MALE SLUSH FUND. The California Supreme court denied to hear an appeal on a sex discrimination lawsuit, supporting the claim by former clinical psychiatry professor at UCLA. Janet Conney, who worked at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute, was awarded nearly $3 million in 2004 for her allegations that male colleagues made disparaging comments about her appearance and the department discriminated against her for promotions and pay raises because of her gender. Additionally, court documents show that the department directly funded the salaries of men, but women were required to earn their salaries through seeing patients. This all happened as recently as 2001.

Conney left academia and maintains a private practice in LA. The American Association of University Women, who provided funding to help Conney's cause, maintain that her case is emblematic of the disparities in pay and the discrimination against women that still occurs at universities and colleges.

This is why pay disparity is such a complicated issue. As I discussed recently, there's little accountability because information about wages tends to be kept private. Even public records at a state school like UCLA wouldn't disclose the manner in which professors are paid, as in Conney's case. It took a lawsuit and court subpoenas to divulge the discrimination present. Women like Conney are sometimes reluctant to bring forth lawsuits or complaints against the universities at which they work until they are tenured.

This also exemplifies pay discrimination in one slice of the workforce, the academic elite. But as many women I interviewed said, it seems that the biggest disparities occur most at the highest levels. An October 2006 study by the AAUW shows that the numbers of women full professors are the lowest at Ivy League and research universities. The percentages of women in elite colleges are roughly the same as at high-powered law firms, corporate executive boards, and even at the bylines in elite magazines and newspapers. This is perhaps because these institutions are the oldest and slowest to change. Janet Conney's case shows that there is still a lot of work to be done at all levels.

--Kay Steiger

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