Lee Robinson, associate clinical professor and director of the BYU Speech and Language Clinic, was recently named president-elect of the BYU Faculty Women’s Association (FWA). Robinson has been involved with the FWA for most of her 21 years at BYU, and this will be the third FWA leadership position she has held.
The FWA’s mission is threefold: to create a sense of community and among its members (female faculty and administrative staff), to improve the quality of professional life for faculty women, and to bring awareness to gender issues. Women currently make up about 21 percent of BYU full-time faculty, which is considered low given the university’s accreditation and size.
Robinson said that there are plenty of women interested in becoming faculty, but cultural pressures may be a deterrent. “Culturally, there's this notion that women maybe should be the nurturers and the caretakers and stay at home,” said Robinson. In focus groups she’s conducted with the FWA, women have also talked about their experiences of both outright discrimination at BYU as well as more forms of bias—discrimination is not always intentional, but its effects are always damaging. Understanding women’s experiences at BYU is a first step to improving them, and while addressing gender issues can make some people uncomfortable, Robinson is hopeful: “It seems more acceptable to talk about those things right now than it ever has before.”
For the past few years, Robinson has also been part of the BYU Women Thrive initiative, an FWA subcommittee that brings attention to how university administration can make BYU more welcoming for both women and people of color. Members of the Thrive initiative have been conducting focus groups with diverse faculty and students with the goal of listening and better understanding their experiences. “We're trying to help people know better so that they can do better.”
Robinson isn’t the only McKay School member involved with the FWA; teacher education professors Ramona Cutri and Teresa Leavitt are president and publications editor, respectively, on the FWA 2020–2021 board.
As president-elect, Robinson will plan FWA’s annual retreat, set to take place (remotely) in spring 2021. While the retreat’s theme has not yet been decided, Robinson hopes to continue conversations on diversity, discuss how faculty can effectively mentor students from different backgrounds, and—to make it a retreat in the truest sense of the word—hold some sort of yoga class. “We're trying to help women in various departments across campus feel like they have a community of women that they can go to and connect with.”
Writer: Anessa Pennington
Contact: Cynthia Glad 801-422-1922