Sexism in action

[I repost my old post from now defunct blog. I wonder how much has changed over the years that passed?]
I had a conversation with a colleague from a Mathematics Department in a decent British University. Her Department adopted a remarkable policy in respect of pastoral care of students: all undergraduate students are assigned as personal tutees to 6 or 8 members of staff (of 32). My colleague, as a result, has about 60 personal tutees.

Of 32 members of academic staff, 3 are women. As the reader perhaps already expects, all of them got tutees. Apparently, pastoral care is considered to be women’s natural duty.

This shameful episode is a manifestation of a general principle that a “care” component, and, more generally, a “person-to-person interaction” component of work, so prominent in teaching, is systematically undervalued – and underpaid.

I quote from Paula England, Emerging theories of carework, Annu. Rev. Sociol. 2005. 31: 381–99 ; doi: 10.1146/annurev.soc.31.041304.122317 :

In more recent work, England and colleagues (2002) operationalized care work as those occupations providing a service to people that helps develop their capabilities. The main categories of jobs termed care work were child care, all levels of teaching (from preschool through university professors), and health care workers of all types (nurses aides, nurses, doctors, physical and psychological therapists). Controlling for skill demands, educational requirements, industry, and sex composition, we found a net penalty of 5%–10% for working in an occupation involving care.

One of the reason why “care component” is penalised because it is considered a more feminine function. The conclusion is striking:

We (male teachers) suffer from a typically anti-female form of discrimination.

Perhaps, this can help to convince even the worst male chauvinist pig that we all have to fight for gender equality in the workplace.