Georgetown University is set to create a new task force for gender equity this semester, University President John J. DeGioia announced March 1.

The announcement of the task force coincides with the start of Women’s History Month. It also comes as universities and corporations across the country begin to examine how their internal structures promote or inhibit gender equity in light of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, which advocate for gender equality and environments free from sexual harassment and assault.

Jane Aiken, vice dean and professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, has been selected to lead the task force, but the other members who will work with her have yet to be selected.

“I’m working closely with President DeGioia to assemble a diverse team of faculty from different disciplines with expertise that would be helpful to this work. Georgetown is a large and diverse place, and tapping into the broad expertise we have here is both a challenge and an exciting opportunity,” Aiken said.

Aiken served on a similar task force at the University of South Carolina in the past and chaired the Governor’s Task Force on AIDS for the state of Arizona.

Jane Aiken, vice dean and professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, has been selected to lead the task force.

Ensuring that the task force reflects the university’s current and continued movement toward diversity on campus remains a priority for the university, according to Georgetown’s strategic communications director Rachel Pugh.

“Georgetown is deeply committed to gender equity and ensuring that our faculty and senior administrators reflect the changing demographics of our society,” Pugh wrote in an email to The Hoya.

The task force will be fully operational within the next few weeks, according to Pugh, and it will work throughout the school year to make recommendations for the university to improve gender equity among faculty and senior leadership.

The task force will be concerned with four main areas of work, according to DeGioia’s announcement. These areas include examining how Georgetown has successfully improved gender equity among faculty and senior leadership and how current institutional practices contribute to or detract from such equity.

Discussions about the possibility of a task force on gender equity began in fall 2017, continuing a recent chain of efforts from the university to enhance Georgetown’s commitment to gender equity. In 2011, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security. In 2014, the university founded the Georgetown Women’s Alliance, and in 2016 the university announced a partnership with the United Nations campaign HeForShe, an international initiative that seeks to encourage men and boys to advocate for gender equity.

“We are committed to ensuring that Georgetown is a place where women thrive and are recognized for their contributions,” Pugh wrote.

Aiken echoed this sentiment, noting the ways gender equity is particularly important at a university.

“Promoting gender equity doesn’t just ensure better outcomes for women; it ensures better outcomes for the students we teach and the research we produce,” Aiken said.

Lauren Stricker (SFS ’18), president of Georgetown University Women in Leadership, said that GUWIL welcomes this step from the university toward achieving gender equity.

“GUWIL is thrilled that the Georgetown administration is taking gender inequity seriously and seeking meaningful, concrete change to improve the campus climate for people of all genders,” Stricker said.

Stricker also said she looks forward to the ways in which this task force may amplify previously unheard voices on campus.

“I am hopeful that this task force will better provide space for the voices of women and of persons across the gender spectrum in university leadership and decision-making, particularly as Georgetown has never had a non-male president,” Stricker said.

However, Stricker also mentioned ways the task force can change how the university currently operates.

“I hope that this initiative challenges Georgetown to support women throughout their professional lives, especially related to equal pay, mentorship and resources, protection from sexual harassment and assault and paid leave,” Stricker said, “I hope this task force will have a diverse membership that improves the status of gender equity in ways that the community genuinely wants and needs.”

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