Inside Clemson

Tiger Advocates: Get to know Murali Sitaraman

Pic of Murali SitaramanHe became a Tiger Advocate so that he could present solutions and raise awareness for the difficulties faced by female faculty and staff.

Get to know Senior Tiger Advocate Murali Sitaraman.

What roles do you serve at the university?

I am a professor in the School of Computing and I am one of the five senior Tiger Advocates for Clemson.

How long have you been a Tiger Advocate?

I am completing my second year as a Tiger Advocate.

Why did you decide to become a Tiger Advocate, and what do you hope to accomplish as an advocate?

I have been aware of the challenges women faculty and staff face, and I wanted to learn about specific problems so I can be an effective advocate for solutions. What male faculty often take for granted are not so for women. They face a host of issues from apparently innocuous ones, such as when students address them differently from their male counterparts (e.g., Miss vs. Doctor or Professor for males) to obviously serious ones such as when fellow faculty directly or indirectly question their competence to chair committees. Computing is a discipline with a significant underrepresentation of women, so the small numbers pose additional issues that range from a lack of mentorship for junior faculty to excessive committee responsibilities. As an advocate, I hope to make fellow male faculty at Clemson become aware of situations that may be specific to their units and identify ways to improve the climate for their women faculty and staff.

What are some interesting things that you’ve learned as part of your participation in the Tiger Advocates program?

It was interesting to learn the different ways in which students evaluate their male and female teachers. Specifically, the attributes it takes a female faculty member to earn a higher evaluation (e.g., caring) often requires much more effort than what it takes a male faculty member (e.g., funny). I was surprised to know women faculty are interrupted more often than men in some of the units at Clemson. I also learned about the subconscious bias toward men in the recruiting process when qualifications of the applicants were similar.

What are some changes you’ve made as a result of participating in the Tiger Advocates program?

We all have our biases and often we are unaware of them. It is important for us to be introspective and become cognizant of our own biases so we can serve everyone fairly. This is ongoing personal learning. I have served on the faculty search committees for many years. Being more fully aware of the challenges of recruiting and retaining women has helped me communicate the issues to fellow faculty more effectively.

What would you like faculty members to know about the Tiger Advocates program?

Become an advocate! It is fun. You get to talk with a host of interesting faculty at Clemson about a range of unusual situations. It is about knowing what your women colleagues have to face and making the climate at Clemson better for them and everyone. Learn more here.