Designing a Woman-Friendly Workplace: A Prognosis and Prescription for Institutional Health at the University of Guam

By Thompson, Helen; Hartig, Andrea Sant et al. | Journal of International Women's Studies, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Designing a Woman-Friendly Workplace: A Prognosis and Prescription for Institutional Health at the University of Guam


Thompson, Helen, Hartig, Andrea Sant, Thurber, Diane, Journal of International Women's Studies


Abstract

This article explores the campus activist and research efforts made possible through a Campus Action Project grant awarded by AAUW (2006-2007) to the University of Guam (UOG). Faculty-student researchers developed a workshop series addressing women's workplace concerns and conducted research investigating the health of UOG through selected key indicators of a woman-friendly institution. This article focuses on the research findings, the impact of the grant efforts, and recommendations for institutional changes.

Keywords: status of women, higher education, Guam

Introduction

In Fall 2006 three faculty members from the Women and Gender Studies program at the University of Guam (UOG) were awarded a Campus Action Project (CAP) from the American Association of University Women Leadership and Training Institute. Exploring the theme of "higher education as the gateway to women's economic security," we shaped a student-centered project to raise the awareness of our students, faculty and the community by examining our university not just as a place of higher education but also as an infrastructure that organizes its labor in ways that are not always egalitarian. Ultimately our project, "Designing a Woman-friendly Workplace," invited participants to learn about and reflect on ways in which their current or future work-lives would be shaped by the policies, social dynamics, and physical environment of their workplaces. The CAP grant team of three faculty coordinators, four student leaders, and a budget of $5000, designed the two components of our project: 1) a series of four workshops each with a keynote speaker discussing issues relating to the workplace and 2) student-faculty research measuring the health of our institution using these same measures. Through these combined efforts we created a body of research and a collaborative model for future explorations of the University of Guam's health.

The two components of our project allowed us to realize different goals and maximize our time and our budget. We invited prominent leaders from the university and local communities to talk at our workshops in March 2007. Captain Janice Wynn, Navy Chief of Staff spoke about the history of women in the US Navy and her personal experiences of evolving gender policies and practices; Dr. Mary Spencer, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at UOG spoke about the unequal representation of women in the university and gave the attendees some specific advice on the importance of aspiring to top positions; representatives from the University Equal Employment Opportunity and Human Resource Offices, Louise Toves and Angela Diaz, answered questions regarding workplace discrimination and UOG policies regarding family and medical leave; and finally Guam Senator Judith Won Pat addressed the history of women in Guam politics and offered advice and motivation to the continued growth of women's participation in civil service. (4)

A Project Designed for Who We Are

This CAP grant gave us the unique opportunity to serve a population whose existence is a blindspot to a lot of Americans. Many do not know where Guam is, that it is a United States unincorporated territory in the Western Pacific, that it has a diverse Asian and Pacific Islander population, and that the indigenous Chamorros have been influenced by early Spanish colonizers but are not Hispanic. While the United States mainland usually assigns Asian/Pacific Islanders to one group, Guam's population breaks open this category to reflect a diverse range of ethnic traditions existing on this small island. If the census categorized Guam's inhabitants as Asian/Pacific Islander (including the bi- and multiracial population), the population would appear to be homogenous with this category accounting for 91% of the population (n=154,805). However, the 2000 Guam census records a different picture of Guam's population, one that is unique to the United States and its territories. …

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