Looking at Gender at SAIS

An archive photo of one of the first groups of women at JHU. (Courtesy of the JHU magazine)
An archive photo of one of the first groups of women at JHU. (Courtesy of the JHU magazine)


SAIS has taken a series of steps to address gender-related issues at the university. However, several issues remain at play.

In 2006, Johns Hopkins University published “Vision 2020,” a report on various obstacles that women faced while teaching, working and studying at the university. The document states that at the time, Johns Hopkins was ranked as “last in its peer group in the Consortium on Financing Higher Education for its percentage of women executives.”

To counter this trend, the report places “50 [percent] representation of women in senior faculty and leadership positions…” as a goal for the university to achieve by 2020. According to SAIS’ faculty directory, women currently make up 23 percent of SAIS’ full-time faculty. For part-time positions, women make up 30 percent of the faculty. Three women also serve in the school’s eight senior leadership roles.* These numbers remain low, but have been an improvement from years ago, when only 10 percent of professors on track for tenure were women. This general disparity was labeled in the Vision 2020 report as risking “losing the brainpower, creativity and productivity of half the population.”

The concern over faculty numbers is one part of the overall picture of gender at SAIS. The student population, which is split almost evenly between genders, has additional issues for discussion.

One of the issues raised by students has involved the school’s use of DC’s Georgetown Medical Center as its preferred medical source. As the SAIS website states, “Georgetown University does not prescribe birth control medications for family planning.”

Rachel Bishop, a second year-student who is currently on the school’s insurance plan, said “[Georgetown Medical Center] told me that they would need proof from a previous doctor that I wouldn’t be using [the contraception] for family planning purposes, because its a Catholic institution. That was going to be difficult, since my previous doctor only speaks Spanish.”

The use of the Georgetown Medical Clinic is mostly tied to the hospital’s uniquely large capacity.

“We’ve tried to reach out to other medical centers, but only Georgetown has the capacity for the whole SAIS community,” said Lisa Khan, the director of student life at SAIS. “Thankfully, with the Affordable Care Act, contraception is completely covered by the SAIS insurance plan.”

Many students have used their insurance with alternate medical providers.

“I talked to some other people and ended up going to the Planned Parenthood [on 16th Street], and they were much more helpful,” said Bishop.

Other students have discussed the impact of negative comments at the campus. One student in a regional studies program said, “[The head of my department] talked about there being not enough material to have a course about women in the region. The problem is that we actually have the specialty in-house; there are professors at SAIS that have written books about women within the region. The idea that there isn’t enough material is ridiculous.”

Currently, students who have experienced unwelcoming comments from the faculty or staff at SAIS can discuss these issues with Lisa Khan or Noemi Crispo Rice, the chief student affairs officer. Also, the Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) at Johns Hopkins’ central campus is an office responsible for any discrimination or harassment that students experience at SAIS. According to the SAIS administration, the OIE can be contacted anonymously via phone to discuss related concerns.

Over the last year, the school has taken a series of proactive steps to help foster a more welcoming environment for women and other underrepresented groups. The school has sponsored panels with alumni to discuss the challenges regarding the diversity in the job market post-SAIS. Student groups at SAIS, such as the Global Women in Leadership, have also received extensive support from the faculty. The school has also created a committee this year, representing members drawn from the faculty, staff and student body, to explicitly discuss these diversity issues at SAIS.

*Lori Cwalina, the Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Relations; Melissa K. Trotta, Associate Dean for Executive Education and Strategic Initiatives; and Noemi Crispo Rice, Chief Student Affairs Officer.

2 thoughts on “Looking at Gender at SAIS

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  1. “Women and other underrepresented groups”

    Except that women are half the SAIS student body…. They are not a minority.

  2. In all of SAIS’ curriculum, there is only 1 class offered that deals exclusively on gender/women – Multiculturalism and Women’s Human Rights.

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