Duke Pledges to Improve Environment for Women

Duke University President Nannerl Keohane has pledged to improve Duke’s co-educational climate and make it more supportive for women. A year-long Women’s Initiative tasked with evaluating the institution’s environment for women reported that many female students felt pressure to attain “effortless perfection” while adhering to strict social norms. Undergraduate Kelly Quirk said unsupportive community attitudes toward women activists and rigid social standards caused her “to not want to be more vocal on controversial issues,” the report stated. Other participants said they were discouraged by the low percentage of women faculty (below national average) and graduate programs unresponsive to the needs of diverse students, according to Duke News. Still, committee members warned that pressures to maintain standards of beauty while succeeding both professionally and personally are not new to the Duke but rather “reflects the broader culture of our society,” reported the Chronicle.

Among the report’s recommendations are: expansion of mentoring programs, the Women’s Leadership Program, and career services and childcare, parental leave, and flexible work arrangements to make the university more accessible for female graduate students, faculty, and employees. Keohane, the university’s first female president expressed hope that changes at Duke “might inspire people on other campuses who have been thinking about some of these issues to recognize that it can be done,” the Chronicle reported.

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Duke Press Release 9/23/03; Women's Initiative Report 9/25/03; The Chronicle 9/24/03; NY Times 9/24/03

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