The Women of Ellensburg: Issues of Women in Washington State
The Laws and Their Implementation
House Bill 413
In 1975, Washington became the first state to enact a comprehensive law banning sex discrimination against public school teachers and students. House Bill 413 outlawed discrimination on the basis of sex for any student in grades K-12. It also required that the Superintendent of Public Instruction develop regulations and guidelines to eliminate sex discrimination in public school employment, counseling, and guidance services to students, recreational and athletic activities for students, access to course offerings, and textbooks and instructional materials used by students. The Superintendent additionally declared it unlawful for any public school district to discriminate on the basis of sex with regard to any activity conducted by or on behalf of a school district.
While funds for implementing the law were not specifically allocated by the legislature, the State Office of Equal Education has provided extensive technical assistance regarding the preparation of affirmative action programs required of school districts by 1976. Some school districts, howev ' er, have been slow in taking advantage of workshops and consultants available to them. The Washington regulations created by House Bill 413 include grievance procedures that may be utilized at the local, district, or state level when regulations are not followed.
Title IX of the Federal Education Amendments of 1972 states that "no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal Financial assistance.." The federally funded General Assistance Center located at Portland State University provides free Title I X training to public schools.
Sex Equity for Students
In the past, nearly 100% of sex segregation in physical space in schools occurred during recess and physical education classes, according to one educator. Boys were developing cooperative teamwork skills while girls were developing social skills. P.E.ciasses are now required by law to be co-ed (with some exceptions), while casual social groupings are not regulated.
Athletic opportunities for girls have traditionally been limited. Through the mid-1970's, high schools spent about 5% of their athletic budgets on females; colleges spent about 1%. In the late 1960's, one Washington university spent more on the telephone budget for men's athletics than for the entire women's program. Today, a tour of the men's athletic facilities at the University of Washington takes about an hour-and-a-half; the women's facilities can be seen in 15 minutes.
Athletics and the Laws
H.B. 413, Title I X, and the State Equal Rights Amendment provide some legal tools to overcome discrimination in athletics. Physical education classes (required) and intramural athletic activities (voluntary) provided by a school district are required to be co-ed with few exceptions, while competitive athletics may include separate teams for boys and girls selected on the basis on skill, or in different equivalent sports, provided equal opportunity genuinely exists. Equipment, facilities, quality of competition, skill, and compensation of coaching staffs, budgets, and uniforms must be comparable.
Impediments to Sex Equity in Athletics
Unfortunately, the laws are difficult to enforce. In this era of declining enrollments and failing levies, legislative funding is needed if women's opportunities and facilities are to be improved without impairment to men's athletic programs.
Monetary barriers are not the only impediment, however. Women's social and cultural conditioning has discouraged them from active participation in sports. Athletic competence and the competitive spirit have been equated with masculinity and, until recently, life-long, traditionally co-ed activities such as tennis, golfing, and jogging have taken a back seat to traditionally male team events like football and basketball. In re-evaluating the role of 11 women's" sports, questions are also being raised about the traditional emphasis on training a few top-notch athletes versus the value of participation by more students in healthy activities that build self-discipline, physical fitness, and are pleasurable throughout life.
Women's Views About Athletics
Conservative women have expressed support for equal opportunity for both sexes to participate in athletics and have stated that school programs should be provided equally if enough students wish to participate. These women stipulate that, if any athletic program might result in bodily harm, it should not be sex-integrated. Conservative women prefer local control and want Title IX abol ished.
Feminists at the conference supported Title I X and H.B. 413. They want funds allocated for enforcement and for assistance in educating professionals about how to responsibly apply the laws to educational programs.
Textbooks and Instructional Materials
Washington State's H.B. 413 corrected a major exclusion in the federal law, Title IX, by including textbooks and audio-visual and reference materials in the ban on sex bias. To ensure equitable representation of the sexes in the Curriculum, all types of roles for women - as homemakers, working women, historical and political figures, and more would be respectfully and realistically represented.
Difference in math abilities is of great concern to many women because math is used as a screening filter for careers. Four years of high school math is necessary for 75% of the professional fields. Differences in math ability are related to training (i.e., if differences in early training are controlled, differences between the sexes in ability disappear). Math ability is related to spatial ability which can be taught, and the earlier it is taught, the better.
One study showed that preference patterns in mathematics of men and women are very similar. It suggests that, though male students don't like math any better than female students, they are more likely to take math classes because they are aware that such courses are prerequisites to the kinds of future occupations they envision for themselves.
Counseling and Guidance
Sex-role stereotyping by school guidance personnel has had a significant effect on the choice of and preparation for future occupations by male and female students. The state law now requires school counselors to present both nontraditional and traditional vocational choices to both boys and girls. The success of a non-sex-biased guidance program rests, f i rst, o n schools obtaining testing instruments and career choice materials that are bias-free and, second, on school personnel who recognize the effect of traditional job choice counseling on students, schools, and the nation.
Students in Higher Education
University of Washington and Washington State University graduate school enrollments show that females are continuing to study in fields marked by high unemployment and lower pay (arts and humanities, education, nursing, social work, etc.). Dr. Dee Boersma, Assistant Professor of Ornithology at the university, believes this picture is even worse at the undergraduate level. "I have women students who wait until their senior year to take any science classes to fulfill graduation requirements because they thought they would be too hard. Then they discover it's not so bad," she says. Dr. Boersma also believes many females respond to the notion that science is a man's field by quitting science classes if they receive a C, while males are likely to continue even after receiving C's and D's in technical subjects.
State professional schools nonetheless do show a large increase in female enrollments. At the University of Washington Law School, one-third of 1977-78 enrollees are women as compared to 22% five years ago and only 5% ten years ago. At the UW Medical School, almost one-fourth of the medical students are women, compared to about 12% five years ago; 20% of the Dental School enrollees are women and almost 33% of Washington State University veterinary medicine students.
Women Employed in Education
Elementary and Secondary School Employment
The current status of women in education is striking in comparison with earlier times. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, all positions were predominated by females. As recently as 1948, 55% of elementary principals were women. In Washington State today, only 8% of elementary and 2% of secondary principals are female; less than 40% of secondary teachers are women, but 70% of elementary teachers and almost all kindergarten teachers are female.
Why are women underutilized as administrators? A common belief is that there is not a sufficient number of qualified women to fill administrative positions. According to statistics available from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the difference between the number of available qualified women and the number holding principal and superintendent positions is not justified on this basis.
One study cites six reasons for the inequitable employment situation in education.
- Outright discrimination in promotion practices.
- Informal preference by school boards for males based on the belief that more men are needed at the elementary level and that only men can exert discipline required of principals.
- Overreaction on the part of school boards to criticism that the elementary schools lack male role models and authority figures. (Lack of female role models at the secondary level is evidently not a concern.)
- Colleges' and universities' use of financial aid and recruitment practices do not indicate concern for sex imbalance in principalships.
- A drop in the proportion of women pursuing principalships due to lack of support and/or encouragement.
- Increased prestige and higher salaries of administrative positions since World War 11, adding to the myth of male superiority in these positions.
The same study shows that, on the average, the caliber of performance of both students and teachers was of higher quality in schools administered by women than in those managed by men and that no significant differences in morale exists in schools administered by women or men.
There are strong indications that criteria other than competence and qualifications have been important in the selection of administrators. For example, research indicates that eight out of 10 superintendents have a background in coaching and that the only constant factor found in selection of administrators has been sex. Age, types of positions previously held, length of experience, background, etc., have had no correlation with the hiring process, though military experience was also valued.
What seems to be occurring is that employers will bend requirements for males but claim that women don't fit the requirements.
Salaries of Women in Public Education
The census bureau shows that, in 1970, the average salary of female administrators was $5,000 a year less than that of male administrators. There were two reasons: Women were more often administrators in small districts that did not pay as well, and women were also paid lower salaries in the same districts in which male administrators were paid more.
There has been no significant difference in hiring and promotion in Washington since 1970, although there is now one female superintendent in a small school district and four assistant superintendents in larger districts. There are f ive female secondary principals and eight female elementary principals in the State of Washington. Virtually all school secretaries and classroom aides are still women, and food service workers are predominantly women. Higher paying, supervisory positions continue to be filled primarily by men.
Male teachers also tend to be paid more for extracurricular activities. The Washington Education Association is currently sueing school districts in the state for failure to compensate male and female coaches equitably.
Barriers to Affirmative Action in Public School Employment
There are still many barriers to affirmative action. Many bel ieve that reverse discrimination occurs and that unqualified women are being hired over qualified men, but the supervisor for the State Office of Equal Education states that this is not so. Like many, she believes the true purpose of affirmative action - to force examination of hiring procedures and the promotion process in order to insure non-discriminatory policies and practices are utilized - has been distorted by those who oppose it.
Overcoming current discrepencies would involve providing more encouragement and support to women both before and after they acquire administrative positions, changing and defining hiring criteria, and enforcing laws that currently exist. It is essential that members of the public become aware of what is happening in their own districts.
A problem that arises when women and minorities are hired according to affirmative action guidelines is that the most recently hired are the first to be layed off when levies fail. Creativity will be needed to devise policies that are fair to educators with seniority and, at the same time, do not undermine affirmative action gains.
Employment in Higher Education
Recent studies have shown that women and minorities have yet to achieve equality in employment at colleges and universities. Findings of a Ford Foundation study of 18,000 administrators at more than 1,000 institutions of higher education include the following
- Women are paid about four-fifths of what men with the same job titles at the same institutions are paid.
- Almost 80% of key administrators are white males, 14% are white women, 5% minority men, and 2% minority women.
- The only administrative positions in which both women and men have a sizeable representation is affirmative action officer. Even in that position, women are paid less than men.
At the University of Washington, only eight out of the 95 department chairs are women, and most of these are in the Nursing or Home Economics Departments. In other key administrative positions at the U.W., from president to assistant dean, only nine of the 66 posts are held by women. Even these percentages are higher than in the past.
Community Involvement in Schools
Parental concerns vary from prescribing total control of who teaches their children to having community use of educational facilities during hours when school is not in session. Community pressure on school boards and teachers has long been established as an effective means of change. It is important that parents become educated about the state and federal laws pertaining to their concern, as their school board may be incorrectly applying or not applying a pertinent law.
Women's and minorities' desires for more equal education can be effective when they are organized. In Seattle, the parent community was successful in establishing Alternative Elementary No. 1 eight years ago, and such concern has led to other alternative schools, including a new K-12 program opened at Summit School in 1977.
In the 1960's, demands for increased community involvement were largely made by members of the radical left. Today, many minority people and conservatives desire increased local control of their children's education. A great number of people are expressing their concern that antithetical values not be taught to their children, and are asserting their rights as consumers. Many feel that all federally funded education programs should allow for community involvement at the local level, and many would like federal funding to accomplish this.
Women's Views of Education
Feminist concerns about education focus on several areas. These women express interest in eliminating sex-role stereotypes from textbooks and instructional materials. They also support training for teachers, administrators, and counselors regarding ways to eliminate sex bias and implement affirmative action laws. Career development information for staff and students is another area of concern, as is increasing opportunities for athletic activities for females.
Conservative women object to the federal government pre-empting states rights and the decisions of local school districts. They also express concern that the role of homemaker, wife, and mother not be eliminated or devalued. They support educational activities based on individual student preferences and fear that identical education will be forced on their sons and daughters and will destroy traditional male and female roles. They are not opposed to women seeking careers but do not want to pay taxes for career training unless financial aid is proven to be necessary. They also support women seeking election to school boards and state that d iscri rni nation in top-level positions in schools should end.