Is Genetic Discrimination on the Horizon?

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Here are some highlights from this week's On Hiring and Diversity newsletter. If you'd like to subscribe, sign up here.

Diversity Officers on Trump: Rattled But Voicing Resolve

The annual meeting of the National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education took place in Washington this week, and the prevailing mood among attendees was dismay over the election of Donald J. Trump and the animosity towards minorities that has followed, Peter Schmidt reports in The Chronicle. Archie W. Ervin, president of the association and chief diversity officer at the Georgia Institute of Technology, told Mr. Schmidt that making campuses feel inclusive is hard when divisive statements and directives are coming out of the Oval Office. He said the association reconstituted a committee that reviews federal and state policies just to keep up with news from the White House. Meanwhile, minority and international students are understandably nervous, given the posting of offensive fliers and the uptick in hate-related incidents on many campuses. So are professors, who worry about saying the wrong thing. As a result, diversity officers have plenty to do, Mr. Schmidt notes.

Is Congress Opening the Door to a New Form of Workplace Discrimination?

In 2008, Republicans sponsored the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act, which protects workers from genetic discrimination by insurers and employers. Now House Republicans are backing a bill that would let employers do an end run around GINA and subject workers to genetic testing as part of workplace wellness programs. Workers would pay a significant penalty if they refuse, the Los Angeles Times reports. The legislation might also give employers and others access to workers’ private health information, an article in Jezebel notes. While the bill’s supporters say their aim is to make it easier for employers to offer wellness programs — which they claim save money by making workers healthier and averting costly health claims — that’s a con, as articles in Slate and New York magazine explain. What many wellness programs do, those articles say, is let employers move a greater share of health-care costs onto workers under the pretense of promoting healthful living.

It's a Man's World, but Women Are Gradually Gaining Ground ... in Science

Elsevier released a report last week that examined the gender gap in scientific research in 12 countries and regions and 27 fields over the past two decades. Women are making strides in research, the report notes — the number of female researchers has risen, and they’re publishing more papers than they did 20 years ago. Their papers are also now cited and downloaded at rates similar to those of men, it says. But while women are well represented in the biomedical and life sciences, they account for fewer than a quarter of researchers in the physical sciences, the report says. In addition, female researchers publish fewer articles, on average, than their male peers (except in Japan) and collaborate less internationally and across sectors, the report says.

In related news …

According to an international survey by the global tax, auditing, and advisory firm Grant Thornton, women have made limited inroads into corporate leadership posts, an article in the Harvard Business Review reports. Only a quarter of senior execs worldwide are women, and many companies in many countries have no female leaders. (The most recent stats from the American Council on Education put the proportion of female presidents in higher ed at around 27 percent as of 2011; a new report from CUPA-HR puts it in the same ballpark.) What’s more, in the 11 countries covered by the survey since its inception, in 2004 — Australia, Britain, Canada, Germany, Greece, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa, Turkey, and the United States — the needle has moved a mere one to three percentage points.

There’s an interesting silver lining for those women in the U.S. who do make it to the executive suite: They tend to outearn their male counterparts, according to two studies described elsewhere in the journal.

Which countries are the most female-friendly?

The Economist has come up with an index of the best and worst places for working women among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Iceland topped the best list, followed by Sweden, Norway, and Finland. The United States came in at no. 20.

Meanwhile … Iceland could soon become the world’s first country to require equal pay for women, NPR reports.

Unfortunately, studies like this one, which blames the wage gap on women’s “pessimistic” attitudes rather than on sexism, aren't helping in the fight against pay inequality. Never mind that sexism sets in early, or that there are reasons why many women don’t lobby more aggressively on their own behalf.

Short Takes

Songbirds and the Secret to Successful Problem-Solving

What might birds teach us about solving problems and building better teams? A lot, it seems. Researchers at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the University of Florida, and Purdue University have learned that mixed-species flocks of songbirds are better at finding food and safeguarding one another from predators than are less-diverse flocks, an article on Phys Org reports. A growing body of research suggests that diverse teams of people are smarter and better for business, too.

Legislators Threaten to Cut Funds to Arkansas Tech Diversity and Inclusion Department

In Arkansas, Republican State Reps. Mary Bentley and Trevor Drown introduced an amendment to pull funding for the department after it helped sponsor a student-led sex-ed event, Max Brantley writes in the Arkansas Times. While no university money was used for the event, it covered topics of interest to LGBT students and featured sex toys, Mr. Brantley noted. The president of Arkansas Tech University issued a statement defending the department.

Legal-Writing Profs Say Pay System Treats Women Like Second-Class Citizens

Two groups working on behalf of legal-writing professors have begun an initiative to raise the status, salaries, and job protections of their members to the same levels as those of traditional law-faculty members, the National Law Journal reports. Legal-writing professors, who are more often than not female and untenured, lack the protections that are afforded to other law professors by the American Bar Association, which requires law schools to have a tenure system for traditional faculty members but permits legal-writing faculty members to be hired on temporary contracts, the journal explains.

Discrimination Against Gay People Not Barred Under Title VII, Court Rules

An Atlanta appeals court has dealt a blow to gay workers’ rights, The Boston Globe reports. Last week a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit by Jameka Evans, who claimed that she had been harassed and fired from her security-guard job at Georgia Regional Hospital for being a lesbian, the article notes. The panel said it was bound by a precedent set in a 1979 case that held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination against workers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin, does not shield workers from bias based on sexual orientation, the newspaper reports.

Questions, Comments?

Have a suggestion for the newsletter or a tip or story idea to share? Send it to me at gabriela.montell@chronicle. com or @GabrielaMontell.

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