Christine Williams

Gender equality is still a widely unacknowledged and major problem in the workplace and on campus, according to a study conducted by UT sociology department chair Christine Williams.

Williams recently published a revision of her study, “The Glass Escalator,” which identifies neoliberalism and prejudice as the reasons why women are underrepresented in leadership positions across virtually every field. Even in fields where women compose the majority of the workforce, men are disproportionately found in leadership roles, according to the study.

In scientific fields, such as geoscience, Williams said gender equality in college does not necessarily translate into gender equality in the workforce.

“In terms of undergraduate enrollment, they’re about 50/50, and [women are] graduating with master’s degrees, and companies are hiring them in equal numbers,” Williams said. “But once they enter the workforce, they drop out
very quickly.”

This is a common problem in scientific fields, Williams said. Tricia Berry, director of the Women in Engineering Program, said female engineering graduates — including those at UT — often do not continue working in engineering fields, but bring valuable experience with them regardless of what kind of work they do.

“We lose in core engineering design, but we gain engineering mind-set in other fields,” Berry said.

Berry said despite previously low numbers of females in the field, the School of Engineering has improved drastically over past years, with its highest undergraduate enrollment class for women ever this fall. Twenty-four percent of the school’s current undergraduates are women, while 29 percent of the 2013 freshman class is female, according to
University documents.

Emma Fullinwider, electrical engineering junior and communications coordinator for Women in Electrical and Computer Engineering, said the program is successful because of the community it offers
female students.

“I can see how one would feel isolated as a woman in engineering,” Fullinwider said. “I could see it being intimidating, and doing bad in classes because there is no one to study with, but we have a network, and we have established relationships.”

Williams said once women enter the workforce, they do not have the same cohesiveness with their co-workers.

“It used to be that jobs were stable and there was a career ladder to climb,” Williams said. “Now they are part-time, temporal, project-based and loyalty is not as important as it used to be. It’s a consequence
of deindustrialization.”

Dr. Sheldon Ekland-Olson is the 2013 recipient of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship, a student-nominated award given to an undergraduate professor who has demonstrated excellence in teaching and has contributed to the University community. Ekland-Olson has served in various academic positions in the College of Liberal Arts, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and the College of Natural Sciences.

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

A parade of students and colleagues barged into Sheldon Ekland-Olson’s 10 a.m. class carrying a $25,000 check with his name on it.

Ekland-Olson, a sociology professor and director of the School of Human Ecology, was selected by the Friar Society as the winner of the Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship Award, a prize granted to professors nominated by UT students for their dedication to the University. Friar Society members, along with university faculty including Christine Williams, professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, met outside the College of Liberal Arts building in preparation for the surprise.

Williams said she thinks Ekland-Olson is well-deserving of the Friar Award.

“I think that he’s a remarkable teacher and he’s somebody who’s really dedicated his whole life to this institution, and more than anything he cares very deeply about the students,” Williams said. “He’s just been an inspiration to all of us on how to live an upright, forthright and dedicated career.”

Ekland-Olson is a former dean of the College of Liberal Arts, a former Provost of the University and an influential author, Williams said. She said Ekland-Olson has written about the death penalty in Texas and his most recent work is called, “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Decides.”

“He’s a specialist in the study of the criminal justice system,” Williams said. 

As the group arrived at Ekland-Olson’s classroom, one Friar member played music on a boombox, while Billy Calve, a government senior and co-chair of the award selection committee, announced their entrance by ringing a cowbell.

Calve said he and his co-chair directed Ekland-Olson’s selection for the award.

“My co-chair and I oversaw the process for the fellowship,” Calve said. “We solicited nominations from students as to who they felt was the most deserving professor, and we distributed that information to the rest of the Friars and then the Friar society as a whole selected Dr. Ekland-Olson for all his years of service to the university.”

After Ekland-Olson received the award, he said he was grateful for the honor.

“This means a lot to me,” Ekland-Olson said. “It’s sort of a lifetime achievement, and it’s very nice to be acknowledged.” 

Calve said the Friar Society has a tradition of surprising the winners of the award.

“Yeah, we think it’s more fun to take the winner by surprise,” Calve said. “So we barge into their class unannounced and we present them with this giant check, and it really is a special moment to see them surprised and so happy.”