Part Two: Pink Wave or Passing Ripple?
THE STATUS OF GENDER EQUALITY IN PASADENA - INTERVIEWS WITH MEN
PASADENA, Calif. – The email was marked “high priority.” Its message was clear, unapologetic, sobering.
“Based on the questions you supplied, Lorne doesn’t feel he’s able to really add much to the conversation and prefers to opt out of today’s interview.”
Lorne Buchman is president of Pasadena’s world-renowned ArtCenter College of Design. The interview he agreed to 11 days earlier was scheduled to begin in 90 minutes.
And what was at the core of the conversation from which he suddenly opted out?
Moreover, Buchman deployed a female director of media relations to dispatch his retraction. Did an exchange about parity suddenly morph into a woman covering tracks for a man?
From Pasadena to Pittsburg, this is an all-too-familiar narrative – one that lives both wildly aloud and eerily silent.
The challenge thus becomes how to write a tale of two tribes when one tribe has all but gone fishing.
A resounding 16 of 17 women participated in interviews for part one of this two-part series on the status of gender equality in Pasadena. A mere four of 15 men obliged for part two.
Three weeks prior to Buchman’s email, ArtCenter Vice President of Human Resources Lisa Sanchez and Director of Media Relations Teri Bond fielded an hour-long sequence of questions for this two-part series on the status of gender equality in Pasadena.
Buchman knew Sanchez and Bond were interviewed.
Part one in the series availed a range of gender-based data points to kickstart conversations with the city’s female influencers. Buchman understood that part two — this part — would employ the same data to broach the same issues, but solely with male influencers.
Bond had requested questions in advance for the interview in which she and Sanchez participated. She was told that it was best for the conversation that such questions would not be provided. She was offered a slightly more detailed one-sentence summary of the impending inquiry.
A day before Buchman’s interview, however, Bond emailed to say that she wanted questions in advance to help him “prepare.” At this stage, such compliance appeared to be less negotiable and was therefore effectuated to salvage the exercise – a chess match of sorts.
Buchman was asked:
Why he thought women comprise just 30 percent of the school’s faculty.
Why the school has not yet had a female president.
Why they do not yet track the number of women versus men who apply for faculty or executive positions.
Why they do not yet track the percentage of women versus men who graduate and land related jobs within 6-12 months, and what corresponding wages were.
What they are doing to encourage female students to explore fields dominated by men.
If they engage industry partners via any specific initiatives to foster greater gender equality/parity and how.
And will certain issues change now that they are developing a Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Art and Design.
Roughly 15 hours later, Bond’s email said that Buchman was backing out. Only weeks before, she and Sanchez provided vigorous answers to a torrent of similar questions without issue.
“Lorne took a look at the questions and determined they were too baseline,” said Jered Gold, ArtCenter vice president of marketing and communications.
When asked to explain “baseline,” Gold said the questions “included statistics” but did not inquire about ArtCenter initiatives to address gender equality.
Gold was further pressed about the fact that the questions did address such initiatives and were open-ended prompts merely to ground the interview in data. He reiterated Buchman’s decision.
Gold was asked if he could arrange an interview with Aaron Bruce who was recently hired as Chief Diversity Officer charged with shepherding the new Center for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Gold did not arrange an interview with Bruce.
In a recently prepared statement about his new position, Bruce said, “The goal is to build a flexible learning space where diverse research, pedagogy and creative expression is explored – a space where all perspectives are valued, and new skills will be adopted.”
Bond subsequently sent an email that said an Associate Provost might be available to speak, and while he would not need questions, he would “need a list of topics.” Her request was denied.
When it comes to institutions of higher learning ostensibly sending mixed signals about gender disproportions, ArtCenter is not alone.
The California Institute of Technology, based in the heart of Pasadena, was formerly ranked the world’s number one university.
Like its ArtCenter neighbor, Caltech has never employed a female president in its 100-year history. Of 93 listed trustees, 17 are women – a scant 18 percent.
Caltech promptly denied all requests for interviews with its president and its trustees and with staffers from Admissions and Human Resources. Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Cindy A. Weinstein did not return multiple messages.
In stark contrast, Pasadena City College (PCC) returned messages, and did so immediately.
PCC is a 94-year-old institution with more than 30,000 students who seek a range of Associates degrees and certificated learning options. The college is also a finalist for the 2019 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, the nation’s pre-eminent recognition of high achievement and performance in America’s community colleges.
“When you look at questions about gender equity, my employer is an institution primarily female-oriented,” said Dr. Robert Bell, assistant superintendent/senior vice president, noncredit and offsite campuses.
Bell is correct. Of 48 leadership roles, women currently hold 28 of them. Of eight board members, including a student trustee, half are women. And though PCC has only employed two female presidents and one interim to date, the college recently announced that Erika Endrijonas will become its third female superintendent/president.
“As a senior VP, my staff has been predominantly women,” Bell said. “This is not an institution that looks to make any differentiation between a woman or man. Be true to yourself. Step in and be who you are.”
He said he would suggest that men slow down their dynamic of observation and do not make value assessments before they see all that women can bring to the table. “Don’t force a woman to prove you wrong.”
Pols, pundits and average taxpayers continue to heave hip-hip-hoorays over a bounty of women who can and did bring a lot to the table in federal and state elections. Many media outlets have prophesied a “pink wave” that will inexorably refresh public sectors.
However, this very same heap of hopefuls might want to holster a pinch of such euphoria before taking a closer look at hints – if not emblematic thuds – of enduring government-related inequities on their home turf.
According to city documents:
Of 55 mayors to date, three were female.
Of all councilmembers since 1950, seven were female, no more than two concurrently.
Of 169 commissioners, 77 are female.
Of 54 city board/other committee/agency members, 13 are female.
Of 1,820 city workers, 33.4 percent are female.
Of the 18 highest paying city jobs, women occupy four.
When asked why he thought women occupy only a small fraction of the highest paying city government positions, Pasadena Mayor Terry Tornek said, “Oh, I don’t know. It’s long-term complicated career patterns, choices and selectivity.”
Tornek said he was surprised to hear how low the numbers were and admitted that the city “had some distance to go” in order to turn things around.
He said he was very interested to review an updated report from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that would further define commercial workplace race and gender data. This report has been submitted by city officials to Hundred Eighty Degrees — see below.
Regarding elected positions, Margaret McAustin is the city’s sole female councilmember. McAustin is one of only seven women in Pasadena history to have served on the seven-member council. No more than two have served concurrently.
“The ultimate arbiter is the voter and it’s not a city decision-making process,” said Tornek.
During a former mayoral debate between Tornek and then-candidate Jacque Robinson – who served on council with McAustin – radio personality Larry Mantle told Tornek that fellow councilmember Steve Madison described Tornek as “arrogant with an autocratic style that has marginalized him on the council.” Tornek chuckled and said to Mantle, “I am not still beating my wife.”
Councilmember Madison was repeatedly asked for an interview regarding the status of gender equality in the Crown City. They hinted at the possibility of participation, then drifted unto the ether.
Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Calif.) did, however, oblige. Holden was Pasadena’s youngest mayor at the age of 28 and its second black mayor since Loretta Thomson-Glickman in 1982.
“If you look at my staff,” he said, “I think we have more women than men. That’s a function of having the most qualified person to walk through the door.” In fact, of Holden’s 16 listed staff members, 12 are women.
In 2017, Holden signed off on a resolution to enact Women’s History Month. According to the resolution:
“Women have been leaders in every movement for social change, including their own movement for suffrage and equal rights, the fight for emancipation, the struggle to organize labor unions, the civil rights movement, as well as leading the call for peace and organizing to preserve the environment. The story of the women’s rights movement deserves telling.”
Asked if women’s rights are a civil right, Holden said, “Yes. There is a definite connection to civil rights and the ability to have parity and basic opportunities that men receive. Women over time have shown determination, love of family, love of community and love of country and the willingness to put everything on the line for freedoms and rights and privileges.”
Holden was subsequently asked if the Assembly more appropriate to dedicate a month to the majority gender rather than mandating that this same gender receive equal pay and equal say in board seats and executive suites.
“We look for these magical answers to problems, and quite frankly it’s a matter of ‘just do it,’” he said. “Just do it. Just go out there and give talented women a chance. Give them an opportunity to show what they can do, and nine times out of 10, I suspect they’ll start blowing people’s minds.
Holden said it comes down to how bad employers want to see women reflected in positions of leadership. “How do people sleep at night knowing that their daughters are going to step out in the world where they will earn 80 cents on the dollar of a man? And if you don’t think that’s right, then you need to start doing something to make it go away.”
In some parts of the country, like California, he said, you more than likely see a real push toward gender equality.” However, this is the reality:
23 female assemblymembers of 80 (28 percent).
13 female state senators of 40 (32 percent).
Women represent 25 percent of state legislators.
California is not in the top ten.
Two female U.S. senators (joining three other states).
16 female U.S. reps of 53 (30 percent).
Women represent 23 percent of the U.S. Senate and 20 percent of the House.
Holden said there are human resources professionals who could help lay out a strategy for the city council and the community as a whole to build a more inclusive bench.
That so-called bench is currently less than gender-equitable, according to the city’s current listings.
Pasadena’s paid government workforce of 1,820 staffers (excluding its school district) is 33.4 percent female – slightly less than the national average – while males occupy 16 of its 20 highest paying jobs, according to Transparent California and city records.
City Public Information Officer Lisa Derderian said that it’s worth noting how the higher percentage of men in certain departments – including Water and Power, Public Works and police and fire departments – “is not unexpected or unique to Pasadena as the majority of skilled craft and service/maintenance positions are within these departments and they are predominantly filled by men.”
Derderian is correct. Women nationwide hold roughly 34 percent of all assistant government positions.
However, according to the International City/County Management Association, women also hold 30 percent of department head positions, which is far afield from the reality in Pasadena, according to the city’s own records. Also, Fire and Safety, Public Works and Water and Power account for only 1,194 of the 1,820-person Pasadena government workforce.
Of 373 police department employees, 32 percent are female, yet apparently just a dozen of the roughly 175 officers are female. The remaining staff is apparently comprised of administrative, community services and strategic services roles.
According to Transparent California, more than 20 police officers receive total pay exceeding $200,000 with some nearing $300,000. None of these officers are women.
Based on the most recently available figures for “regular pay” on Transparent California, only one woman is listed in the top 50 wage earners of the Pasadena Fire Department.
While “gender parity” customarily suggests a sex-based divide in wage distribution, wages are merely a single slice of a colossal pie.
Paula England is a professor of sociology at New York University. She has written extensively about what she calls “the uneven and stalled gender revolution” since the 1990s.
“On a wide variety of indicators, progress toward gender equality has slowed down,” said England in a video segment.
Orit Gadiesh and Julie Coffman are principals at global management consulting firm Bain & Company. Both women believe that such a slowdown is partly attributable to the connection between a shortage in female self-confidence reinforced by reluctant male gatekeepers.
In an article co-authored for the Harvard Business Review, Gadiesh and Coffman said, “What’s not happening are discussions of goals, career strategies, job satisfaction, overall trajectory and – especially – the simple giving of real encouragement, all in a business culture that rarely celebrates women’s role models.”
Female role models are as plentiful in Pasadena as apparent gender inequities (link to part one in this series –link to be available 12/17/18). The reality that men occupy more executive suites and register more zeros on their paychecks remains part and parcel of institutional firmament.
Also part and parcel of Pasadena firmament is its iconic Tournament of Roses, producer of the iconic New Year’s Day Rose Parade – watched by tens of millions worldwide – and its companion Rose Bowl football championship.
As the first black president in the Tournament of Roses’ 130-year history, Gerald Freeny knows a thing or two about equality-related hurdles.
Freeny said he and women were beneficiaries of local activism in 1993 that upended the Tournament’s largely white male hierarchy.
Incoming president Laura Farber will succeed Freeny. Farber is the Tournament’s third female president of 117; all three served during the preceding 12 years.
“Leadership did not have to make that change. But I was a beneficiary,’ said Freeny. “I know firsthand that we have had other women in the pipeline [for president]. It takes a lot of hours, an enormous time commitment. If you were to talk to my daughter, she would tell you how many school performances I missed, how many track meets.”
When asked if he was implying that women were less capable in managing those time commitments, Freeny said he thought women could “do it better than men.”
Freeny“We’ve come a long way to make our organization better,” Freeny said.
The Tournament recently changed its application policy. Young women must no longer be single or without children in order to apply for the Royal Court — a seven-member body of high school women, six of whom are dubbed “princesses” and one the “queen,” all of whom are charged with representing the organization at an abundance of community events.
“I think it’s a great idea,” said Freeny. “The Tournament is trying to change with the times. We want to be inclusive and reflect the whole community. And if you look at their clothes this year, you’ll see they reflect these women and their own choices.
Freeny repeatedly referred to his fellow Tournament employees as “family.” He said that each man and woman brings something different to the table.
Pasadena’s table is set, replete with glaring gender-based disproportions and some signs of slow-drip change.
The Commission on the Status of Women in Pasadena stipulates that it will “engage in appropriate opportunities to stimulate discussion” and “in the 2018-2019 year, host a town hall meeting on topics involving women’s issues.”
Perhaps the Commission might wish to consider commencing future discussions with the proposition that appointing a man or two to its all-women body could help men absorb how omnipresent silence on such a topic sustains the status quo.