Scholar Addresses Inequality
Virginia Professor Warns About Job Discrimination
Although women are in the work force now in record numbers, sex discrimination is still present in the workplace, a scholar said during a Women's History Week event Wednesday night.
Ann Lane, a professor and director of the women's studies program at the University of Virginia, painted a bleak picture of the situation facing working women.
"Although there is no question that a real change has occurred in general attitudes towards women entering the labor force, the extent of sex segregation has changed very little in this century," she said.
Although discrimination as a whole remains at the same level, the way businesses discriminate against women has changed, she said.
"Gender discrimination in the labor market is mostly by the type of job help, not the number of jobs," she said.
"Before a Sever Hall audience of 35, Lane focused her lecture on a past dispute between the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Sears, Roebuck and Co.
The EEOC charged Sears with nationwide sex discrimination in 1974. But when the case went to trial 12 years later, a federal judge ruled in favor of Sears.
Lane maintained that the absence of women in commissioned sales positions revealed a pattern of discrimination at Sears.
Lane said the case demonstrated that society needs to change how it thinks about men and women. The case warrants further study, she said.
"All of us need to rethink that case and relocate it in a new theoretical framework," said Lane. "We need a theory that encompassed the relation between home and work."
In addition, Lane said that historians--two of whom testified in the case--need to be better prepared when testifying as expert witnesses in sex discrimination lawsuits.
"Scholars, without proper preparation or knowledge, are in a weak position to understand the implication of legal rhetoric in a courtroom situation," she said.