SRU celebrates ‘Status of Women’ during March


high school girls participate in STEM program

Slippery Rock University will offer its “Girls Rock @ STEM” career exploration program for eighth and ninth-grade females as part of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women event schedule in March.

Feb. 23, 2016

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University has provided vital leadership for female inclusion in academia and the workforce, gaining ground in many areas, starting at the top. Some might be tempted to declare victory.

Others would say it's too early to celebrate. After all, women still only earn 76 cents for every dollar a man earns, millennial women experience depression 22.5 more days per year than millennial men and 32.1 percent of employed women work in low-wage jobs.

Stacy Hrizo


Mary Hennessey


Mary Hennessey, Slippery Rock University assistant to the provost for academic and student affairs, would agree, "There is always room to move forward; the more equitable campus is, the better it is for everyone."

The President's Commission on the Status of Women, co-chaired by Hennessey, and Stacy Hrizo, assistant professor biology, is using the backdrop of National Women's History Month in March to explore and celebrate the Status of Women Month at SRU. The commission will present programs that explore gender successes and ongoing challenges such as the wage gap, underrepresentation in business and science careers and the fight against domestic violence.

"As a woman and co-chair of this commission, what I want is for women who are graduating to have the skills they need to move forward," Hennessey said. "When you look at the balance of gender on this campus, we do have more female students than male students, but are they going into the areas they want?"

A field that needs more women, she said, is science, technology, engineering and mathematics. To plant the seed for hard sciences, SRU will offer its "Girls Rock @ STEM" program again. This year, the program, which introduces young women to science and the opportunities for great careers, will target eighth and ninth graders instead of high school students.

"We looked at research that said you really need to get students who are a little bit younger, to prepare them for STEM majors," Hennessey said. "Then they can take classes as they go through high school to make sure their math and science education is strong."

Hennessey said women students, faculty and staff would share their journey to success during various events.

"We have a lot of talent here at the University and we want to make sure we take advantage of it," she said. "You don't always have to bring in an outside speakers to represent the wonderful views and wonderful stories."

An area of continuing concern for women, she said, is salary inequality. Hennessey said programs would hone in on what causes gaps and teach women how to be stronger salary negotiators.

The wage gap damages women in earning potentially, especially over a 30-year career, said Cindy LaCom, professor of English and director of the Gender Studies Program. She said fewer than 30 Fortune 500 companies have women chief executive officers, with fewer than five of them being women of color.

"Given the transnational power of these companies, this is a grave under-representation," LaCom said.

LaCom said the program is important because girls and women are more likely to be victims of rape, domestic violence and murder. She said the second leading cause of death of pregnant women is murder by an abusive partner.

"It matters because intersectional identity issues mean that women of color, women with disabilities and poor women are disproportionally affected by the gender wage gap, rape culture, and interpersonal violence as they experience systemic racism, ableism and classism," LaCom said.

Hennessey said she hopes female students don't feel they will be discriminated against in the workplace but that "there is probably some of it out there."

LaCom said that although the University is committed to diversity and inclusion and works to provide a safe environment for all students to learn and grow, programs such as the monthlong focus on the Status of Women are important to raise the community's awareness of the challenges women still face.

SRU's six presidential commissions, which are comprised of volunteer student, faculty, staff and administrative members appointed by the president, provide leadership for maintaining a campus community that is open, caring, nurturing, personal, fair, engaging and respectful.

Each of the commissions - Disability; Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation; Racial and Ethic Diversity; Sustainability; Status of Women, and Wellness - selected a month during the academic year to focus on their work and engage the community.

MEDIA CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine | 724.738.4854 |