Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Professionals Discuss Women's Equality Day

Emily Gardner

August 26, 2015

The women provide personal stories and thoughts as they reflect on their careers.

In 1971, Aug. 26 was designated as National Women's Equality Day to honor the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. In recognition of that day, several Texas Tech University women, ranging from professors to a Board of Regents member, provided their thoughts on what equality means to them and how it has impacted their careers. 

Michelle Pantoya

Michelle Pantoya,
J.W. Wright Regents Endowed Chair Professor, Department of Mechanical Engineering

“My mother wanted to go to college but her family thought education was more for men. She is the most influential person in my life and holds the professional title stay-at-home-mom. She taught me the one key trait that has helped me with every obstacle and adversity I've encountered in my professional career. She taught me to keep a positive attitude and that ‘working hard and doing well' is far more important than being labeled smart. I knew few girls in college in my major and fewer in graduate school. I didn't realize how few women were in engineering until I started working and realized there weren't any women professors at many universities. I never had a female professional role model, but I've found personal role models are more important anyway. I love my career. It is part of who I am. I often feel grateful to the women before me for opening doors and opportunities that, until very recently, didn't even exist. I try to do the same for the younger generations and pass it on.”


Charlotte Dunham,
Director of the Women's Studies Program

Charlotte Dunham

“The truth is I wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for the work done by the feminists and their allies in the 1960s and 1970s to bring equality for women. It is through their work then and now that people are becoming more and more aware of the contributions women make as scholars, teachers and researchers that cannot and should not be overlooked. We now have multi-million-dollar National Science Foundation grants to improve the representation of women in science and engineering. As a result of this work, universities, including Texas Tech, have changed their policies on hiring practices so it is easier to avoid implicit biases that so often keep women and minorities from being hired. 

“I have seen so many changes over my career and I think those who haven't lived through them take the advantages they have for granted. I was a swimmer when I was young, but I was not given an opportunity to compete because my school didn't have a team for girls, only for boys. With Title IX we have amazing female athletes who are given the opportunities I didn't have. Where do you think women like Sheryl Swoopes or Lisa Leslie would be without Title IX? In my first full-time job after high school, we were told the men in the shop would be paid more than the women because the men were supporting families. The boss told us this in front of one of the older women workers who was a single mom raising teenagers, but somehow that didn't count for extra pay. And although we have come a long way since then, there still isn't an equal pay act that would have protected our right to be paid the same for equal work. I didn't even have a female professor until I reached my doctoral program.

“I guess that's why I have spent so much of my career at Texas Tech advocating on behalf of women. I understand the importance of moving forward. That's why we need a Women's Equality Day to remind us about the many changes we have experienced, but there is work still to be done. I love Texas Tech and the way it has moved forward with me and the other women who wouldn't be here otherwise.” 

Judi Henry

Judi Henry,
Senior Associate Athletics Director and Senior Woman Administrator

“Sometimes you have the advantage of being part of history. I graduated from Texas Tech in 1975, just as Title IX was being implemented. Growing up, I missed the opportunity Title IX provided young girls and women to experience sports, along with the advantages that come with being active and involved. I did, however, get to be a part of the first experience in girls competitive athletics in Lubbock Independent School District in 1975 when I taught and coached in my first job at Smylie Wilson Junior High. Little did I know then I would have the chance to achieve the position I currently hold as senior associate athletics director. At that time, the men's and women's athletics departments were separate and worlds apart. When I look at how far the women's sports have come not only at Texas Tech, but on a national and world level, I am totally amazed.

“I had a distinct advantage of being mentored by three very strong role models: Jeannine McHaney, Margaret Wilson and Robert Ewalt. They taught me not only to strive for equality for women, but to strive to do the right thing for all human beings.”    

Comfort Pratt

Comfort Pratt,
Associate Professor in Bilingual Education and Diversity Studies and Secondary Education, College of Education

“Women's equality has been a subject of great importance to me throughout my career because of the nature of the issues I have had to deal with every step of the way. Despite the anti-discrimination legislative changes, discrimination against women in the workplace remains an issue of great concern. Unfortunately, regardless of your excellence and superior competence and expertise in your field of specialization, your knowledge and skills are often relegated to a secondary position if you are a woman and you are not duly acknowledged. The gender leadership gap, the glass ceiling, gender pay inequality, work-life imbalance and workplace bullying, among others, are still of great concern to women as workplace issues often get quashed amid the bureaucracy. Women's equality will continue to be elusive so long as women who hold powerful positons that can truly change the workplace continue to be the exception instead of the rule.

“My personal experience is confirmation that mentoring by women in leadership positons is crucial for young professional women as they weave their way through the career labyrinths. I would not be in my current position at Texas Tech without the guidance and support of some specific women I met here whose leadership roles and experiences became invaluable tools for my professional development.”

Amy Murphy

Amy Murphy,
Dean of Students

“For me, Women's Equality Day is about gratitude – my gratitude to those who worked to improve the opportunities for women in higher education and beyond. I think of individuals who have supported me as a first-generation college student and later as a young professional to feel confident I could and should be involved and had significant contributions to make. I think of organizations like the American Association of University Women (AAUW) striving for equality and providing information and education for me and new generations of campus leaders.

“Women's Equality Day also is about work that still must be done to ensure equal opportunities for all students of our university. From microaggressions that negatively impact student perceptions of themselves or others to behaviors that disproportionately impact certain populations of students to campus climates that are not conducive to student success, as a member of the Texas Tech community, we must be committed to the prevention and elimination of inequality on our campus. What I have recognized is that we often do not realize the impact our smallest ideas and actions have on others and on the environment in which we live, work and learn.” 

Debbie Montford

Debbie Montford,
Regent (San Antonio)

“As I reflect on Women's Equality Day, I am thankful to see how much progress has been made in the past couple of decades. Women today have more opportunities to wield more influence in more ways than ever before. When I visit our campuses, I see evidence of this all around as young women work to become engineers, lawyers, doctors and really anything they wish to be. Women will be promoted to better job positions with equal pay and recognition. They will erase the perceived glass ceilings that have been in place for women for generations. I am hopeful we have a handful of women on our campuses who will eventually serve on our Board of Regents.

“With all of that said, we still have a long way to go. Maybe one day we won't need a Women's Equality Day because equality for each and every person will be so ingrained in everything we do. I have been blessed to serve as an advocate in a number of roles, and if there is one piece of advice I would give others today, it is this: ‘Find a passion and advocate for change. The world is counting on you.'”