Commission on the Status of Women

CSW Strategic Plan: Climate & Culture

The term climate is most directly understood as the environment in which a person works and learns. Significant indicators of a positive climate are that individuals feel valued and respected and believe they are treated fairly. Culture refers to the core values and behavior patterns that are supported in the university environment through institutional policies, organizational structures, resource allocation, evaluative criteria, and customary ways of acting. Climate and culture issues can be expressed along any of these dimensions. For example: Does the university recognize that balancing work/academics and family concerns is important to a large segment of its employees and students? Has it allocated resources for the provision of benefits, programs and services? Does it view these resources as investments in its employees and students or as window-dressing? Are there policies that take account of the potential need for flexible work scheduling or family leave? Is the use of these policies encouraged or discouraged, overtly or subtly and by whom?

Climate and culture have multiple layers. It is possible to have an overall positive climate in the university, but a negative climate in one’s unit. The reverse is also true. One can thoroughly enjoy their department, but find the overall climate or culture to be a negative one for women’s advancement. Climate and culture can also be ambivalent, with some positive aspects and some negative aspects, overall and within one’s unit. Many of the comments we heard throughout our small group interviews expressed these kinds of distinctions in their experience of the climate at ASU. Recommendations in this report are therefore aimed at both the general climate and at the unit level—the "microclimate" in which people work and learn.

In some sense, all of the recommendations that will be made in this strategic plan are concerned with the climate and culture of working and learning at ASU. Each priority area is aimed at improving some specific area of ASU’s climate and culture. Recommendations in this area are aimed more broadly at the overall climate and culture and, as a result, there may be overlap with more specific areas.

Read CSW Progress Update

Issues regarding Climate and Culture

The single biggest issue consistently identified throughout the small group interviews was the power of unit heads (chairs, directors, supervisors) to determine the climate of their unit. Many of ASU's workplace policies that have been most important to women, such as release time for staff training and flexible work schedules, are left up to the discretion of the supervisor. Thus, policies are implemented unevenly and inconsistently across the university, creating the perception of an inequitable climate.

Other problems identified in the climate for women include:

  • Women’s work styles not respected
  • Gender bias in evaluation
  • Differential workloads
  • Protection of male or white in-group
  • Women of color expected to do more college and departmental service
  • Sexual harassment

Recommendations for Climate and Culture

  1. The President and all Provosts and Vice Presidents should make regular, public statements about the significance and relevance of women and diversity to the overall success of ASU.
  2. The President and all Provosts and Vice Presidents should make regular, public statements in support of flex-time, family leave, and staff training policies for maintaining a positive work climate.
  3. Elevate accountability for the climate within Vice Provost/Vice President positions. Define clear responsibilities for evaluation and maintenance of a climate of equity. (Possible models: The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee VP for Climate; University of Maryland Diversity Report Cards).
  4. Provide an on-going mechanism for assessing the climate. (Diversity audits, benchmark indicators are possible methods.)
  5. Best practices managerial and diversity training should be strongly emphasized for all administrative personnel including Deans, Chairs and Directors. Training should be aimed at creating and maintaining an equitable environment. Such training should be systematic and on-going, and included in administrative job descriptions and be required as a condition of employment for new administrators. Training should detail differences between chilly and affirmative climates, and should demonstrate how to create and maintain affirming and equitable workplace climates.
  6. Training on classroom climates should be systematic and on-going for all faculty.
  7. Incorporate an assessment of climate into performance evaluations at all levels.
  8. Strategies for empowering victims of hostile and chilly climates should be developed.