Can Feminine Muscle Lift Faculty Job Barriers?
"Of more than 200 complaints filed against colleges and universities between January, 1970 and January, 1972, HEW received more charges of sex discrimination than of discrimination against all minorities put together."
"In education, in marriage, in everything, disappointment is the lot of women..." Lucy Stone, 1885
Perhaps the women's movement differs from the civil rights struggles of blacks, Chicanos, and other groups in that segregation--putting the deprived out of sight--is not a real alternative. Men have too much to lose by mass murders or forced separation. But a second difference between the women's movement and others is falling away. Where the black emancipation movement in particular has been marked by violence, riots, and physical protest, the women's movement has largely taken a more subdued path. The women's movement has now, however, begun to show its muscle, through legal fights and political pressure. And one of the most visibly effected institutions--at least from the legal standpoint--has been the universities.
There is little doubt that women have been discriminated against in university hiring in the past. Nationwide, women constitute 62.7 per cent of college and university faculty earning $10,000 or under, but the percentages drop as the salary rises, so that women make up only 1.7 per cent of faculty earning $20,000 or over. (Source: American Council on Education).
Discrepancies between salaries for men and women in equivalent positions are responsible for some of the difference in earnings. A study by Alan E. Bayer and Helen S. Astin in the Journal of Human Resources (Spring, 1968) found that:
Across all work settings, fields and ranks, women experience a significantly lower average academic income than do men in academic teaching labor force for the same amount of time. Within each work setting, field and rank category, women also have lower salaries. Their mean salaries are as low as 83.8 per cent of the mean salary reported by men and as high at 98.8 per cent of the male mean salary.
However, an equally important factor in the differences in earnings between male and female academics is that women are more highly concentrated in lower academic ranks and lower paying, lower prestige colleges. The proportion of women faculty members is 26 per cent in two-year colleges, 23 per cent in four-year colleges and 15 per cent in universities.
Men also generally hold higher ranks than women. Sixteen per cent of male college academics are full professors while only 9 per cent of the female academics hold that post. At the lower end of the academic scale, 35 per cent of the women are instructors as compared to only 16 per cent of the men. (Bayer, 1971).
Pressure from women's groups in the last five years has not yet significantly changed the figures on university employment, but it has been highly influential in bringing about major changes in civil rights laws and government policy on discrimination which will make it easier for qualified women to get academic jobs in the future.
Neither of the two landmark civil rights laws made discrimination against women academics illegal. The 1963 Equal Pay Act did require that women receive equal pay for equivalent jobs. But the act specifically excluded administrative, executive and professional workers. This clause was a concession to the southerners so they could fire black teachers, but it also incidentally exempted college and university faculty and professional staffs. Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act forbids discrimination in institutions receiving Federal money on the basis of race, national origin or color, but it does not forbid sex discrimination.
In 1965, President Johnson closed the loophole on discrimination in the academic community somewhat by issuing an executive order--based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act--extending the requirement of non-discrimination to include educational institutions which are Federal contractors, but not including discrimination based on sex.
The executive order covers all institutions which receive over $50,000 in Federal contracts: hospitals, businesses, school systems, and universities. During the fiscal year 1972. HEW estimated it would require compliance from almost 4000 contractors, including 2000 institutions of higher education, and it expects to conduct over 100 on-site reviews of institutions of higher education next year.
The 1968 executive order not only stated that institutions must not discriminate, but also required them to take "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment without regard to their race, color, religion, sex or national origin." This did not just mean equal pay for equal work. "Affirmative action" is to include--"but not be limited to"--such things as promotions, recruiting and "selection for training, including apprenticeship." Some women's groups have claimed that limiting admission of women to colleges and universities constituted discrimination because, they say, graduate and undergraduate study is the academic equivalent of training and apprenticeship. The administration did not construe it that way, but this argument probably paved the way for this year's bill to higher education which currently awaits Senate and House resolution. Both versions of the bill under consideration forbid discrimination on the basis of sex in public undergraduate institutions and all graduate programs.
IT WAS THE CLAUSE on sex discrimination which started University headaches. In 1970, Bernice Sandler, then president of the Women's Equity Action League (WEAL), a nationwide women's group, discovered that, under the executive order, women could file complaints of discrimination against Universities--and that the department of Health, Education and Welfare was obliged to investigate the charge. If HEW found "substantial or material violation" of the provisions in the executive order, the university faced loss of Federal funds.
Under the order, WEAL and other women's groups have filed more than 150 formal charges of sex discrimination since January, 1970. Of more than 200 complaints filed against colleges and universities between January, 1970 and January, 1972, HEW received more charges of sex discrimination than of discrimination against all minorities put together. Stanley Pottinger, director of the Office of Civil Rights, claimed in a letter in January to a women from the National Organization for Women (NOW), that his office had a backlog of more than 100 cases. "Given the limits of our human power" he admitted some cases would have to be given a lower priority. He said his office would "concentrate primarily on patterns of discrimination rather than complaints from individuals." Partly because of the deluge of complaints. HEW asked Congress for more money and funds for 70 extra personnel to work on this problem, the largest staff increase for any government department for the coming year.
But the real pressure on universities came as the result of an amendment to the executive order which the Department of Labor released on January 30, 1970. The order, Title 4, requires Federal contractors to submit a general plan for ending discrimination, and also to set goals and timetables for correcting existing situations in the affirmative action plan. This came out at the same time WEAL and other women's groups began using their new-found legal resources.
"Women did everything from demanding to see the Secretary of Labor to letter campaigns; at one point, they (the government) were receiving so many letter they had to hire a full-time letter reader," a WEAL spokesman explained. "Because of the publicity and pressure, women were asked to come in and give comments on the order. There was a very direct result from this pressure...the government never moves until someone puts on pressure."
Revised order no, four came out almost two years later, after women from WEAL and NOW were consulted on the draft. The revised order required that the affirmative action plans contain a "utilization analysis" for women as well as for minorities, as was previously required. The definition of "Underutilization" of women is slightly different from that of minorities; the proportion of minority members on the work force is to be defined by the "minority population of the labor area surrounding the facility" while the acceptable proportion of women is to depend on "the availability of women seeking employment in the labor of recruitment area of the contractor." In other words, the order takes into account the fact that many women don't seek employment.
That many women don't work seems to have stirred a philosophical controversy in the time preceeding the drafting of the revised order: should employers consider their possible workforce as only those now employed or seeking employment, or their potential presence in the workforce? Statistically the proportion of both women and minorities who don't work is higher than that of white males; the philosophical question is whether the government should encourage people to work.
IT IS THE GOALS and timetables which are really forcing universities to take affirmative action. The goals are to be "measurable and attainable" deriving from university estimates of the applicant pools for each rank and department, based on the available talent. For example, if x per cent of the people holding doctorates in psychology in the country are women, then a university might reasonably set its goal for women faculty in the psychology department at x per cent. And if they can figure out the approximate turn-over of faculty in the psychology department, they can derive from that a timetable are not absolutely binding--all the institution has to do is show a "good faith effort" in meeting them. As documented by "support data" "including but not limited to prog, line charts, applicant flow data, and rejection ratios, seniority rosters."
At the same time, the institution is supposed to be developing methods for recruiting, training and promoting employees, so that failure to meet the goals and timetables may not necessarily imply lack of effort or reluctance on the part of university officials, but poor methods. This could be one excuse a university might use to avoid loss of Federal funds for a poor affirmative action program. Without the goals and timetables, however, the inadequacy of the methods would not be apparent, and a university could, rightly, say only that it had done its best to end discrimination in employment. Only as measured against the goals and timetables is it evident that the university's current "best" efforts need to be improved to meet reasonable goals.
However, even the revised order leaves many points unclarified, and has sparked a controversy between HEW, university presidents, and women.
After a meeting of the American Council on Education (ACE) last year, the Council appointed the presidents of five colleges "to iron out confusion between college presidents and the Department of HEW," according to committee chairman Derek Bok. Three of the universities represented on the committee--Harvard, the University of Michigan and Columbia--were then under investigation by HEW. Columbia soon became the first institution to lose Federal funds for failure to comply with the executive order, when the government withheld $13.8 million for several months until HEW accepted a revised affirmative action plan last month.
One issue is over goals and timetables for tenured faculty. A clause in the revised order allows a contractor to get out of establishing goals if his affirmative action plan is otherwise complete and if he can "detail his reason for a lack of a goal." In a letter to the deans of the faculty dated Dec. 27, 1971, President Bok outlined his reasons for opposing goals for tenured faculty:
First. I believe that the setting of meaningful targets is often impossible. In the smaller schools, a very limited number of appointments may be made each year, and it is not possible to predict in advance how many persons in a very small, highly select pool will turn out to be women or minority persons. In larger faculties, more appointments are made, but the appointment process consists of a host of individual searches by many individual committees covering a shifting number of highly varied fields of knowledge. Once again, no one can predict what proportions of women or minority persons will emerge within the sum of these separate search efforts. Second, I fear that setting targets will inevitably exert strong pressures to meet outside goals--a pressure that will undermine to some extent the University's overriding obligation to select the very best candidate for each available position.
Instead, Bok suggested "procedural safeguards that will minimize the risk of bias or inadvertence in our selection process:"
We must search for other ways of eliminating the risk of bias while protecting ourselves from pressures that may conflict with our desire to achieve the highest quality of appointments.
On March 1, 1972, Bok sent another memo to the deans, this time stating that "recent communications" from the Regional and Washington offices of HEW had "clarified certain aspects" of the affirmative action requirements, including the issue of goals for faculty:
HEW states that it decided several weeks ago that numerical targets and timetables may not be appropriate for faculty positions.
HEW has never officially announced this stance, and about a month ago, John G. Bynoe, New England regional director of the Office of Civil Rights still held that universities were required to submit goals and timetables for all faculty levels.
On March 22, a memo from Walter J. Leonard, special assistant to the President, who has been supervising Harvard's affirmative action plan still holds that "targets, goals and timetables are applicable to all levels. The one exception may be the tenured Faculty positions, provided we are able to establish that such activity as setting goals would be fruitless, because of the paucity of potential candidates."
ANOTHER CONTROVERSIAL area is the confidentiality of university personnel files. HEW has demanded to see institutions' personnel records in order to check up on institutions or to investigate claims of discrimination. They base their right to see the files on a section of the executive order stating that the contractor must agree in writing to "permit access to his books, records and accounts" during normal business hours for "purposes of investigation to ascertain compliance with the equal opportunity clause."
Many institutions object that the privacy of their files, which they claim is necessary in order to select and promote faculty, would be jeopardized. "A great many institutions fear that HEW personnel may leak material," Sheldon E. Steinbach, an attorney for the American Council on Education, said last week. "When hiring, schools need a high degree of confidence in order to evaluate what are often very fine points in deciding who to hire." He went on to explain that universities also saw this as a dangerous precedent: "A couple of years ago, it may have been the subversive control board requesting to see the files."
HEW personnel are prohibited under the Freedom of Information Act, however, from disclosing information contained in personnel files. Furthermore, women's groups contend that it will be hard, if not impossible, for HEW to judge whether or not the institution under investigation is discriminating without personnel information.
In the various controversies, the three major parties--HEW, universities, and women--vary in their alliances. HEW and universities are probably together in agreeing that women are pressuring them unmercifully, even if all three are, publicly, in basic agreement that discrimination is wrong. Women and HEW teamed up against the universities on the issue of personnel files, and last year, women's groups and universities were ideologically aligned against HEW in the belief that government should publish national guidelines clarifying "affirmative action." All three groups now agree on this last point, and HEW is expected to release the guidelines soon.
But in conflicts with women's groups, both HEW's and the universities' positions have weakened in the past year. The reason is pressure from women within the government, the American Council on Education, other educational associations, and even within universities themselves. The cause is that women are infiltrating high level posts in these institutions because all these institutions, as Federal contractors, are under pressure to meet their affirmative action goals and timetables.
HEW has so far developed the most comprehensive response to pressure for affirmative action. In response to a recommendation by the Task Force on Women's Rights and Responsibilities and demands from women's groups within the government, Elliot Richardson, secretary of HEW, last year created the Women's Action Program. Its purpose is to report on how to end discrimination against women both within the Department and in society in general.
Their first report, which came out this year in January, not surprisingly found that while women made up 63.1 per cent of the total HEW work force, they comprised only 14.4 per cent of the highest level jobs, while men, who were only 36.9 per cent of HEW employees, held 85.6 per cent of the top leadership jobs. HEW has developed a plan for correcting this situation, complete with goals and timetables. David Martin, an HEW spokesman, reported last month that HEW had so far been "100 per cent successful in filling positions at the top level." The women have already had an effect by acting as watchdogs on HEW policy.
Their greatest effect, as with the women in the other educational institutions, will probably be in bringing out the more subtle forms of discrimination. The women's action program report analyzes and recommends more study be done on a wide range of subjects pertaining to the biological, social, psychological, and legal role of women in society: child sex and social role development, achievement motivation in girls, social labeling, differential diagnoses in clinical treatments and different treatment under the law. The study also recommends the government experiment with programs to end the restrictions traditionally placed on women by their social role; such programs as family planning services which involve both man and woman, child care, domestic work and social security.
"A lot of men would never dream of discriminating against women. It's very subtle, they don't realize it." Mrs. Kleeman, of the Woman's Action Program of HEW, remarked.
There is no doubt that the women's movement has had a tremendous impact on bringing out these subtle attitudes. Women are not only "the newest, largest, fastest growing advocacy group on campuses," as one WEAL spokesman put it, but perhaps their greatest political impact will be seen as they infiltrate all levels of the organizations they are pressuring.
But more than that, their greatest effect may be, as most radical groups, to make many ideas which once appeared radical seem highly reasonable and respectable. "The women's movement has made middle positions comfortable: I don't think HEW would have responded without it." Ms. Kleeman said. "What is a radical position now will be conservative in a few years."
The question of discrimination is a very sensitive one to a university administrations' posture, which is traditionally liberal. It is interesting that in spite of the controversies and often adversary stances between women, universities and the government, all agree with the goal, as stated by Elliot Richardson: "We try to get rid of discrimination as soon as we become aware of it." And the role of women--as many people have been saying for a long time in various contexts--is clear. The end of the quote by Lucy Stone--a quote which is framed on Bernice Sandler's wall--sums it up:
"It shall be the business of life to deepen this disappointment in every woman's heart until she bows down to it no longer."