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March 8, 2012

Senate Matters: Gender discrimination initiatives update

Since last March,  the gender discrimination initiatives (GDI) subcommittee of the Senate anti-discriminatory policies committee has been working with the University administration to ensure equitable treatment by gender in recruitment, hiring, allocation of leadership responsibilities, compensation and promotion (see Feb. 17, 2011, University Times). The committee also has worked to improve sexual harassment policies and procedures, access to space for lactation, and child and dependent care. This column updates the Pitt community on our recent achievements and ongoing initiatives.

• University employees now may use the sick-child room operated by the Children’s Center of Pittsburgh, the childcare center at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. Reopened on Jan. 17, the Get-Well Room is a separate area, supervised by a registered nurse, for children with mild illnesses such as colds, bronchitis or upset stomach. Plans are being discussed for a potential partnership with Pitt’s School of Nursing in which nursing students would do a clinical rotation at the Get-Well Room.

The Get-Well Room accommodates up to nine children from age 6 months to 12 years. Children do not need be enrolled at the Children’s Center but must be preregistered and have a physician health appraisal form on file. The room costs $70 per day for infants and toddlers and $50 per day for preschool children and older. Contact the center at 412/641-1267 or 412/641-1990.

• Since March 23, 2010, the Fair Labor Standards Act has required employers to “provide reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for one year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk” ( The employer also must provide a private space (other than a bathroom) where the nursing mother can express milk without being interrupted.

In 2009, prior to enactment of the federal law, Pitt’s Senate Council passed a resolution in support of employees expressing milk ( The Office of Affirmative Action, Diversity and Inclusion is working with Human Resources (HR) and Facilities Management to create a list of official lactation rooms on the Pittsburgh campus that then will be linked to the HR web site. Importantly, additional rooms often are set aside for lactation on a temporary or informal basis, though these will not be listed.

In 2010, the GDI subcommittee worked with Dean Donald Burke in the Graduate School of Public Health to create a lactation room that was honored with the 2011 Allegheny County Health Department’s 16th annual Breastfeeding Friendly Place Award ( The subcommittee plans to work with other University units to identify, if possible, additional potential lactation rooms and to advocate for inclusion of lactation rooms in remodeling or new construction plans at the University.

• Support for employees who serve as family caregivers is a crucial issue in today’s workplace. Such employees often provide care for spouses or elderly parents, but also may be providing care for children or younger adults with disabilities or chronic health conditions. More women than men fill these roles, often during their highest-earning years. GDI plans to benchmark dependent-care benefits and support services available to University employees against expert policy recommendations.

• Promotion of non-tenure stream faculty is another GDI area of concern. The University has guidelines for promotion of its tenure-stream faculty and compiles statistics about them. However, non-tenure stream faculty may not be subject to the same structured oversight or monitoring in their respective departments. In order to address potential gender equity issues, Irene Frieze ( and Steven Wendell ( are identifying guidelines for review and promotion of non-tenure stream faculty in different units. They are investigating models of existing guidelines in certain Pitt schools and departments.

• Finally, based significantly on feedback from GDI and from the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns (, HR has updated its web site (, reorganizing links to improve communication about health, education and retirement benefits and encompass work-life balance topics. Additional web site enhancements may include location of official lactation rooms on the Pittsburgh campus, sick childcare availability and expanded dual-couple career assistance.

While the University has made strides in the past several years toward a more equitable working environment, new concerns will continue to emerge. The GDI subcommittee looks forward to continuing its productive working relationship with the University administration and addressing future issues on gender equity and work-life balance. We encourage all those with suggestions or concerns relevant to the subcommittee’s mission to contact our chair, Kacey Marra (


Elsa S. Strotmeyer ( serves on the GDI subcommittee and the Provost’s Advisory Committee on Women’s Concerns. She chaired the child and dependent care subcommittee of the Senate ad hoc committee for the promotion of gender equity II, 2009-10. She is an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Graduate School of Public Health.


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