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UFF Biweekly
United Faculty of Florida -- USF System Chapter
31 May 2018
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Gender Discrimination

During the last century, discrimination against women on the job was mostly a moral issue. It was unfair, a point that moved people who were concerned about unfairness. But this century, we've discovered that the U.S. has severe shortages of technically proficient workers. These shortages are severe enough to threaten future economic growth and, according to a few observers, national security. There are now all kinds of proposals for recruiting immigrants, minorities, and women.

But while pundits can turn on a dime, cultures have a lot of inertia, and the #MeToo movement has made it painfully clear that many men have difficulties having female colleagues and co-workers. Whatever the policies are, hiring, promoting, and on-the-job treatment is done by human beings with human frailties. There is evidence that things are getting better (but often on a generational timescale, social scientists are prone to remind us), but we still have a ways to go.

This is the first of two issues on gender discrimination and harassment.

  • The Phenomenon of Sexual Discrimination. We first look at what we can observe using some rather crude statistics. For details, see below or click here.
  • What's up? We are repeatedly reassured that, except for occasional outliers, no one is sexist anymore. For what may be going on, see below or click here.
  • What to do about it? Other than complaining about it, what do we do about discrimination at USF and elsewhere? Doing something - and getting results - requires hard work and organization. For more, see below or click here.
Meanwhile, our website and many of its mail operations are still under repair, and we cannot expect them to be back up before midsummer. We apologize for the inconvenience. For the duration, announcements are being posted on our backup page at ourusf.org.

Chapter Meeting Tomorrow near USF Tampa

The USF Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida will meet tomorrow Friday at noon in Temple Terrace, just east of USF Tampa, at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave. There will be salad, pizza, and drinks, and all USF employees are invited.

This is the second meeting of the chapter this summer. The remaining meetings will be on the Fridays (at noon) of June 15, June 29, July 6, and July 20, locations TBD. The locations will be announced on our temporary website as they are determined. Come and check us out.

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If you have been the victim of a violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, you have thirty days from the time you knew or should have known of the violation to file a grievance. If you are, and at the time of the violation were, a dues-paying member of the United Faculty of Florida, you have the right to union representation. To contact the UFF USF Grievance Committee, contact the chair of the Grievance Committee.

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Visit the United Faculty of Florida at USF Facebook page. This page is a place where UFF members can exchange thoughts and ideas. The page is "public", but only dues-paying UFF members are eligible to post items on the page. If you are a UFF member, ask to join on the page, or contact the chair of the the Communications Committee. The Committee will invite every UFF member that asks to join. So check us out. UFF members are welcome to join, and non-members are welcome to look.

The Phenonenon

In April, Business Insider reported that "...on average, a woman earns 80.5 cents for every dollar a man earns." Perhaps more striking was the relative percentages of men and women at various levels of the corporate hierarchy:

This phenomenon has been observed in academia, albeit not as strikingly. Last year, the American Council on Education reported that the proportion of women in faculty positions decreased as the rank increased. Here are their numbers for male and female faculty, from lecturers and instructors to full professors, across the country:

One possible interpretation of this data is that while older full professors are mostly male, academia is now hiring nearly as many women as men for tenure-track positions, so in the long run, we would expect more equalization at the higher ranks. Another interpretation is that the higher the rank, the more men, the lower the rank, the more women. Both interpretations are probably oversimplifications of what is going on.

Let's look at USF. Of the 1,600 full-time employees in the UFF USF Bargaining Unit on January 22, there were 24 Eminent or Distinguished or otherwise notable faculty, 239 professors, 425 associate professors, 225 assistant professors, and 417 instructors. Dividing them by gender, we get the graph below:

So what is going on?

What's Up?

Let's take a look at STEM fields, for that is where a lot of the recent concern comes from. Project Implicit lists six common explanations for the predominance of men in STEM fields:

  1. "Different proportions of men and women are found among people with the very highest levels of math ability."
  2. "On average, men and women differ in their willingness to devote the time required by such 'high-powered' positions."
  3. "On average, men and women differ naturally in their scientific interest."
  4. "On average, men and women differ in their willingness to spend time away from their families."
  5. "Directly or indirectly, boys and girls tend to receive different levels of encouragement for developing scientific interest."
  6. "On average, whether consciously or unconsciously, men are favored in hiring and promotion."
(This list is part of their attitudinal survey. Project Implicit has online surveys and association test that you can try, in private, to test for sexist, racist, and other biases. The results can be revealing - and even disconcerting.)

A union is concerned about rights and privileges, so officially the first four explanations are of academic interest - except for their possible use as alibis (e.g. in discrimination against mothers). The fifth concerns us as teachers, for there is evidence that girls get less encouragement in STEM fields than boys, with unfortunate results.

Explanation # 6 falls directly into the union's mission. There is some overt sexism, but public shaming and litigation is having its effect. The difficulty is when inequity appears when all the decision-makers are sincere in claiming not to be sexist - so far as they know.

Readers may recall from the 23 July 2015 Biweekly that Project Implicit is an online association test designed to detect unconscious biases that people are not consciously aware of. It's designed to find unconscious biases that we may act on. The assumption is that a lot of what we do is not consciously controlled, but delegated to an array of unconscious autopilots. We do lots of things we are not consciously aware of. For example, when we walk, we do are not consciously moving each of the umpteen leg and back muscles to propel us forward; we rely on a neural autopilot to do that for us. We rely on a similar autopilot to handle conversations - occasionally with embarrassing results. Executive neural function is expensive, so we rely on our autopilots to get us through the day. Unfortunately, sometimes they don't behave, even during meetings of the departmental hiring committee. So how do autopilots behave at hiring committee meetings?

Six years ago, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science published a study on how Science faculty's subtle gender biases favor male students, in which vitae were sent, with comparable credentials and references for male and female applicants, to see if vitae with male or female names would be evaluated differently. The authors concluded that, "Our results revealed that both male and female faculty judged a female student to be less competent and less worthy of being hired than an identical male student, and also offered her a smaller starting salary and less career mentoring."

An unexamined autopilot can be a source of much mischief.

What to do about it?

Women's rights didn't just happen: they are the result of two centuries of hard work by women on several continents. We often hear a few heroic names (Emmeline Pankhurst, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Helen Keller), but battles are not won by generals: they are won by soldiers organized in armies. This is true of political battles as well, and the battles for women's rights were won by organizations like the National American Woman Suffrage Association, the Women's Trade Union League, and the American Association of University Women.

Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch has just reminded all of us what organizations are for. Many employee contracts now contain an "arbitration clause" saying that if the employer violates an employee's rights, the employee cannot sue but instead must go through an arbitration process. (Merchandisers also hide arbitration clauses in the fine print when selling cell phones, providing credit cards, etc.) Unlike arbitration between a union and management, which often feature an arbitration process agreed to by both sides, such mandatory arbitration clauses feature an arbitration process devised by management.

During the last few decades, as union membership declined, mandatory and one-sided arbitration clauses proliferated, and now over half of all US employees have contracts requiring mandatory arbitration for disputes ranging from wage theft to discrimination to sexual harassment.

The U.S. Supreme Court has just issued one of its sweeping 5-4 opinions, in Epic Systems versus Lewis, that employers can enforce arbitration clauses. Critics are grumbling that Justice Gorsuch - who wrote the majority opinion - has a history of pro-management rulings. The whole point of the decision appears to deny workers the use of class action suits, in which an employee can sue on behalf of co-workers for a large amount of money and thus recover legal costs.

Thanks to that 5-4 decision, only unions can proceed on behalf of many employees.

One lesson is that this is what happens when unions disappear. The other lesson is that unions can fix this - but only if employees join, and thus provide unions with the clout and resources to fight these battles. When there is a union, the arbitration process is itself bargained, and the union (which has its own lawyers) can use it to grieve wage theft, discrimination, harassment, and other issues. And when a grievance does occur, an employee is not alone.

If you would like to join the United Faculty of Florida, download, fill in, and email a scan to the Chapter Secretary today.


Chapter Meeting tomorrow Friday, June 1, at noon, near USF Tampa, at CDB Restaurant at 5104 E. Fowler Ave.

We will have lunch at the meeting. All UFF members are invited to attend. Non-members are also invited to come and check us out. Come and join the movement.

Membership: Everyone in the UFF USF System Bargaining unit is eligible for UFF membership: to join, simply fill out and send in the membership form.

NOTE: We regret that the Chapter's off-campus website is down. We apologize for the inconvenience. For the time being, we will be using http://www.ourusf.org, vut our e-mail address is still uff@ourusf.org.

About this broadcast: This Newsletter was broadcast from uff.ourusf.org, hosted at ICDsoft.com, and is intended for all members of the UFF USF Bargaining unit (USF faculty and professionals at most departments). A (usually identical) version will be broadcast to USF-News and USF-Talk from mccolm@usf.edu.

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