Gender Discrimination at George Washington University

I came across a job announcement for Program Coordinator for US and International Politics at GWU’s Elizabeth J Somers Women’s Leadership Program via an email from the Chronicle of Higher Education. While I’m qualified to teach in the fields and the campus is just down the road from me, I get the idea that I’m not quite what they’re looking for.

Program Coordinator Responsibilities: The program coordinator (PC) for each cohort is responsible for the academic, administrative and co-curricular aspects of the program that she leads and working with the other program coordinators for integrating Women’s Leadership Program offerings and activities in order to enhance the academics experiences of all students in these programs. The PC, in her administrative capacity, is responsible to the Director the Elizabeth J Somers Women’s Leadership Center and, through her, t the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the MVC of the George Washington University. In her capacity as a faculty member, she works with and through her home department and school. Other duties include:

Advising: The PC serves as chief academic mentor and guide to the students in her program, and as the official academic advisor to those of her students who are enrolled in the Columbian School of Arts and Sciences. The PD is responsible for insuring that all her Columbian School students receive the materials, information and instruction from the CSAS freshmen advising workshop by the end of the fall term. The PC is also responsible for coordinating with, and supporting, the academic advisors for students enrolled in the other schools of the university.

Academic Administration: The PC is normally expected to design and teach the core academic course(s) of the program, or to help design and staff them, and to work with the University Writing faculty to develop the appropriate content for sections of WLP20 and UW20 linked to the program. The PC is responsible for organizing the symposium series tied to the program. This consists of a series of at least four speakers, or special focused activities, each semester. Working with her ‘home’ department(s), the PC oversees and coordinated all academics aspects of the program to ensure that the core course(s), the discussions led by the GTA, the Humanities (WLP20) and Writing (UW20) courses, the symposia series and the co-curricular activities are working synergistically , and to ensure that all those involved are aware of the program objectives and are working together to fulfill these goals. The PC also meets regularly with the Director of the Elizabeth Somers Center and the other program coordinators to coordinate particular co-curricular activities and speakers, and to explore areas for inter-program collaboration and intersecting. This committee also meets with the Associate Dean to ensure a united effort to build a strong academic presences and community on the Mount Vernon Campus.

Emphases added. Later, the ad notes that a “basic qualification” is “evidence of commitment to women’s leadership,” that “Special preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate experience in . . . mentoring of undergraduate, female students.” Do you think maybe they’re thinking of hiring a woman for this position?

Now, given the nature of the position, it might make perfect sense to hire a woman. The Program consists (presumably) of nothing but young female undergraduates and emphasizes woman’s leadership. From both a student comfort and mentoring standpoint, a female prof/adviser may be the best choice.

I can’t help but think, though, that GWU would be hesitant to be so blatant in advertising they they wanted only male candidates for a position.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    I guess you didn’t get the message…

    …no such thing as job discrimination against white males.

  2. Richard Gardner says:

    You have an available option should you want the job, gender reassignment surgery (or whatever they are calling a sex change these days). Discrimination against the Transgendered is prohibited at the school (so you might only have to become a cross-dresser).

    At the University of Washington, there was controversy over the selection of a man as the Chair of Women Studies in Aug 2005. I believe he is still the only one.

  3. “Special preference will be given to applicants who demonstrate experience in . . . mentoring of undergraduate, female students.”

    Of course, it could be the faculty search committee is made up of perverts who are looking for someone who likes to get a bit of nookie from the 18 year old female students, you know, so the new Prof would fit in with the old profs.

  4. Tano says:

    Are you not missing the obvious here James? After decades or centuries of using the male form as the default, without any implication of discrimination (of course), you now assume that using the female form implies discrimination. Given the lack of neutral forms in our language, what is one to do? Use both interchangably in the same paragraph? That would be confusing.

    Quite interesting to see the reaction of your commenters too. The great existential need to be a victim plays out – once again, using the female form one time out of a million means that the poor males are now officially second class citizens. Pathetic.

  5. James Joyner says:


    Historically, the use of male gender terms were understood to be gender-inclusive unless the context implied otherwise. The reverse has never been true.

    In recent years, institutions have gone out of their way to be gender neutral, opting to write in the third person or the use of such awkward constructions as s/he.

    There is no way to construe this ad as aimed at male and female candidates alike.

  6. Tano says:

    I disagree James. I know many people, some in institutional roles (academic), who avoid the stilted neutral constructions, and use the male and the female relatively randomly (not in the same paragraph though), with both being assumed to be gender-neutral.

  7. James Joyner says:

    Tano: That practice is as confusing as it is ungrammatical. In this particular context, however, I don’t know how a male scholar would read it and get the impression that he had any shot at the gig.

  8. floyd says:

    Is the program only to teach them to lead women? If not they should have to deal with the discomfort of mixed genders in context of leadership. More likely we are looking at a vision of the hypocritical feminist brave new world.

  9. just me says:

    I agree with James. Grammar in the name of gender neutralism shouldn’t be tossed out the window. I honestly prefer the male gender terms over a mixture of both, and while I understand the s/he thing, reading just flows better without it.

    I have noticed the tendancy in parenting magazines to almost always refer to babies as “she” even when the story doesn’t indicate a gender.

  10. Triumph says:

    While I’m qualified to teach in the fields and the campus is just down the road from me, I get the idea that I’m not quite what they’re looking for.

    Did you actually apply for the job? It seems premature to be making accusations of discrimination before the position has even been filled.