Diversity Debate at UWO

April 2003

The Following Letters And Columns Appeared In The Western News

Compliance with FCP is Everyone’s Concern

November 14, 2002

At a recent general membership meeting, members of Western’s Caucus on Women’s Issues were interested to hear that the University had recently undergone a Federal Contractors Program (FCP) compliance review. The FCP monitors the employment equity situation of institutions, like Western, that receive over $200,000.00 from federal grants and contracts. Institutions deemed noncompliant could lose their eligibility for federal funding.

In September, the President’s Standing Committee for Employment Equity (PSCEE) was told that, after the review officer’s visit, the University was given until October 15 to show that it has a plan for addressing areas in which it appeared, to the FCP officer, to fall short. Otherwise, it risked non-compliance. Given the consequences of non-compliance, it is unacceptable and worth noting that most members of the University community, including members of search committees in the academic units, have little idea of the FCP’s requirements. It is troubling that the documents outlining the specific areas of concern and the University’s response are confidential. Given the potential cost of non-compliance, our compliance with FCP employment equity requirements ought to be everyone’s concern. It is unclear whose interests are being served by keeping information about the FCP’s requirements and the recent review from the Western community.

At the institutional level, Western has taken some steps to address employment equity. We have the Equity Services and PSCEE. Our newly revised Workplan document (an FCP requirement) outlines the University/Strategy for meeting the FCP’s seven equity objectives. Last year, a joint UWOFA and administration committee outlined employment equity guidelines for appointments committees and promotion and tenure committees to follow.

These welcome efforts are insufficient to address the institutional problem of employment inequity. Although indispensable, PSCEE and Equity Services cannot alone enact a significant institutional change.

The University is treating our difficulties in meeting employment equity goals as a problem to be addressed from the top down. The Workplan assigns responsibility for the implementation of most employment equity goals to PSCEE and Equity Services, some to Human Resources, the Provost, or the VP Administration, but none to Deans and Chairs, and none to appointments committees. Surely Deans and Chairs, who have perhaps the greatest impact on each unit’s hiring practices, ought to be involved in the discussion about employment equity and the development and implementation of strategies to move
the institution forward. And surely appointments committees, who write job ads, make short-lists, interview candidates, and decide to whom to offer positions share some of the responsibility for meeting the FCP’s requirements. Making progress on the employment equity front is going to require a multi-level, collective effort.

The FCP does not force arbitrary goals on institutions under federal contracts. The program was implemented in 1986 in an effort to rectify an unjust system of practice that has a long tradition of favouring able-bodied white men, and disadvantaging others. The goal of addressing injustice is a moral one. If the moral obligation to take bias out of our hiring practices will not motivate search committees, then perhaps the legal obligation, and the consequences to all of us if the University is ever found to be noncompliant, will finally encourage more effort.

Tracy Isaacs, President, Western's Caucus on Women's Issues.

Claim Unsupported

November 21, 2002

Tracy Isaacs’s, In 500 Words, column (November 14, 2002) regarding the Federal Contractors Program (FCP) is interesting reading. For example, she comments, “The program was implemented in 1986 in an effort to rectify an unjust system of practice that has a long tradition of favoring able-bodied white men, and disadvantaging others.”

She also decries the fact that, at Western, the Deans, Chairs and appointment committees are not assigned formal responsibility under the Equity Workplan to reach the goals of increasing representation of currently so-called under-represented groups. And to ensure the reader is aware of the seriousness of the discrimination favoring white men at the expense of all others, Professor Isaacs remarks, “The goal of addressing injustice is a moral one.”

The Annual Report of the President’s Standing Committee for Employment Equity (PSCEE), included in the same Western News edition, is interesting as well. It refers to Western’s employment equity record as “lamentable reality.” It calls for President Davenport to “be more vocal about his acknowledgement that Western is not, at present, doing well in terms of employment equity.”

Surprisingly, neither the PSCEE report nor the In 500 Words column provide a shred of evidence to support their strong conclusions. The PSCEE report does call, however, for the regular updating and analysing of relevant data, suggesting correctly that such data have been collected at Western for many years.

Apparently, the members of PSCEE are unaware of these already collected, analysed, and published data. In January 2000, UWO released a report of faculty recruitment for the academic years 1991-1992 to 1998-1999, categorized by sex. The report, entitled Full-time Faculty Distribution, Appointments, and Recruitment - by Gender (January, 2000), is available from the UWO Office of the University Secretariat.

Summarizing the UWO data for all 8 years, on average, women represented 23.2% of the applicant pool for faculty positions, 30.4% of those interviewed, and 36.2% of those hired. Thus women were both interviewed and hired in proportions greater than their representation in the applicant pool. In each of the years surveyed, women were interviewed at a higher rate than their presence in the applicant pool, and except for two years, the percentage of women hired was greater than the percentage of women interviewed.

The data in the report also show that over the 8 year period, on average: 5.4% of female applicants were appointed compared to 2.9% of male applicants; 21.7% of female applicants were interviewed compared to 15% of male applicants; and 24.9% of female applicants who were interviewed were hired whereas 19.2% of men who were interviewed were hired. Again, the results in each of the years are remarkably consistent. Women had almost twice the chance of being hired as did men.

How do Professor Isaacs and the rest of the PSCEE reconcile these data, which, if anything, support a claim of massive discrimination against men (white or otherwise), with their ideologically-based conviction that Western is a hotbed of discrimination against women?

Clive Seligman, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario.

Data Ignored

December 5, 2002

Dr. Seligman raises an excellent point when he emphasizes the importance of empirical evidence to making claims about the status and situation of various groups on campus. (Western News, Nov. 21)

But, his letter fails to address the major point of Dr. Isaacs's article, the danger of losing funding because of non-compliance with the Federal Contractors Program (FCP). Moreover, unlike the PSCEE report, he only addresses the status of women faculty without explaining why he ignores people with disabilities, visual minorities and aboriginal people, or all the non-faculty employee groups on campus. Still and all, the point is well taken. What is surprising about his letter is that he chooses to offer so little evidence himself.

In particular, it is very difficult to understand why Dr. Seligman ignores so much of the very report to which he refers. This same report shows women under-represented in all professorial positions and over represented in poorly paid lecturer and instructor positions. Western looks particularly bad when compared to other Ontario universities. Though, in 1991-2 we had a lower percentage of female faculty on average than other Ontario universities (except at the lecturer and instructor level), in 1997-8 the percentage was yet lower. As for the jobs into which women were hired, from 1991-99, women were 41.1% of the limited term appointments, 35.2% of the initial probationary appointments and 15.2% of the appointments with tenure.

The differential hiring practices to which Seligman points mean little if the women being disproportionately interviewed and hired are disproportionately getting worse jobs than their male colleagues. It is yet more difficult to glean the meaning of such data without knowing the qualifications of those applying. Of course, none of these statistics give the whole picture, but I rather suspect that PSCEE and the folks at the FCP have probably spent a considerable amount of time pouring over such data and are fairly competent at analyzing it.

Again, I agree with Dr. Seligman. It is only when we do careful studies of the empirical evidence that we will be able to understand our role in maintaining present inequities.

Thus the moral imperative is that all employees of the university take equity seriously and contribute to helping the university attain good data about its employees.

Letitia Meynell, Philosophy and Member of Western's Caucus on Women's Issues.

Need to be Competitive

December 12, 2002

I was very pleased to see Clive Seligman (letter, Nov. 21) highlight two of the central claims from my "In 500-words" Column (Nov. 14), namely that "the (FCP) program was implemented in 1986 in an effort to rectify an unjust system of practice that has a long tradition of favoring able-bodied white men, and disadvantaging others," and that "the goal of addressing injustice is a moral one." I'll charitably assume that Professor Clive Seligman agrees that the goal of addressing injustice is a moral one, and infer that his quarrel is with either the claim that practices of inequitable hiring are unjust, or the claim that hiring practices have been inequitable. He's quite right that I did not provide a shred of evidence for my claims in the column.

Are the numbers not by now familiar? In the very report that Professor Seligman refers to, Full-time Faculty Distribution, Appointments, and Recruitment - by Gender, we see that the proportion of full-time female faculty members has improved only because the number of males has fallen, not because the number of females has actually increased (Figure 1). We see that only 6% of our Full Professors are women (Table 1). At Western, it is only in the less secure positions of Lecturer and Instructor that the representation of women outnumbers the representation of men (Figure 3). Women are, indeed, in the system. Men just seem more likely to "get somewhere." The report notes that "...women at the Associate Professor and Full Professor ranks are underrepresented at Western, in comparison to other Ontario universities." The difficulties filter down to our graduate programs as well. Note that "in general, Ontario universities have graduated slightly higher annual proportions of women PhDs than has Canada, whereas Western has not matched the Canadian average in the period since 1991" (9). We're not doing as well as our competitors.

Finally, I must take issue with Professor Seligman's charge that I, and PSCEE, have an "ideologically-based conviction that Western is a hotbed of discrimination against women.” That is simply not true. I was pointing out that our compliance with the Federal Contractors Program requirements is in jeopardy, and that, like it or not, that could have grave consequences for the University's federal funding. It is in jeopardy because we appear not to be doing as well as our counterparts in addressing equity issues.

If, as Professor Seligman believes that data show, our efforts to hire women have started to pay off over the past 8 years, I suggest that we redouble them so that we can be competitive with those institutions to which we like to compare ourselves. Let's remember too that employment equity involves more than just hiring, and more than just women. Retention and the generation of strong and diverse applicant pools are other issues that need our attention.

Tracy Isaacs, President, Western's Caucus on Women's Issues.

Compelling Diversity Through Discrimination

January 30, 2003

The theme of the recent report of the President's Standing Committee on Employment Equity goes something like this: "Yes, yes, Western discriminates against women. We admit it. We will fix the problem. We will purify the institution. We will become diverse!" When confronted with clear evidence that Western does not actually discriminate against women, the celebrants of guilt respond with incredulity, obfuscation, confusion, and moral obtuseness, proving once again that you can't teach a spent ideologue new tricks.

Earlier (November 21), I reported data that showed that female applicants for faculty positions at Western were about twice as likely as male applicants to be hired: 5.4% vs. 2.9%, respectively. Because female applicants have a higher hiring rate than male applicants, the data explicitly refute the claim that female applicants have faced discrimination by hiring committees at Western.

Yet, Letitia Meynell (December 5) and Tracy Isaacs (December 12) refused to accept this conclusion, and continued to argue for their ‘ideological belief’ that women (and not men) are discriminated against at Western. Their arguments contain several logical errors:

First, they failed to make the distinction between the phenomenon to be explained (i.e., there are fewer women than men currently employed as faculty at Western) and the explanation for it. The observation that there are fewer women than men currently on the faculty (or at different ranks) can not be used logically as evidence for discrimination against women in hiring. There are many possible explanations for this gender gap other than discrimination, in particular, many fewer women than men have applied for faculty positions.

Second, they misunderstood the difference between the current hiring rate and the current faculty composition. The hiring rate is informative about possible discrimination in yearly hiring. The current faculty composition is a result of the past 35 years of hiring decisions that were limited by the low numbers of female applicants. The percentage of women currently employed says nothing about the validity of the current hiring rate, which demonstrates there is no discrimination against female applicants.

Third, they are confused about the appropriate baseline to use to judge the fairness of Western’s hiring procedures. At different points in their letters, they use baselines that vary from the percentage of women in the population (about 50%), of new PhDs (about 35%), and of faculty at other Ontario universities. None of these statistics tells us anything about whether Western discriminates in hiring, because Western can only hire from the pool of women who apply for positions here. Women consistently make up only about a quarter of the applicants at Western.

The only way to move Western to the 50% population or the 35% new-PhD baseline is to disproportionately hire women relative to their representation in the applicant pool, which is precisely what has been done in every year since at least 1987-1988, when Western began keeping records.

A recent COMPAS poll reported that 85% of Canadians reject using sex and race as criteria in hiring decisions. Yet Isaacs and Meynell, while professing a deep concern with morality and justice, insistently advocate that Western continue to discriminate against male applicants to achieve diversity. Apparently, Isaacs, Meynell and Western’s Caucus on Women’s Issues believe that achieving (their version of) diversity is a more important principle than treating applicants fairly based on their individual qualifications. We should not be too surprised. George Orwell pointed out long ago that some ideas are so foolish that only an intellectual would believe them.

Clive Seligman, Department of Psychology, University of Western Ontario.