Status on Women and Gender Equity Report released

CATEGORIES: July 2021, Voices

The Status on Women and Gender Equity Report was released on May 12 by the University Committee for the Advancement of Women and Gender Equity, formerly known as the University Committee on Women. As part of its mission, the UCAWGE has released a status report on the gendered experience at Iowa State approximately every five years since its founding in 1971.

“I am so grateful to the sub-committee who worked on this report, devoting many hours of their already busy schedules during the pandemic to collect and analyze the data and prepare the report,” said Sandra Marcu, director of the Margaret Sloss Center for Women and Gender Equity and UCAWGE chair.

The report looks at the seven categories where women are represented at Iowa State: undergraduate students, graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, merit staff, professional and scientific staff, faculty and administration. The report includes data from 2010-2018 drawn from publicly available sources, and for the first time, also includes intersectional data on gender and race.

In addition to being available as a PDF document, the report is presented in modules on the UCAWGE website that correspond to the seven categories studied. The raw data is also available for download.

“We wanted to make the report more accessible to a campus-wide audience,” Marcu said. “We really encourage the different campus units to interact with the data, and to pull data from the report to advocate for and support populations in their units.”

The website includes two additional modules with information not included in previous reports: a Resources & Support module with a list of organizations, committees, departments and initiatives at Iowa State as well as off-campus organizations with missions that include advancing gender equity; and a Take Action module with suggestions for ways in which individuals can help advance gender equity at Iowa State.

Also new for this report is the inclusion of qualitative survey data from members of the ISU community that identify as women about their lived experiences.

“This unique and key qualitative component can help identify the underlying mechanisms for trends we see in the quantitative portion of the report,” said Sayali Kukday, an associate teaching professor in the Department of Genetics, Development and Cell Biology and the report sub-committee member who led this portion of the study. “Based on the responses we have received so far, some common themes that have emerged reflect the diversity in backgrounds of ISU women and the continuing need for mentorship, childcare and inclusion initiatives to support their success.”

Key findings

The report shows flat trend lines for the past ten years in many of the areas studied, indicating that little improvement has been made in those areas.

Iowa State’s undergraduate student body – the largest population on campus – remains majority male, with the percentage of female students varying greatly between colleges. The undergraduate student body also remains predominantly white, though racial and ethnic diversity on campus has increased somewhat with women of color accounting for much of this change. Of particular concern for the undergraduate population is the graduation rates of African American women as well as their lack of representation in some areas of campus.

Similar to enrollment at the undergraduate level, women were a minority of graduate students from 2010 to 2018. Women’s enrollment in master’s programs at Iowa State remained steady at 44% from 2010 to 2018, with the percentage of white women declining slightly and the percentage of students of color increasing slightly. Women made up 38%-40% of Ph.D. students.

In contrast, women made up approximately 71%-82% of the enrollment in the Doctor of Veterinary Medicine professional degree program from 2010-2018. The largest percentage of the women students were white, with small increases in the enrollment of Hispanic women and Asian women during that period. Women also now make up a large majority of graduate students enrolled in certificate programs, with the percentage increasing from approximately 41% in 2010 to 78% in 2018. Much of the increase can be attributed to white women, whose enrollment increased from 33% in 2010 to 60% in 2018. Almost all of the students of color in certificate programs are women.

The low number of women employed as post-doctoral researchers was identified as a key concern in the report. Iowa State employs approximately 300 postdoctoral researchers, with the percentage of women varying from approximately 29% to 37% between 2010 and 2018. During that time, over 60% of postdocs at Iowa State were Asian or white men. In 2018, only 1.02% (0.34% women, 0.68% men) and 5.46% (1.71% women, 3.75% men) of postdocs were Black or Hispanic, respectively. These numbers reflect a 100% and 120% increase in Black and Hispanic men since 2010, but an 83.33% and a 50% decrease in Black and Hispanic women. Data on other races and those who identify as part of multiple racial groups was very limited.

Iowa State University employs approximately 1,300 merit employees. Women make up a majority of this group, ranging from just under 61% in 2010 to almost 55% in 2019, and are disproportionately represented in clerical positions (92-95%). Since 2010, the percentage of women in security and technical positions has increased, but the percentage in supervisory positions has decreased. The number of racial and ethnic minorities among merit employees remained steady from 2010 to 2019, with the percentage increasing from 4.7% in 2010 (3% women of color) to 8% in 2019 (4.3% women of color).

Between 2010 and 2019, the number of merit employees decreased by 12.5%. When that decrease is broken down by gender, the percentage of women decreased by 21%, predominantly due to declines in the number of clerical positions. Data on how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect these numbers is not yet available.

The Professional & Scientific classification is the largest category of employees at Iowa State, with more than 3,000 members. The report finds that the majority of P&S employees are women (57.6% in 2018), but men are paid more, regardless of race. Also, in 2018 almost twice as many women as men were hired for part-time P&S positions – 7.2% vs. 3.4% – with the percentage of women hired as part time increasing 12.1% from 2010 to 2018, while the number of men hired as part time decreasing 8.2%.

Nearly 2,000 faculty members are employed by Iowa State University. With women filling less than 40% of faculty positions, this group has the largest gender disparity on campus. In 2018, only two colleges – the College of Human Sciences and College of Design – had a majority or near majority female faculty (74.8% and 47.9%, respectively), and in the College of Engineering, women represented only 21.9% of the faculty. In general, the STEM fields are male-dominated and the humanities and social sciences are female-dominated – trends that have not changed significantly at Iowa State between 2010 and 2019. In addition, women are more likely to be non-tenure faculty, with 58.7% of women faculty in tenure or tenure-eligible positions compared to 80.4% of men in 2018.

The last category studied is administration. Over 250 Iowa State employees serve in administrative roles. With the inauguration of Wendy Wintersteen as University president in 2017, Iowa State made an important advancement in gender equity. However, women remain underrepresented in key administrative roles at levels similar to women faculty (only 37.8% of administrative roles were filled by women in 2018), face a significant gender gap in salary and are more likely to serve in interim roles.


The report offers a number of recommendations for improving gender equity on campus that are centered on targeted recruitment efforts; fostering an inclusive and supportive climate for female students and employees; and addressing compensation inequities for staff, faculty and administration.

“We want people all over campus, such as members of search committees or deans and department chairs making strategic decisions for their units, to use the data in the report with a goal of supporting and increasing diversity and gender equity,” said Karen Kedrowski, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics and a member of the UCAWGE report sub-committee.

Members of the ISU community that identify as women are also encouraged to participate in the Women@ISU Stories Survey.

“Our goal is to amplify the voices of women in the ISU community by inviting them to share their experiences. Collectively, their stories will bring into focus the people behind the numbers,” said Kukday.

The report also recommends additional study in several areas, including discovering the reasons for gender and racial gaps in undergraduate graduation rates, gathering additional information on the quality of the postdoc experience; re-assessing the P&S classification and pay structure and performing an equity study to make specific recommendations to advance intersectional gender equity within the P&S employment category; and conducting a salary study for administrators to address gender gaps within titles and academic units.

The committee plans to make updates to the report on an ongoing basis, working with members of the various campus units.

“Ultimately, the report will be successful if people use it,” said Natalie Clark, USDA-NIFA postdoctoral research fellow and chair of the UCAWGE report sub-committee. “When we come back, maybe we can say something different” about the status of gender equity at Iowa State.