The Women’s Place seeks to make Ohio State the place for women

Pictured from left to right, all former directors of The Women’s Place (not pictured, current director, Andreá Williams): Jennifer Beard, Hazel Morrow-Jones, Deborah Ballam and Judy Fountain Yesso

The Women’s Place seeks to make Ohio State the place for women

By Paige Galperin

Women's History Month is behind us, but The Women's Place is gearing up for its annual Women's Achievement Reception on April 4 at the Fawcett Center. This signature event celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of women at Ohio State—a mission deeply embedded in the office's roots.

In 1987, women at The Ohio State University College of Business began meeting to create a “chilly climate report” addressing gender-related workplace concerns within the college. At the time, women only represented 15% of the college's faculty, and they experienced severe inequities in leadership positions, salary, distribution of resources and opportunities, and sexual harassment.

Their efforts would soon evolve into a university-wide movement known as “the women's grassroots network” that would lay the groundwork for increasing female representation in leadership roles, maintaining university childcare funding, and in 2000, establishing the very first university office in the country to focus on policy and institutional change for women faculty and staff: The Women's Place (TWP).

“The way the office came about—it was these women who decided, ‘Let's get together; let's start meeting; let's talk about what we can do.' They weren't an official group; they were just doing it all on their own time,” Diane Florian, Communications and Project Manager at The Women's Place, said.

Now situated within ODI at Hale Hall, TWP advocates changes for all women at Ohio State, championing women's recruitment, advancement, and retention. “The Women's Place has been a catalyst for culture change at Ohio State by advocating for equitable policies and practices,” Dr. Andreá Williams, Director of The Women's Place, explained. “We want to undo the ‘chilly' climate women historically have experienced to make Ohio State an appealing, choice employer.”

TWP seeks institutional change through four focus areas: policy, culture change, leadership, and status reporting. Each focus features its own initiatives and programs, from The President and Provost's Council on Women, which pushes for policy changes to remove barriers for women, to its Status Reports on Women, which share data about female representation at Ohio State.

TWP directs its work toward gender equity through initiatives open to people of all genders. “What's good for women is good for everyone. A lot of the policy changes we've worked on don't just help women,” Florian noted. “If we advocate for parental leave, that's going to be for women and for men, and that's going to help everyone. Or if we advocate for better childcare, men are also going to benefit.” The office also promotes workplace conditions that are inclusive to trans and non-binary staff and faculty.

Similarly, people of all genders can get involved with The Women's Place. The office's leadership series, grants, and professional groups focus on women, and are open to people of all genders. The Advocates and Allies for Equity initiative focuses on men and is also open to people of all genders. TWP's approach underscores that real change will occur only when all members of the university community are actively engaged in improving Ohio State's culture and policies.

Although the Women's Achievement Reception will celebrate successes of Ohio State women faculty and staff, there is still work to be done. One major issue is the representation of women of color: In 2020, women filled 44.5% of senior administrative positions at Ohio State, but women of color held only 6.25%. Work-life balance is also a concern. “The thing for women is that often there's pressure at work to really have a lot of output, and at the same time, statistics say that women are still doing the majority of the work at home,” Florian commented, “so that really squeezes them on both sides.”

According to TWP staff, among the most pressing issues impacting women at Ohio State today are childcare and parental leave practices. Currently, the university provides all employees with six weeks of paid parental leave, and although university childcare is available, the waitlist period can last more than a year.

“In our current era, there's both the threat and reality of the rollback of opportunities that support women's advancement,” Williams said. “The work of The Women's Place will never be done until we've achieved full gender equity, both in higher education and in larger society, in terms of power and opportunity.”

All faculty and staff are encouraged to attend the 2024 Women's Achievement Reception at 4:30pm on April 4. To register and learn more about The Women's Place, visit womensplace.osu.edu.

Pictured from left to right, all former directors of The Women's Place (not pictured, current director, Andreá Williams): Jennifer Beard, Hazel Morrow-Jones, Deborah Ballam and Judy Fountain Yesso