By Anthony Cardellini ’17
Brophy Principal Mr. Bob Ryan said that the male to female faculty ratio, which is about three male teachers for every female teacher, was something that weighed heavily on his heart.
“In a rich educational environment students should be exposed to a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives,” he said. “Our boys need examples of and good relationships with adult women.”
Mr. Ryan also said that he thought students should develop relationships with female faculty members because it is important that our young men have role models that are women.
Mr. Ryan said that the history of the school, as well as the fact that it is an all-male school, are some of the possible reasons for the disparity between the number of male and female teachers.
He said that he is encouraged by recent events such as Ms. Adria Renkebecoming the first female president in the school’s history.
“There’s distance for us to travel,” he said. “I’m excited that this year our president is a woman.”
He said that there are elements of the school that would be enhanced if we had more female faculty members.
Mr. Ryan said that the hiring process does not see gender as a key issue in deciding a new faculty member, but that gender diversity is certainly important and something he is mindful of.
“When I say [the ratio] is not perfect, I don’t mean to say we have a crisis here,” he said. “I think we have increased the percentage of women on the faculty in the last ten years.”
Mr. Ryan said that Mrs. Katie Widbin is the only female department chair at the school. She is chair of the counseling department.
Mrs. Widbin, who has been the chair of the department for five years and was the first female sports coach at Brophy, said that she is impressed with the progress Brophy has made over the past decade.
“I remember in my first years here feeling much more aware of being a woman on campus,” she said. “I remember when I would walk in heels on the campus and people would turn and look, not because they were being weird or creepy but because it was such an unusual sound.”
“We have our long term veteran female teachers here who are fantastic,” Mrs. Widbin said. “I think we’ve done a lot of good hiring in the last several years.”
Mr. Ryan also said that his ultimate goal is not necessarily a 50/50 ratio, but instead that he thinks an all boys school “should have more male teachers on the faculty,” although he said the current disparity is too large.
Mrs. Widbin agreed that the need for strong male faculty members at an all-male school is great.
“I think that Mr. Ryan is on the right track with the awareness of the need for great men to be at Brophy,” she said. “There is a desperate need for our young men to have male teachers who can be role models, who can engage in difficult conversations, who can speak the language.”
Mrs. Widbin said there is a unique draw for male faculty to Brophy because of its Jesuit heritage. She said this was evident through the number of alumni teachers Brophy employs.
Mr. Ryan expressed gratitude to the current female faculty members.
“I’m very grateful to the women on the faculty,” he said. “Being a female teacher in an all-male environment is not necessarily an easy job al the time. But these teachers are really important to the school.”
Mrs. Widbin said she would not be surprised to see more female department chairs in the future.
Tucker Brown ’17, who is currently working on an original oratory about feminism for speech and debate, said the school is far from perfect, but that Brophy has given him several female role models, such as Ms. Beth Clarke, Ms. Jessie Mason and Mrs. Kristen Venberg.
He also said that having Ms. Renke as the president of Brophy this year is extremely important.
“I think having Ms. Renke as president is huge, given that all of the past presidents at Brophy have been male,” he said. “A majority of principals and presidents for private schools are men. So having these female role models kind of shifts our structure.”
He also said that female influence is all the more important because Brophy is all male.
“When you walk around Brophy you’re only around guys,” he said. “There’s no way that all the club presidents wouldn’t be guys, so now you have a school of all guys where all the positions of power are held by guys. What’s that going to be like when you get out of Brophy?”
Brown said it is difficult to talk about women’s issues without women to present their perspectives.
“When you don’t have female role models, you don’t understand where women come from, if you try to have a conversation about things like gender equality and gender violence,” he said.