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.

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