In a political climate that increasingly seems to be divided by gender, the National Coalition for Men is bringing the fight to Georgetown’s campus. On Oct. 3, the organization filed a complaint against Georgetown University alleging that the university “is in violation of Title IX because it offers resources, funding, fellowships, and scholarships that are available to women only.” The complaint further outlined a legal theory that the authors believe justifies the dissolution of 18 Georgetown programs designed to support female students.
The complaint’s claim of gender discrimination against men is not only unfounded, but rooted in a misunderstanding of the rationale for the programs it wishes to disband. This editorial board believes the programs are valuable to the university, and work to correct a system of discrimination rather than perpetuate one.
The history of gender discrimination against women in education and the workplace is long and its effects are still evident. In 2010, women made up 59 percent of the low wage workforce. The gap is especially prevalent in STEM and professional work, where women comprise only 43.2 percent of the workforce, and in private sector leadership, where women make up less than a quarter of CEOs.
These concerns are made even more pressing when the issue of sexual harassment is considered. According to an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission report from 2016, at least a quarter of women report being harassed in the workplace. This statistic is concerning by itself, but together with gender disparities, it shows a workplace that is unfavorable and discriminatory toward women.
The complaint asserts that “men are beginning to face significant problems in the workplace.” This is false. While women graduate college at higher rates than men, this is not translating into more success in the workforce. Men still have clear advantages at work. They disproportionately control companies, and as a result, corporate culture tends to favor them. This complaint, rather than being borne out of a changing workforce, seems to come from the fear that men are losing ground. These feelings of victimization are not backed up by reality.
These disparities in attainment are the exact reason that Title IX was created. In 1973, the Supreme Court recognized that “our nation has a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination,” and the Department of Justice acknowledged in 2012 that Title IX has not yet achieved its goals. This implies that it is not merely the outcomes, but also the structures, that are skewed against female success.
The data seem to indicate that one cause of inequality is the transition into the workforce. Women graduate at high rates, but this doesn’t translate into high paying jobs or leadership positions. Providing women with spaces to work on professional development and find supportive communities can help mitigate these problems.
The purpose of the 18 programs the complaint references is not to advantage women over men, but rather to equalize after a long history of misogyny and discrimination. The reason these resources exist is because women are at a disadvantage. At least 10 of the programs, such as the Cawley Career Center, The International Council on Women’s Business Leadership, Georgetown Graduate Women in Business, and Georgetown University Women in Medicine are directly targeted to women’s experiences in the professional world.
These programs are both intentional and necessary. Until women achieve equal outcomes in employment, programs that strive for these outcomes will always be justified.
The complaint also addresses programs of study that focus solely on women, such as the Women’s and Gender Studies department and the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace, and Security (GIWPS), arguing that the programs are inherently exclusionary. However, studies focused primarily on women are incredibly important for improving our collective understanding of history and the world today. Historically, women’s perspectives have not always been taken into account. Institutes that focus on women specifically can increase the body of knowledge most effectively.
GIWPS itself does this, with its index that compares women’s experiences across countries. Such research is crucial for an understanding of the dynamic effects of gender around the world. It is exactly the kind of study that a global university like Georgetown should promote.
While it is unlikely this complaint will lead to any substantive changes on campus, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that there will be further, more focused attacks on Title IX on campus. The Trump administration has already proposed changes to the Title IX process regarding sexual assault long sought by men’s rights groups. There’s a chance that the Department of Education could take action on this complaint, or a similar one, in the future. Given this context, it is crucial to continue to defend these programs.
This complaint, while unfounded, gives Georgetown the opportunity to highlight the work these programs are doing. As women continue to strive to be equal in all aspects of society, we must recognize the history that has led to inequality and continue to support combating it.