Post from Acting Chair Victoria A. Lipnic - March 2019
This is the time of year to celebrate a very special sister act.
Bunny Resnick, born in New York City and educated in psychology and counseling, experienced and then documented the many ways women were held back in the groves of academe.
Bunny investigated and found that there was no federal law prohibiting discrimination of any sort against women in educational fields. She did, however, discover two executive orders issued by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 - the first prohibited race, color, and national origin discrimination by organizations with federal contracts, and the second, Executive Order 11375, added sex discrimination to the prohibited practices.
Bunny realized that "organizations" and "entities" with federal contracts included many colleges and universities, where sex discrimination was still rife, as she encountered it again and again.
"It was a genuine 'Eureka' moment," she later recalled "… I immediately realized that many universities and colleges had federal contracts, were therefore subject to the sex discrimination provisions of the Executive Order, and that the Order could be used to fight sex discrimination on American campuses."
Not long after, Bunny began to realize she would have to be the change she wanted to see. Later known as Bernice Sandler, she devoted her life to combating gender discrimination in academia with all the tools currently available - and set to work to create more of those tools.
Working for various women's organizations, a House subcommittee with oversight of the issue and then for the U.S. Health, Education and Welfare Department (the predecessor to today's HHS), Sandler advocated tirelessly and successfully for what became Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Title IX codified the provisions of LBJ's 1967 executive orders against sex discrimination in federally funded entities, and became known as the sister law to Title VII, with which we are all familiar.
That's important to remember, since many people associate Title IX with school sports. (You can count me among the beneficiaries of Title IX as I played on "girls sports" teams (as they called them) during my school years.) Of course, fairness in the sporting arena is important to millions of students, parents and fans, but sports alone wasn't the motivating factor for Bernice Sandler in her lifelong fight against sex discrimination in academia. It was eliminating unjust barriers against women because of gender throughout the academic world.
Bernice Sandler became known as the "Godmother of Title IX." Since Title IX and Title VII are sister laws, I suppose that makes her the step-godmother to all of us at the EEOC. In the fight against discrimination and injustice, we're all brothers and sisters - from hardworking employees of federal and state agencies that fight discrimination to civil rights activists to citizens of conscience everywhere who believe in justice for all.
Bernice Sandler passed away this January at 90. During Women's History Month, let's remember our sister as we observe this special month and carry out our work for our country. (And here's my additional thanks to all of the EEOC employees who get their daughters, nieces, and granddaughters to those practices on time and who cheer them on. That's important work, too!)