UWashington suit

SLF notmyaddress at hotmail.com
Thu Apr 5 17:01:44 EST 2001


Hi everyone,
According to the latest issue of the AWIS magazine, "five female faculty
members at the University of Washington have filed a class-action
lawsuit against the university, claiming academic and pay discrimination
due to gender",  and the suit claims that  UW "is cognizant of
disparities in its treatment of female and male faculty members and has
not only refused to take action to remedy this situation, but has
actively attempted to justify it using 'non-job-related factors'".  The
suit was recently "upgraded" to a class-action suit, and will be tried
in 2002.

An online story about this can be found at
http://publicbroadcasting.net/wnyc/news/other/article/100468.html ,
where a lawyer for the women comments that the university conducted two
separate studies of its own, in 1997 and 1998, and  "found that there
was a systematic, across-the-board problem [of  gender-based
discrimination]. And they did nothing about it".

It seems to me (an outsider who knows little about the specifics here)
that a great deal of grief is avoided if institutions and their faculty
can address these (real or perceived) problems in a proactive and
constructive way; e.g., as MIT did, and the "group of 9" graduate
schools that met recently to study the issue.  I assume that the filing
of a lawsuit indicates that UW was not willing to do this, and that is a
shame for all concerned, since going to court is likely to burn  bridges
on both sides and will probably damage lots of people in many ways.

In the long term, it probably would have been cheaper  if they just paid
the women a few thousand more a year, and made them feel valued.  It
actually takes relatively little to enfranchise people and turn them
into partners.  Perhaps some good will come of it if other institutions
and their women faculty are inspired to have meaningful exchanges about
these issues and look for positive solutions.

--
-susan
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S L Forsburg, PhD  Associate Professor
Molecular Biology and Virology Lab
The Salk Institute, La Jolla CA
forsburgATsalk.edu
http://pingu.salk.edu/~forsburg/lab.html

Women in Biology Internet Launch Page
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