What Affirmative Action Didn’t Change

The mass hiring of women into higher education, beginning in the 1970s, is one of the great affirmative-action success stories. Although universities have simultaneously done a remarkably poor job of cultivating, hiring, and promoting scholars of color, and although the natural sciences, economics, and philosophy remain defiantly male, the status of women in higher education has improved dramatically since I entered college as an undergraduate in 1976.

So why do our female students feel as disempowered by predatory sexual behavior as we did decades ago? Why do most women still command significantly lower salaries?

 While affirmative action effectively transformed the hiring ethic — recruiting women and people of color was the right thing to do — it did so by tacitly suppressing another conversation: That all-male, all-white faculties were never the natural order of things, but the outcome of decades of exclusion of women and people of color from jobs for which they were qualified. The failure to confront this moral wrong implicitly makes women, and people of color, second-class university citizens to this day.
To read the rest of this essay, and the other wonderful essays published in the forum that was published in the Chronicle of Higher Education on April 2, 2018, click here.

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