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Discrimination Against Women

June 24, 1970 — Special Subcommittee on Education, the House Committee on Education and Labor, Washington DC


Madam Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, I am delighted to have this opportunity to express my strong support of Section 805 of H.R. 16098, which has the purpose of amending the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1957, and the Fair Labor Standards Act so as to prohibit discrimination against women in education, and other objectives.

Discrimination against women in education is one of the most insidious forms of prejudice extant in our nation. Few people realize the extent to which our society is denied full use of our human resources because of this type of discrimination.

  • Most large colleges and universities in the United States routinely impose quotas by sex on the admission of students. Fewer women are admitted than men, and those few women allowed to pursue higher education must have attained exceptional intellectual standing to win admission.
  • Scholarships and other forms of financial assistance are also distributed on a discriminatory basis, making it more difficult for women to afford a higher education.
  • Universities discriminate against women in hiring faculty, with the effect that women students are instructed mainly by males. This reinforces the system of prejudice on our campuses that systematically deprives women of equal education. And when employed, women faculty members are frequently paid less than their male counterparts even though equally competent and equally experienced.
  • Women faculty members are promoted less frequently than men. Even administration reflects the same pattern: deans of women are frequently paid less than deans of men.

Our nation can no longer afford this system which demoralizes and demeans half the population and deprives them of the means to participate fully in our society as equal citizens. Lacking the contribution which women are capable of making to human betterment, our nation is the loser so long as this discrimination is allowed to continue.

The most unfortunate thing of all is that education is the very process we rely upon to make the changes and advances we need and yet we find that even education is not imparted on a fair and equitable basis.

This year the Women’s Equity Action League forwarded a formal complaint under Executive Order 11246, as amended by Executive Order 11375, requesting action against institutions of higher education which discriminate against women. The League said that the Federal government should withhold funding from institutions which failed to comply with the Executive Order requirement “that applicants are employed, and that employees are treated during employment, without regard to. . . sex.”

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, to which the complaint was referred, has initiated an investigation of sex discrimination at a number of universities. While I am hopeful that meaningful reform will be adopted as a result of the League’s complaint, more direct administrative response to this discrimination could be obtained if Section 805 were adopted.

A principal provision of H.R. 16098 would remove the exemption presently enjoyed by educational institutions from the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which requires Equal Employment Opportunity. This exemption has served to further the cause of widespread and flagrant discrimination by sex which has been encouraged for too long at our universities.

We should correct this abuse by the complete elimination of this notorious clause, either through adoption of H.R. 16098 or H.R. 17555 which contains a similar repealer. H.R. 17555 was favorable reported out of the General Subcommittee on Labor on May 26th and is presently pending before our full Committee.

Other provisions of Section 805 of H.R. 16098 would add sex to the list of prohibited grounds for discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for programs or activities receiving Federal aid; add discrimination against women as a subject of investigation and study by the Civil Rights Commission and remove the exemption for executive, administrative, or professional employees from the Fair Labor Standards Act provision requiring equal pay for equal work. Adoption of these reforms would stand as an historic contribution to the struggle of women for equal rights.

In the field of higher education, I am particularly concerned with the fact that there has been no reversal of the recent pattern of discrimination against women. Indeed, figures reveal that the proportion of freshmen students entering our colleges and universities is greatly biased in favor of men. Thus, even in our newest generation of young people starting out on their higher education, which will lead to advanced positions in industry, government, private life, and education itself, women are deprived of the opportunity for an equal chance.

There are disturbing indications that women’s role is even diminishing in faculty ranks, rather than increasing as it should to offset previous generations of discrimination. The Women’s Equity Action League reported, “In the last century, women held more than one-third of the faculty positions in colleges and universities; today the proportion of women is less than one fourth.”

Recently, the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor issued a fact sheet on the earnings gap which showed sex discriminations in rank and salary in schools. The report said, “in institutions of higher education, women are much less likely than men to be associate or full professors.” Citing a 1966 study by the National Education Association, the report stated that in 1965-66, “women professors had a median salary of only $11,649 as compared with $12,768 for men.” It found “comparable differences” at the other professorial ranks.

Clearly, these differences do not occur by accident. They are the direct result of conscious discriminatory policies made possible by a loophole in the 1964 Civil Rights Act. I see no justification whatsoever for the existence of this inducement to discriminate.

Moves are underway outside of Congress to eliminate some of these discriminatory practices, notably in the Labor Department’s new guidelines to bar sex discrimination on Federal government contract work. These guidelines apply to contractors and subcontractors covered by Executive Order 11246 and were described by Mrs. Elizabeth Duncan Koontz, Director of the Women’s Bureau, as constituting “a giant step forward for those Americans whose talents have too often been wasted simply because they are women.”

Among other things, the new guidelines, effective immediately, forbid employees to make any distinction based upon sex in employment opportunities, wages, hours, or other conditions of employment.

In addition, the President’s Task Force on Women’s Rights and Responsibilities recently recommended a series of legislative actions to eliminate discrimination against women in our society. The legislation presently before you would implement some of these important recommendations, including the addition of sex discrimination to the Federal aid prohibitions in Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, extending the jurisdiction of the Civil Rights Commission to include denial of civil rights because of sex, and amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act to extend coverage of its equal pay provisions to executive, administrative, and professional employees.

In view of the significance of these major efforts to improve the status of women and remove legal incentives to discrimination against them, it is imperative that the Legislative Branch move with equal determination in this vital field.

Congress must act now to eliminate such glaring favoritism in our laws. It is no longer a matter of just equity, although that alone would dictate the necessity for the changes contemplated by H.R. 16098. Our country is now in a position where it can no longer afford to rely on the anti-deluvian [sic] notion that men should rule the world. We need women; their abilities and talents must be fully utilized.

Our nation’s future is the most compelling reason for the adoption of these provisions of H.R. 16098. I congratulate the Subcommittee for its action in bringing forth this legislation, and give the bill my complete support.



Source: Patsy T. Mink Papers, 1883-2005, Manuscript Division, US Library of Congress.