Baylor honors female faculty, highlights support group initiatives for belonging

Many women and allies attended the reception honoring Baylor's female faculty on Tuesday at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Grace Everett | Photographer

By Shelby Peck | Staff Writer

Baylor honored its female faculty of all disciplines Tuesday with a reception recognizing the research, teaching and impact they contribute across campus daily.

The event, which was held in the Great Hall of Truett Seminary, invited female faculty and allies to listen to speakers, such as President Linda Livingstone and Dr. Stephen Breck Reid, vice provost for faculty diversity and belonging.

“Before there was a Baylor, women were here. When Baylor was in Independence, women were teaching there,” Reid said. “When Baylor moved to Waco, women were teaching here. Women and here — think of those things together.”

Livingstone said when she was hired in 2017 as Baylor’s first female president, she said she saw how deeply it mattered to so many faculty and students that the university held a female president, especially after Baylor dealt with a sexual assault scandal.

“I wanted to be known for the work I did and the impact I had,” Livingstone said. “I had to learn to embrace that and realize how significant that was for this institution.”

Linda Livingstone at the celebrations of Baylor's Female faculty. Grace Everett | Photographer
President Linda Livingstone attended and spoke at the celebrations of Baylor's female faculty on Tuesday at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary. Grace Everett | Photographer

Livingstone also acknowledged Baylor’s effort to provide support for its female faculty, including the growth of their numbers in the classroom. According to the Baylor Fall 2022 facts sheet offered by the Office of Institutional Research, women comprise 46% of Baylor’s full-time faculty. In 2012, women comprised only 37% of full-time faculty.

“I hope that we’re getting better and better at understanding those challenges, at knowing what those needs are, what those issues are, and finding solutions to the barriers,” Livingstone said.

Many female faculty across campus have taken their own initiatives to create support groups for themselves when no others are available. Female science faculty are able to join Women in Science and Engineering, a group for women to discuss scientific research and offer support to one another.

“In a building so big that some of us had not seen each other in months, it was immediately clear that though we were in different departments and in different positions, we were facing the exact same difficulties,” Dr. Rizalia Klausmeyer, senior lecturer in chemistry and director of the office of undergraduate research, said.

Klausmeyer also said the group has bonded over their common circumstances and teaches its members to say “no” when they feel they are being stretched too thin. WISE has expanded to include graduate students to share their research with Baylor faculty. The organization also offers lecture series, documentary viewings and even has a team participating in the Bearathon.

WISE is not the only grassroots organization at Baylor for female faculty — Dr. Kristen Pond, associate professor of English and member of the steering committee for the BU Women’s Colloquium, said the group began in 2012 with five women meeting in the basement of Tidwell.

“Our goal was to really just foster conversations across campus about gender and diversity and to help women faculty break out of the silence of their department and network with women from across campus from different programs,” Pond said.

Currently, the group meets two to three times a semester in Penland Dining Hall to discuss research, policy and pedagogy. BU Women’s Colloquium has been vital in movements such as the development and expansion of Baylor’s parental leave policy as well as the formation of female graduate student mentorships.

WISE and BU Women’s Colloquium are two of the multiple newly-developing resources for female faculty. The widely successful and continually growing Women’s Faculty Writing Program is another group influential in many women professors’ experience.

“When we come together as a group of women, I’ve seen that voice have a real effect and a growing effect across campus,” Pond said. “We’ve been heard across campus, we’re listened to, and we’ve been able to make a difference.”