In March, Staff Notes Monthly reported recent efforts across UCAR to increase recruitment and retention of a more diversified work force, especially through improved communication and mentoring practices. This month, we examine UCAR's response to recommendations addressing other aspects of the work environment, for women scientists in particular and all staff in general, in the report of the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics of the American Physical Society (APS). Charged with addressing the quality of the work environment for all staff, the UCAR Diversity Task Force has begun gathering information for its second report and expects to present its findings later this year. In the meantime, here's a sample of views on what could be done to nurture an environment that supports the professional growth and well-being of a diverse staff.
"Many of the recommendations in the APS report apply to the whole staff, because women's problems are often everyone's problems," observes Peggy LeMone (senior scientist, MMM). The President's Council agrees, and has charged the Diversity Task Force with assessing the UCAR environment from multiple points of view.
The CFW's recommendations, based on a survey of all UCAR staff conducted in March 1993, also urged UCAR to "investigate possible options for either an on-site childcare center or an off-site employee-monitored childcare center."
The 2000 APS report recommends "that UCAR explore options for
establishing or 'buying into' a daycare center
Barb Brown (project scientist, RAP) served on the CFW when it issued its report. "There are benefits of on-site childcare that are somewhat intangible and hard to quantify," says Barb, "such as increased productivity that results from employees having peace of mind because their children are in a safe environment, close by. Once those types of benefits are widely recognized and appreciated, I believe that NCAR will come up with a way to be more supportive of staff with small children." Diane Rabson (NCAR archivist) was also on the now-defunct CFW. "People here are still interested in having on-site daycare," she reports. "They still talk to me about it."
"It's interesting that [daycare] is a recurring problem that comes out on every survey," said Maura Hagan (scientist, HAO) at a 10 November meeting of women scientists and members of the President's Council. Indeed, Delphi Question #470 in this issue of SN (page 14) underscores the interest in this issue; the response describes steps Human Resources is taking to assess daycare and other work/life questions.
HR will be reporting to the President's Council after completing
its study of the daycare question. What is already known,
according to HR director Bob Roesch, is that "The economy of scale
issue doesn't change no matter how many times you look at it. We
still have 1,200 employees divided among multiple campuses
Rick Anthes (UCAR president) also acknowledges the difficulty of the issue. "What we've found so far is that, even with organizations much larger than UCARmaybe twice as largethe experience has been that there aren't enough customers to fill up a daycare center." Both he and NCAR director Tim Killeen are willing to consider collaborative efforts with other organizations in Boulder, such as NOAA and NIST or CU. Says Tim, "I suspect some out-of-the-box thinking may ultimately be needed here." Bob adds, "I can say we're going to be open-minded about the possibilities."
In place since 1974, Delphi provides a channel for staff to query management about UCAR policy and practice in confidence.
"Obviously," says Tim, "the chain of command can be a significant resource for addressing problem areas, but if needed, individuals can go directly to higher levels, particularly if the problem is with an individual in the chain." The harassment training seminars, attended by all staff this past year, discussed protection against reprisals for reporting problems, and Tim emphasizes that reprisal attempts "should be reported and cannot be tolerated."
"People should not be afraid to come forward to the division or program director, to Tim, Jack [Fellows], Katy [Schmoll], or me and ask for confidentiality," Rick says. "We have to assume that working within the system is possible. There is a risk, but there are safeguards against retaliation." HR offers another channel for bringing problems to management's attention. "If people aren't getting satisfaction from their supervisor, or their supervisor's supervisor, they can go to HR. And, ultimately, there's the formal grievance procedure," Rick says (see UCAR policy 2-3-6).
Members of the President's Council and the division and program directors are involved in informal problem resolution "all the time," he adds, "without a lot of publicity or any kind of formal action."
Dave says, "We certainly have gotten some ideas from this survey of 'best practices.' But those are small improvements. We'd really like to wrestle with the larger issue of the workplace culture." The task force hopes to identify key issues affecting the workplace environment and ways "the institution might go about learning, identifying [opportunities for] change, and making changes."
Tim notes the difficulty of addressing more subtle work-climate issues, "but we need to absolutely insist on having a culture of respect for individuals." Research suggests that having a critical mass of staff from underrepresented groups alleviates some of the pressure on individual group members, and Tim adds, "We are also emphasizing diversity in our recruitment strategies which, over time, will help eliminate some of these problems."
Rick sums up: "This is something that requires, certainly, leadership from the top down, but it also requires help from the entire staff. Because you can't legislate a new culture. You can certainly encourage it, and you can take care of egregious violations. But in terms of politenesstreating people you disagree with with respect, or people that are different from you with respectthat's something that everybody has to participate in."
Edited by Bob Henson,
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Thu Apr 19 15:33:03 MDT 2001