The Profound Consequences of Seemingly Minor Slights

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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.

Words matter.

In a recent column in The Chronicle, a reader who identified herself as Elsie asked Ms. Mentor how to get a colleague named Bob to stop referring to her and two other women on a high-level university commission as “females.” Ms. Mentor, who wisely counseled giving the benefit of the doubt, then suggested some sensible responses for Elsie, which included explaining to Bob that she’s a woman, not a cow. Now, before some of you roll your eyes and chide Elsie (or me) for overreacting, as one commenter did, keep in mind that small (if sometimes unintentional) slights, if left unchecked, can stack up to something bigger — in this case, sexism.

How a molehill becomes a mountain.

People naturally tend to fixate on scandalous displays of sexism — Donald Trump’s loathsome comments about women being one obvious example — instead of subtler ones, like Vice President Pence’s policy of never dining alone with a woman other than his wife. However, studies show that the latter can be equally, if not more, damaging as well as harder to address, as an article in the Harvard Business Review notes. 

Jill Filopovic, a contributing writer at Cosmopolitan, would agree. In a recent article for the magazine, she explains why benign neglect is anything but benign. When she worked at a Manhattan law firm as a young associate, Ms. Filopovic recalls her young male peers often had cocktails after work with a male partner or senior attorneys, or they spent weekends golfing with them. It didn’t hit her until later that being left out was hurting her career. Those social gatherings were where important matters were discussed, strategies developed, career advice exchanged, and relationships made, she writes. The firm did have a small number of female partners, but most of them had families and, unlike their married male counterparts, “didn’t have a partner at home” who would care for their kids well into the evening or weekend while they socialized, she notes. While the men probably never meant to exclude the women at the firm, their penchant for palling around with their own kind put women at a big disadvantage. And so it goes in politics (and in industries where men still dominate), says Ms. Filopovic: “If men like Pence won’t engage with women one-on-one in informal settings, it’s the women who miss out professionally.” The result “is that he’s going to work with, mentor, and promote men over women.”

In legal news ...

A landmark ruling bans workplace discrimination against gay people.

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court in Chicago decided that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects workers from bias on the basis of sexual orientation after all, a Washington Post article reports. The ruling contradicts a decision issued by a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta last month.

Meanwhile, in another victory for LGBT rights, a federal judge in Denver ruled on Wednesday that the Federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it illegal to refuse to rent or sell a house to a person on account of “sex, familial status, or national origin,” also bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Post reports.

Is it age discrimination if you don’t know you’re being treated unjustly?

A case that might be headed for the Supreme Court could determine whether older job applicants are allowed to sue prospective employers for unintentional age discrimination in hiring under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, an article on ProPublica says.

In salary news …

  • Tuesday was Equal Pay Day, which marks how far into the year a woman has to work to receive what a man made the previous year. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women get about 80 cents for every dollar a man makes — white women, that is. Women of color still get considerably less, the institute notes. At the rate things are going, white women won’t reach pay parity for another 44 years, while black and Hispanic women will have to wait another lifetime or two — until 2124 and 2248, respectively — to be paid as much as the guys.

  • African-Americans are putting in more hours than ever before, but the pay gap between blacks and whites is larger now than it was in 1979, an article in The Atlantic notes.

  • If you’re a woman, it pays to have a liberal-leaning boss, a recent study found.

In other news …

Are faculty 'diversity statements' threats to freedom?

The National Association of Scholars' chapter in Oregon thinks so. It issued a report assailing colleges for supposedly imposing “ideological litmus tests” for faculty hiring and promotion by requiring candidates to submit statements on their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, The Chronicle’s Ticker blog reports.

A Crisis of Confidence in Leadership at HBCUs

The Faculty Senate of Kentucky State University, a historically black institution, last week voted no confidence in the chair of the Board of Regents by a margin of 50 to 30, and, then in a separate vote (39-30) did the same for the entire board itself, Adam Harris reports in The Chronicle. The votes, which broke along racial lines, followed months of discord crowned by a contentious presidential search in which the popular interim president who was backed by faculty was conspicuously absent from the list of finalists. Earlier this month, the board named M. Christopher Brown II — a former president of Alcorn State University who left under a cloud of financial impropriety — as its new president. It will be up to Mr. Brown, who currently serves as executive vice president for academic affairs and provost at Southern University and A&M College, in Louisiana, to repair the divisions, Mr. Harris writes.

The Kentucky State vote wasn’t the only such event at an HBCU last week. Morehouse College faculty members, frustrated by the board’s January decision not to renew the contract of the president, John Silvanus Wilson Jr., voted no confidence in the chair of the Board of Trustees. Meanwhile, leaders of Howard University’s Faculty Senate voiced their distrust in Wayne A.I. Frederick, the president, and Anthony Wutoh, the provost, in a vote yesterday — to the surprise of some colleagues, who said the vote was invalid, The Chronicle’s Ticker blog reports.

Short Takes

  • President Trump observed Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month by signing an order that makes it easier for men to get away with harassing women at work, the Independent reports.

  • A senior editor at The New York Times discovers the benefits of being mentored by a much younger colleague.

  • Why would a faculty member prefer to hide her disability for 12 years than ask her university’s HR office for accommodations? Katie Rose Guest Pryal explains in a recent column in the Women in Higher Education newsletter.

  • The dearth of women writing popular-history books is a serious problem. Johanna Hanink tells us why in The Chronicle Review

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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