Over a period of years, women faculty at Marquette raised issues of gender equity in both public and private forums. Some women expressed concern about the low numbers of women faculty at Marquette. Others noted the dearth of women at the rank of full professor. Still others believed they had been the targets of gender discrimination, both intentional and unintentional. In response to these concerns, Father Robert A. Wild, S.J., the President of Marquette University, announced in May, 1999 that he was forming a Task Force on Gender Equity. By July of 1999, Father Wild had determined the membership of the Task Force, inviting a diverse group of eighteen faculty and administrators with a range of experiences and expertise to contribute to this effort.
Father Wild issued a Charge requiring the Task Force first to determine if there were areas of perceived gender inequity among the faculty. Second, he asked it to examine data to determine if faculty were treated equitably by gender in multiple areas of University activity, such as recruitment, hiring, appointment, workload distribution, allocation of leadership responsibilities, compensation, and promotion. Third, he sought preparation of a report with findings and conclusions, recommendations and a plan of action to address any inappropriate gender differences. The Charge was limited in scope to faculty. It was comprehensive in terms of assessing the fairness of University activities that impact faculty. Addressing the Charge required qualitative and quantitative data investigation, collection, and analyses conducted over the period from September, 1999 to December, 2000.
Noting the limitations of empirical and legal approaches to correcting inequities for women faculty at other educational institutions, the Task Force examined gender equity in a more expansive context. Acknowledging that the Jesuit tradition grounds the Mission and Identity of the University, the Task Force sought guidance from Jesuit colleagues in the University. From them the Task Force learned about the evolution of changing attitudes of the Society of Jesus towards women in civil society as expressed in Decree 14 of Congregation 34, "Jesuits and the Situation of Women in Church and Civil Society." Appropriating concepts from Decree 14, the Task Force defined gender equity as follows:
Gender equity is the equal treatment of women and men in the workplace. It includes a consideration of whether cultural mores embedded within the economic, social, political, religious, and even linguistic structures of our society operate in such a fashion that they offend the equal dignity of women created with men in the image of God.