UT’s Commission for Women (CFW) is appointed by the chancellor to advise on the planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs, policies, and services designed to improve the status of women at the university. The commission includes a handful of leaders from the engineering community, representing faculty, students, and staff across the Tickle College of Engineering.
Commission members from TCE include Jamie Coble, associate professor in nuclear engineering; Leah Gutzwiller, a sophomore in biomedical engineering; Jalonda Thompson, assistant director of the college’s Office of Diversity Programs; and Amber Mathes, financial specialist in civil engineering.
Coble is in her third year on the commission. She is the assistant department head for undergraduate studies and service for nuclear engineering, and also the Southern Company Faculty Fellow. She previously co-chaired the CFW’s professional development committee and safety advisory committee, and currently co-chairs the equity issues committee.
“The colleagues that I’ve met through CFW are incredibly passionate about building a stronger community at UT where women and men thrive,” she said. “CFW is an outstanding group, because it reaches across the campus: across colleges; students, staff, faculty, and administration; and even out into the community.”
She sees an array of effective programming, events, and recommendations flow from CFW. Coble hopes to bring the detail-oriented approach of an engineer to the commission, and in return feels personal and professional benefits as a participant.
“Working with CFW colleagues from across the university helps me really open my mind to global implications and issues beyond our small world in TCE,” she said.
Gutzwiller, one of the few undergraduate CFW members, echoes this bigger-picture sentiment, and appreciates the commission’s priorities.
“The CFW’s stance and research on salary equity among gender and other minority intersections is astounding and provides a great platform for women and minority groups to speak up about their right to equal pay,” she said. “One priority that I am particularly excited about that will be a main focus for the commission during the fall semester is their emphasis on voting rights. The programming, both informational and celebratory, that the CFW is planning for this upcoming election season is something to look forward to.”
Gutzwiller serves on the CFW communications committee and looks forward to sharing the work with her peers.
“I think the undergraduate campus community should be more in the know about this commission and their work in order to best utilize them as a resource for making change on campus,” she said. “I am gaining several wonderful female role models and mentors. The experience they have in their respective fields is inspiring and I know I have a lot to learn from them.”
“The commission is a wealth of information regarding upcoming programming and events,” added Thompson. “I am looking forward to hearing from and learning how other UT women are seeking to improve the status of women at UT. It is an amazing opportunity to engage with women from all educational and professional levels involved.”
She values being able to add to the group’s diverse perspectives.
“I have often carried a title with diversity as ‘capital D,’” said Thompson. “I see this commission as a way to influence diversity with a ‘little d’ into conversations, without being seen as the only expert in the room. I am a firm believer that everyone plays a role in diversity.”
For Mathes, improving the status of women at UT is an important and personal concern.
“Female staff and faculty need a venue to focus on current issues and better the situation for our future generations,” she said. “Since joining the university five years ago, I have looked forward to this opportunity. I want to be a part of something on campus that strives to make an impact and better the work environment.”
Mathes sees benefits across the UT community from CFW education and training opportunities, and particularly the commissions focus for 2020–2021 on salary equity for women.
“More opportunity for moms, grandmothers, and wives means more opportunity for every individual they come in contact with personally and professionally,” she said. Increased sharing of information about education and training opportunities in leadership and professional development is also a frequent topic within the college’s Staff Advisory Council.
The CFW selects several issues each fall to focus on for the coming academic year. For the 2020-2021 academic year, these include:
- Continue and supplement work on salary equity, including by deepening the 2019-20 salary equity study to include race and other intersections.
- Assemble and deploy resources to centralize information regarding education and training opportunities on leadership and professional development for faculty and staff.
- Work with other campus leaders and groups to combat bullying and other inappropriate workplace behaviors that threaten personal safety.
- Engage in programming and messaging on voting rights and the value proposition for voting in connection with the upcoming presidential election and the ongoing celebration of 100 years of voting for women.
- Study and participate in responding to the differential gender impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on both staff and faculty.