Although the number of female faculty on University of Wisconsin campuses still hangs below the national average, their presence has been on the rise over the past several years, according to this year’s UW System Fact Book. 

According to the data, the percentage of women in UW System faculty has increased from 36.4 percent in the 2007-2008 academic year to 38.7 percent for the 2011-2012 academic year. The data also shows in 2011, the percentage of women represented in faculty as well as non-instructional staff, classified staff, graduate students and other administrators was at just more than 50 percent.

UW System spokesperson David Giroux said although the longstanding history of inequality in higher education has not been completely solved, he believes the UW System has opened many doors for opportunity that are headed in the right direction.

Giroux said as a father of three daughters, he is “encouraged” women are pursuing higher education.

Teresa O’Halloran, an assistant to the chancellor for affirmative action at UW-Eau Claire, said UW-Eau Claire has a staff comprised 39.7 percent of women.

However, she said this figure is still below the national average, which according to Catalyst, a nonprofit advocating for women in the workplace, is 45.5 percent at bachelor’s degree institutions.

O’Halloran said UW-Eau Claire has a traditionally worse retention of female faculty over a period of 10 years in comparison with male faculty.

Regarding the trend of poor female staff retention, O’Halloran said a campus climate survey on UW-Eau Claire’s website aiming to gauge opinions on the school’s atmosphere showed 18 percent of employees with children felt as though they were perceived as being less committed to their careers.

O’Halloran said one of the missions of the survey is to explore whether the UW System is able to “serve the needs of women, minority, disadvantaged, disabled and non-traditional students and seek racial and ethnic diversification of the student body and the professional faculty and staff.”

She said they also found 28 percent of employees felt they had to work harder than their colleagues in order to be perceived as legitimate.

O’Halloran said an increased presence of female students on campuses is a trend that will hopefully catch on with the staff. She said the faculty has yet to catch up with students.

With the inclusion and retention of more female employees, O’Halloran said the potential for students to gain new and different perspectives increases.

Leader-Telegram Editor Don Huebscher, who researched and wrote on the UW System data, said each year, the female versus male presence on campuses has become more and more congruent with female figures steadily increasing percentage-wise.

Huebscher said the number of female professors is moving in a direction that reflects the growing opportunities for females. He said although UW campuses are still below the national statistical average of female presence, the numbers continue in an upward trend.

“I’ve been out of college for more than 53 years, and I’m sure I had more male professors than female,” he said.