PULLMAN, Wash. — A Council for the Advancement of Women at WSU has been established by Washington State University President V. Lane Rawlins.

“The group will begin by analyzing barriers to the advancement of women to department chair, full professor, senior administrative and professional posts, and to positions in the physical sciences, mathematics and engineering,” Rawlins said.

According to statistics nationwide, those are areas where, despite the gains that women have made in academe, they are significantly outnumbered by men.

“I don’t know whether women who aim to be promoted in the faculty ranks or to win an administrative post feel that there is a ‘glass ceiling’ here at WSU,” said council chair Barbara Couture, dean of the College of Liberal Arts. “My own experience, and the fact that we have many prominent women in the upper ranks of administration, would suggest that there is not.

“Nonetheless, there may be barriers present for women in university life that make these goals seem for many out of reach. I would expect that it is these barriers that our committee will try to define and eradicate.”

Women’s accession to top faculty jobs may be partly a matter of time, age and longevity. WSU statistics show that full professors generally are older than associate professors, who are older than assistant professors. As of fall 2003, women represent about 44 percent of assistant professors at WSU, 35 percent of associate professors and 13 percent of full professors.

As more women ascend to associate and full professor positions, the numbers of men and women can be expected to achieve a balance closer to the 44 percent women now in assistant professorships.

Task force members include Couture, Jim Petersen, Mary Doyle, Frances McSweeney, Ralph Yount, Mary Sanchez-Lanier, Warwick Bayly, Kathleen Postle, Bruce Romanish, Eleanor Finger, Joan King, Candis Claiborn, Gail Chermak, Larry James, Steven Tomsovic and Tom Brigham.

“I expect the council and the Commission on the Status of Women will work together in a cooperative and collaborative manner,” said Marsha Yim, chair of the long-established commission. “It’s great that the need for women leadership in the various categories of employees is recognized. This says something very positive about WSU.”