A group of women faculty members at the University of Washington have filed a class-action sex discrimination law suit against the school, charging systematic discrimination against women with regard to pay and advancement opportunities.
If the plaintiffs are judged to represent women faculty as a class, they will represent more than 1,000 women at the University. Plaintiff’s attorney Steve Berman is confident that the class action will be approved by the court, given the plaintiff’s evidence of widespread, systematic discrimination. He stated, “We have abundant information, including studies commissioned by university president Rich McCormick, that paint a very vivid picture: women faculty members are not treated on par to their male counterparts.”
The plaintiffs allege that women faculty at the University of Washington are underpaid and are regularly denied opportunities for advancement including tenure-track positions, tenure and long-term assignments. The university’s allocation of other forms of support including grant money and staff are also alleged to favor men.
A 1997 Faculty Salary Survey found that women earned between 19 and 27% less than men. Berman commented on the significance of these findings, saying, “Differences in years of experience may account for some of the disparity, but the university cannot use that to explain all of the discriminatory evidence.” That same survey also revealed that women make up less than 25% of tenure-track faculty, and make up about 60% of the less-secure, lower-paying non-tenured positions.