Harvard's Affirmative Action Plan: Slow Progress for Women, Blacks

In 1929, Eleanor Glueck accepted a research post at the Law School. In 1969, she held the same post.

When Eleanor Glueck and her husband Sheldon, both distinguished academics and co-authors of several books, were hired by the Law School in 1929, no women held tenured professorships at Harvard University. The Law School offered Sheldon Glueck a position as assistant professor. His wife became a research assistant. Both gladly accepted.

In 1969, six years after Sheldon Glueck, Pound Professor of Law, had retired from his prestigious chair the Faculty of Arts and Sciences still had not offered tenure to any women. Eleanor Glueck was a research associate at the Law School.

It was not until the Federal government began pressuring Harvard to end its discriminatory hiring in 1970 that women and blacks began to ascend to the higher rungs of the academic ladder. Under the executive orders issued in 1970 and 1972 Harvard, like thousands of others schools, businesses and other institutions employing one-third of the nation's labor force, could lose their Federal contracts if they fail to devise acceptable "affirmative action" plans for correcting discriminatory employment policies. Federal contracts comprise nearly one-third of Harvard's annual income--about $60 million last year.

Always money conscious, Harvard has responded to the pressure. When Eleanor Glueck--still a lecturer--died last year, 14 women and 29 minority group members held tenure. The University has spent between $50,000 and $250,000 in the past two years drawing up three unsuccessful affirmative action plans and one that is now pending revision. Few examples of unfair treatment of women or minority group members are as blatant as that of the Gluecks. Harvard claimed in 1940, as it does today, that the University hires only the "best person in the world" to fill each faculty position. If blacks or women did not hold high positions, it must have been that they were not qualified. In the case of women, perhaps their feminine timidity or child-rearing responsibilities kept them from producing the books required for most full professorships. The blame was with the employee, not the University.

Subjective factors in the past have cloaked discriminatory hiring decisions. Civil rights lawsuits were thus usually ineffectual without evidence of obvious patterns of discrimination against women and black applicants.

In order to unmask these patterns, the affirmative action would require employers to conduct an extensive analysis of all jobs, hiring procedures and policies within the institution. If this analysis uncovers patterns of discrimination, the university must change its policies, enlarge its search procedures and initiate training programs. In addition, the institution must set goals and timetables for placing women and minorities in jobs from which they have previously been unfairly excluded. The program forces the employer to find and examine its own possible hiring biases. He can no longer say "Well, they just weren't qualified."

Harvard this Spring completed its "utilization analysis" of faculty and administrative jobs. Not surprisingly, the University found that women and minority group members were underrepresented in higher faculty and administrative posts.

"While there has been an increase over the past three years in the number of minority and women professors at Harvard, the numbers still remain small," Harvard admitted in the report it sent to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare May 1.

As part of its plan, the University will now treat maternity leave as part of sick leave, granting women time off with pay as long as they have not used up their yearly quota of days off. The University has also initiated a new grievance procedure, begun giving part-time appointments with tenure, opened up search procedures, and set target figures for hiring women and minorities in faculty and administrative positions.

In spite of the progress being made on procedural matters, the University's numerical goals are extremely modest, and in some areas even regressive.

In their affirmative action plan, the University states that the University will concentrate on junior faculty positions since "in this way, faculties can develop a group of proven ability to be promoted from within to more senior positions." Yet the goals actually project a decrease of four women assistant professors--the lowest ladder position--for next year, despite an overall increase of 31 such positions and although 109 of these posts will be available between now and 1975.

In many cases, the figures are misleading, making it appear as if women and minorities are permeating traditionally male fields when, in reality, these people are segregated in positions specifically related to women or minority affairs.

The figures sent to HEW show that four of the 17 full deans in the University are female, and project that the one post opening up will go to a woman. This is less impressive when one notes that the four women deans are affiliated with the Radcliffe structure, and the one dean position opening up in the University is one which Matina Horner has just created, Radcliffe dean of admissions, financial aid and women's education. A woman will fill that post.

Just as Radcliffe is a ghetto of opportunity for women, so special faculty appointments for people teaching Indian Affairs or Black Studies create specialized openings for minority group members while the traditional fields remain closed. The Ed School projections call for an increase of three minority lecturers. At the same time, that school is creating two new faculty positions: an urban professorship and a faculty adviser for the American Indian Program.

Unlike Eleanor Glueck, the women now employed by the University are no longer passively accepting unfair treatment. Women at Harvard filed at least two charges of sex discrimination with HEW this year: Franziska Hosken claimed she was unfairly denied consideration for a position at the Graduate School of Design, and a group of women law school students submitted a long list of charges including claims of discriminatory admissions and financial aid policies.

Because of the slowness of our court system, lawsuits have little chance of bringing any dramatic change.

"The number of cases which can be tried by Federal courts of administrative tribunals is small compared to the pervasive nature of employment discrimination," says a government pamphlet explaining the importance of the affirmative action program.

In the fiscal year 1972, the Equal Employment Commission received 38,840 complaints and expects 45,000 more this year. It now has a backlog of 53,410 cases, 43,101 of which are pending investigation.

Recognizing the potential of this new tool, groups representing women in the graduate school, at the medical area, as well as groups of secretaries, librarians have banded together to form "Women Employed at Harvard." One of their primary concerns will be affirmative action.

HEW has received objections to Harvard's latest affirmative action plan from "at least four women's groups," according to an official at HEW. Because of this input, HEW is likely to ask Harvard to revise its current plan.

Modest as Harvard's affirmative action goals may be, they have nevertheless provoked a considerable number of objections from male faculty and administrators who are afraid that the projections will force the University to dilute its standards.

The controversy has revolved around the semantic or real differences between "goals and timetables" required by HEW, and quotas, which seem to be unusually detested. The government has repeatedly stressed that these target figures are only "the measure or yardstick" to determine whether other affirmative action policies are achieving their goals of increasing the number of women and minorities in the workforce. An institution only has to show that it made "good faith efforts" to meet the goals which the institution itself drew up based on its own estimate of available candidates.

Several other groups have vehemently attacked this part of the affirmative action program, claiming that goals are no different than quotas, which, inforcing institutions to hire a specific number of certain kinds of people, undermines the merit system.

The American Jewish Congress, on behalf of several male academics, filed several charges this year with HEW of "reverse-discrimination." In December, Stanley Pottinger, director of the Office for Civil Rights under HEW, said that the affirmative action efforts for women and minorities were "losing ground" to a growing rhetorical backlash from male faculty members and administrators.

In Januray, 19 college presidents telegrammed President Nixon and new HEW secretary Casper Weinberger to "reaffirm their belief" in affirmative action as a means of eliminating discriminatory hiring patterns. Neither President Bok nor President Horner signed the telegram.

Bok said that the telegram was too brief to adequately argue his points. "I am constitutionally opposed to issuing one or two lines on complicated subjects," the former law school dean told The Crimson.

Instead, Bok sent Nixon and Weinberger a two-page letter supporting the program, but with reservations about the use of goals and timetables for faculty positions. Undoubtedly reflecting complaints he had received, Bok wrote, "It is extraordinarily difficult to develop a system of targets and goals that does not create an impression of imposing de facto quotas. This impression understandably creates grave misunderstandings among faculty and administrators concerned with maintaining high standards, junior faculty who are worried about their opportunities for promotion, and representatives of women and minority groups who feel betrayed if targets are not fully achieved."

Horner was supposed to have given a major address at the meeting of New England women professors and administrators at which the telegram was drafted, but missed it when her car broke down en route. She, too, wrote Nixon a letter supporting the program.

While women and minorities have made some gains in faculty and administrative areas, they are still clustered at the bottom of the job hierarchy. Particularly with respect to women, the University resembles a class structure divided along sexual lines. Women hold about less than 10 per cent of academic posts but make up close to 90 per cent of the clerical staff--the low-paid secretaries, typists, and stenographers.

Sexual stereotypes still exist--to which nearly every woman in the University can attest with at least one anecdote--and hurt women. A graduate student in math overheard a distinguished visiting professor seriously remark when he learned that there were eight women in the department: "But women can't do math."

Most male administrators and senior faculty still assume that the wife will have the primary responsibility for child-rearing. While for most couples this is still the arrangement, this typecasting has led to many policy decisions which inhibit or prevent women and men from rearranging traditional family roles.

An employment policy which allows a woman but not a man to reassume her old job after an extended childrearing leave of absence (not childbirth) would seem to discriminate against men who would like to help rear his children, as well as against women who would like to shift some of the responsibility to their husband.

Many male administrators now state that women should be given such a leave. But the same administrators looked upon paternity leave as absurd. "But men can't breast-feed," Walter J. Leonard, assistant to the President and the University's chief affirmative action coordinator, said. "Sure, if any of our professors rapes a girl, we will insist that he help support the child," was the joking response of William L. Brice, vice-dean and equal employment officer at the Law School.

The stereotype of the woman as secretary is especially ingrained. "You need women around to balance the allmale atmosphere," one professor said when asked why he didn't hire male secretaries. He seemed rather taken back when one woman secretary asked him why he didn't just hire women professors. "We've done our best," he hastily added, looking rather uncomfortable.

Women accept the stereotype too. "Men can't type," a woman administrator automatically said when asked if she would hire a male receptionist to sit in the front office.

Several Harvard administrators claim that the segregation of women in clerical jobs is their own fault. "Men don't often apply for the jobs, one personnel officer said. "If they did, and were qualified, they would be hired." But one women who arranges job interviews in a large department in the faculty of arts and sciences said that she has noticed that professors are uncomfortable with the idea of having a male secretary. "One of the two men who interviewed with professors in my department came back and told me he had the distinct impression the professor would have preferred he hadn't come." She said that both men were well-qualified, but neither got a job.

Prejudging the demands of a job may hurt women and minorities as much as predetermination of an individual's capabilities according to sexual or racial stereotypes. It is more than coincidence that jobs traditionally held by women or minorities pay less and offer fewer opportunities for promotion than those usually held by men.

A secretary at Harvard often does responsible administrative work such as editing, researching, budgeting, and putting together complicated course materials. Many professors, lucky ones at least, would agree with one Business School professor's statement: "I don't have to worry about leaving for a day or so. My secretary knows as much about my course as I do. She makes half of my decisions for me."

Yet, while a man with a B.A. starting in a low-paying minor administrative position has many opportunities to move up within the ranks, a secretary with a B.A. has little chance to move into an administrative job, no matter how many responsible tasks she has mastered.

Stimulated by the affirmative action program, many academics have recently done studies which discount several of the myths about women. One of these studies showed that married women PhDs publish more than male PhDs. Another, done by the National Academy of the women doctorates have somewhat greater academic ability than their male counterparts.

About 90 per cent of women doctorates are in the labor force and 81 per cent of these women work full time; 79 per cent had not interrupted their careers in the past ten years. By contrast, only 69 per cent of men with doctorates work full time in their fields. The Department of Labor reports that men lose more time due to hernias than women do because of childbirth.

Due to cultural pressures, women do not go on to get high degrees as often as men. Yet the latest and most extensive study of sex discrimination, done by Helen Astin and Alan E. Bayer from the Council on Higher Education, shows that 17 per cent of the difference in rank and salary between men and women could only result from sex discrimination.

If equal employment opportunity is the goal of affirmative action program, it may be worthwhile to set goals and timetables for recruiting white men to fill jobs traditionally held by women or blacks. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission set a precedent this year in this area when it settled a case of sex discrimination brought against AT&T. The EEOC not only insisted that the phone company set goals for giving women management and line repair jobs, but also for making men switchboard operators, a once-respectable, starting clerical job which became a low-paying dead-end position when taken over by women