Monday, September 18, 2006

Title IX and University Hiring & Promotion

To study the status of women in science and engineering, The National Academy of Sciences commissioned a panel of experts in these fields, which completed its report recently. The panel's findings were that women pursuing careers in science and engineering, particularly in the academic setting, were being hindered by "bias" and "outmoded institutional structures."

The panel noted that although women now account for more than 50% of bachelor's degrees in science and engineering, they account for less than 20% of full-time faculty positions at universities. The percentages for women of color are far more disturbing, as the panel noted their presence to be virtually "non-existent" at many universities. The panel attributed some of the disparities to the difference in expectations of women in academia, and to both subtle and overt discrimination in the hiring, promotion and support of women.

The National Academy's panel offered numerous suggestions for improving the situation, including, among other ideas, that federal enforcement agencies, such as the EEOC, Department of Education, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, and their various civil rights offices, provide the technical guidance necessary to help universities achieve gender balance, investigate complaints promptly, and take measures to make sure that anti-discrimination laws (such as Title IX), are being enforced.

Interestingly, Title IX isn't mentioned by name in the summary of the panel's findings, although it's one of the best-known vehicles to combat sex discrimination in academic settings. Is it possible that Title IX has become synonymous with women and sports, and that people don't (or don't want to) associate it with issues of non-sports-related discrimination at schools and universities?

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