned of a life unimaginably new in Christ.
At an American Catholic university where the diversity of Catholicism and America is not visible, where the “equal” proportion between students from wealthy families to those from poor families is shockingly artificial, where the spouses and children of graduate students have no affordable access to medical insurance, where the shining tradition of betting on the fighting immigrant has dimmed in recent decades, and where women are outnumbered by men in leadership three to one among officers, nine to one among full professors, and 11 to one on the Board of Fellows – the University of Notre Dame needs more leaders who see human dignity. Our Lady’s University needs more female leaders to show us new life in Christ.
Richard Klee is a doctoral candidate in theology and an undergraduate alumnus of the University of Notre Dame. He can be contacted by email at email@example.com
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.