NU Home Page
OWF Home Page
Northwestern OWF
South Campus

Over the years, OWF has made a substantial impact on the working environment for women at Northwestern. Below are some milestones in OWF history:


The Organization of Women Faculty is established at Northwestern University.

The Women's Studies Program is established with support from OWF. In 1991, the University makes its first faculty appointments in that program. In 1992, Women's Studies awards its first graduate certificate; and in 1993, Women's Studies is recognized as a major by the College of Arts and Sciences. In June 2000, the Women's Studies Program formally changes its name to the Gender Studies Program

OWF reports on conditions for lecturers. The report calls for (1) full borrowing privileges at the University Library, (2) telephones in lecturers' offices, (3) inclusion in departmental announcements and directories, and (4) the full panoply of faculty fringe benefits. The University responds to the first three requests and creates the position of senior lecturer, the only lecturer position at the University to receive full retirement contributions.


OWF publishes its first report regarding the hiring and retention of women faculty at Northwestern. OWF's first report finds that 72% of all women on the Evanston faculty hold the rank of assistant professor, instructor or lecturer, and several of the higher-ranked women hold merely one-year visiting appointments.

OWF publishes its first study of faculty promotions by gender. The study, based on public data, finds that 1) Eligible male candidates are more likely than women candidates to be passed into the "above-department" levels of the tenure system; 2) Men are more likely to receive "positive deviations"-being promoted at upper levels despite lower level "less-than-enthusiastic" recommendations-while women are subject to more "negative deviations"-being rejected at upper levels despite lower level positive recommendations.

...back to top of page


OWF successfully advocates for student education programs regarding sexual assault and abuse. In the wake of a gang rape on campus, a delegation from OWF meets with the Provost, who agrees to the following proposals: 1) That one hour of New Student Week be devoted to educating incoming students about rape and sexual harassment; 2) That self-defense classes be organized at the University's expense; 3) That training programs on post-sexual assault counseling and advocacy be initiated for Resident Advisors; 4) That a budget be allocated to set up small libraries containing material on self-help and self-defense at several points on campus; and 5) That a series of firesides be maintained for the purpose of raising consciousness among both female and male students.

OWF recommends merged gender pension plan for TIAA-CREF. In 1981, OWF resolves that the existing TIAA-CREF retirement plan is discriminatory, paying to the retired female on the single annuity option a monthly payment about 15% less than would be paid to a comparably situated retired male. OWF asks the administration to request TIAA-CREF to implement a merged-gender pension plan. In 1983, TIAA-CREF changes its plan.


OWF urges the university to adopt gender-free language in public communications. OWF passes a resolution commending the Graduate School for adopting gender-free language and urging University Relations and all other members of the University to adopt such language. Members of OWF work with members of the administration to develop such language. OWF also works to ensure that photographs contained in Northwestern publicity reflected the existing proportions of women faculty at the University.


OWF publishes second study of faculty promotions by gender. This study reveals that attrition rates for women on the graduate faculty are significantly higher than for men on that faculty, even with rank controlled. Women's chances for promotion and tenure are also found to be significantly lower than men's in the College of Arts and Sciences for the three years studied.

...back to top of page


OWF successfully lobbies for the creation of the Northwestern University Women's Center. In response to strenuous lobbying by OWF, the University establishes a campus Women's Center to counsel faculty, students and staff on issues surrounding sexual harassment, sexual assault, childhood sexual abuse, relationship violence, discrimination, sexual orientation, racial or ethnic isolation, and other matters related to being a woman at Northwestern.


OWF successfully lobbies NU for data collection on faculty promotions by gender. OWF's 1982 and 1985 studies of faculty promotion by gender were based on publicly available data. Recognizing the inadequacy of the available data, OWF requests that the administration begin collecting data on promotions by gender.

OWF establishes University-wide procedures for dealing with sexual harassment. Beginning in 1982, OWF campaigned for effective procedures for dealing with sexual harassment on campus. After seven years of lobbying, OWF succeeds in getting the University's first sexual harassment procedures adopted. The Sexual Harassment policy that grows out of OWF efforts causes Harvard University, in its 2005 "Report on the Status of Women Faculty," to designate Northwestern a "best practice institution."


College of Arts and Sciences accepts OWF plan for increasing women faculty hires.

In response to OWF recommendations, the Associate Provost makes 25 salary adjustments on a case-by-case basis.

OWF lobbies administration for family-friendly tenure policies: At OWF's urging, the administration produces a draft statement which would allow a faculty member to stop the tenure clock for a period of one year at the time of childbirth, upon the death or serious illness of a close family member, or when circumstances beyond the faculty member's control inhibit the research process.

The position of Associate Provost for Faculty Affairs is created to monitor issues related to women faculty, as well as to oversee all other faculty matters.

...back to top of page


Task Force on Women finds additional university-wide salary inequities. Under the auspices of the university-wide Task Force on Women, the administration conducts a regression analysis. Statistically significant findings reveal that, at the professor and assistant professor levels, salaries for women faculty are lower than those for comparable men. OWF asks the administration to conduct such a regression analysis every five years to monitor salary inequities.


Committee on Women in the Academic Community (COWAC) established. In response to requests from OWF and the General Faculty Committee (GFC), a Task Force on Women at Northwestern was established in 1992 to study current conditions for women at Northwestern. In 1994, the Committee publishes a report calling for the creation of a permanent Committee on Women in the Academic Community. This Committee currently continues the data collection initiated by the Task Force and reports on the climate for women at the University.


OWF lobbies for changes in faculty paid-leave policies. Taking note of school-to-school and department-to-department variations in paid-leave policies, OWF lobbies for a consistent implementation of this policy-particularly an end to policy implementations that discriminate against faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences.


Contraceptive coverage is made part of all University health care plans. In Until 2004, many University healthcare plans had nonexistent, limited or inconsistent and discriminatory coverage for female contraception. To address this significant inequity, Alice Eagly works with the General Faculty Committee as a key advocate for new University policy that would make full contraceptive coverage a requirement for all University health care plans. In response to Eagly's research into EEOC, and Federal Court decisions and Illinois law-all of which mandated contraceptive coverage-the University amends its policy.

...back to top of page