Fostering Diversity
Penn State Intercom......June 21 , 2001

Commission for Women's
chair will be facilitator

By Julie A. Brink
Public Information Andrews_Janine03

The University's Commission for Women has made great strides duringits first 20 years, but plenty of work remains be done, according to the commission's incoming chair.

Janine Andrews, assistant manager of employee relations in the Office of Human Resources, begins her one-year term on July 1 working for a commission that began in 1981 with 18 women who had a mandate from then-University President John W. Oswald to serve as both forum and advocate for women's issues and concerns. Today the commission membership is 88 people. Of these, 43 are appointed by President Graham B. Spanier and 45 are affiliate members.

"We have unfinished business as it relates to making Penn State an institution that provides women an opportunity to become fully involved and meet all of their goals," according to Terrell Jones, vice provost for educational equality. "We need to develop voices for inclusiveness, understanding that gender has made a difference  ÝThe commission has actually made great stride in life's opportunities."

Andrews has been involved with the commission since 1997, starting as an affiliate member working on the technical services workshop, then chairing that committee in 1999. She also is involved with the Take Our Daughters to Work Day activities and the mentoring program.

Sandy Harpster, assistant director of Housing and the commission's chair-elect, is looking forward to working with Andrews.

"I've known Jeanie for several years," Harpster said. "She has a wonderful sense of humor. She's a very caring person and she's going to bring a lot of energy to the position. I know Jeanie will work hard to represent all constituencies."

"The way I see the leadership of the commission taking place is that Jeanie is going to really move staff issues ahead," said Vasundara Varadan, professor of engineering and outgoing chair. "The last two chairs have been faculty and there's always been a tendency with commission chairs that they represent their constituency, whatever that is. I really see Janine and Sandy pushing some staff issues forward, which haven't received the limelight."

Andrews sees her role as chairwoman as a facilitator, to make sure that everyone is working toward the same goals.

"As I see it," she said, "the bulk of work is done by the committees."

The new chair sees plenty of work ahead for the commission and room for improvement. "While we have broken down barriers, we need to keep doing that, to make it an ongoing thing," she said.

One of the areas the commission will need to focus on in the upcoming year is student issues and development.

"We're so focused on the employees that we forget about the students," Andrews said. Students are members of the commission.

The new chair also see's opportunities for continued development of relationships with the two other commissions -- the Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equity and the Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity, which have acted separately in the past.

"There's clearly a lot of overlap," she said, adding that her goal is for the commissions to work collaboratively with joint events and to avoid duplication of effort. "We started to do this but we need to continue and strengthen efforts."

Andrews lauded the commission for the work that it has accomplished in the past 20 years, pointing to the mentor/protege program as an example of its success. The mentor helps the protege, offers professional development advice, helps the individual build a circle of professional contacts and provides insights about the University community. Since its inception in 1999, the program has guided 70 people in the development of mentor-protege relationships. During the upcoming year, the commission anticipates having more than 20 pairs matched in the program.

"The commission actually has made great strides in starting to break down the barriers between different classifications of employees," she said. "Last year for the first time we had a technical service employee on the executive committee. We are doing things that are attracting technical service. Each constituency has these same kind of stories.

"We've been able to take a huge group of people from different backgrounds and bring them together to work toward some common goals," she continued. "I, myself, have learned a lot more about how everyone at the University works together."

Andrews said the commission has plenty to look forward to in creating an environment where it can provide supportive avenues for women, help them develop their careers, to network with like-minded women, to provide enriching opportunities for women and to celebrate what they've accomplished.

"We have really made great strides with regard to accessibility" in terms of the technical services workshop for women, the mentor program and forums and programs for faculty and staff, Andrews said, adding that the commission will continue to work to improve representation of women in the higher levels of the University as well.

"We have great support from people like (Assistant Vice President for Human Resources) Billie Willits, (Vice President and Provost) Rod Erickson, (Vice Provost for Educational Equality) Terrell Jones and President Spanier, who are cognizant of making sure search committees take into account that we have diverse pool of candidates" she said.

She said the issues women face at the University are not different from those women face in general -- balancing work and family, finding and keeping a perspective -- and she's optimistic about what working women have in store for them in the 21st century. "I think it's a very bright future," she said.

 


Julie A. Brink can be reached at jab81@psu.edu.

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