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President Corey leads conversation on women

Presidential conversation discusses gender fairness in the workplace.   |   Chak Hee Lo/THE CHIMES

 

Calvary Chapel filled with staff, faculty and students on March 31 as President Barry Corey reflected on advancements taking place in the workforce that support female staff and faculty at Biola.

Supporting female staff and faculty

The afternoon began with Corey, followed by a panel of six female faculty and students, and closed with provost and senior vice president Deborah Taylor.

Corey began the afternoon by sharing about the investigation conducted by president of Houghton College Shirley Mullen on gender fairness in the workplace at Biola. Mullen discovered there remain few women in top administrative positions, important decisions were made without the input of women, women were not being included in important conversations and there was a social segregation between men and women.

A growing awareness

Other advancements taking place at Biola include the Female Faculty Leadership Development Initiative where women learn leadership skills and the new blog, GRIT — an acronym for gifting, resilience, insight and tenacity —  that supports women. Corey reminded the audience that though women have at times been repressed in the workforce at Biola, there remains a tradition of strong women, mentioning female pioneers like Leonie Soubirou who founded a medical missionary program and others.

“We’re trying to make sure others, who may have maybe a narrower vision of what the issues are, be more aware and this is one way in which we’re doing that,” Corey said. “Every voice was so positive, so optimistic that we can do better.”

Panel members included associate professor of biblical and theological studies Michelle Lee-Barnewall, assistant professor of communications studies Dorothy Alston Calley, associate dean of residence life and student care Sandy Hough, associate professor of sociology LaDawn Johnson, Student Government Association president and senior biblical studies and business major Jess Snow and professor of Christian ministry and leadership Judy TenElshof, and it was moderated by chair of the department of communication studies Joy Qualls.

Appreciating diversity

Women on the panel shared stories of past struggles they experienced at Biola but also mentioned how progressive Biola has been recently. One of the main points included learning how to understand and appreciate someone from a different culture, gender, race and so on.

“Learn how to love at least one person on campus that’s very different from yourself,” TenElshof said.  

As Taylor closed the event, she shared that Biola recently removed the required spousal interviews during the hiring process.

“We were starting to hear from some women that it made them feel uncomfortable, especially if they were single, because then it made them feel like, ‘Oh, Biola has a culture that they want married people because they want a spouse to be there,’” Taylor said.

The gender climate assessment scheduled to begin this spring was rescheduled to begin in the spring of 2018 in order to include the voice of students in the study.

“If we want to know how the students going through Biola are being affected by gender and what they are experiencing in their classes — how are they being empowered here to address those issues when they leave — it felt like we were missing a really important voice,” Taylor said.

Attendees, consisting of mostly staff and faculty members, left the event feeling encouraged and optimistic about Biola’s attitude towards equality in the workplace.

“There’s a lot of tension so it’s been great to see a place where we can all come together and have this discussion, aside from biases, and taking a step towards unity,” said Mairin McCuistion, special projects assistant in the department of journalism and public relations.

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