The Public Interest

Sex discrimination?—the XYZ affair

Carl Hoffman & John Shelton Reed

Winter 1981

GROUP differences in occupational success are a stubborn fact of American life. The legislative attack on discrimination which culminated in the federal civil rights legislation of the 1960’s was intended to remove that component of these differences brought about by systematic discrimination against individuals on the grounds of race, sex, religion, and other group memberships. But it remains the case that, in many situations, members of some groups are still more often hired, retained, and promoted than others. The resulting shift of emphasis from equality of opportunity to equality of result, adumbrated in Lyndon Johnson’s Howard University speech of 1965, has led to the emergence of two distinct schools of thought regarding the remaining differences between what have come to be called “protected groups” and everyone else. Nowhere has the contrast between these two views been sharper, or the debate more heated, than with regard to the occupational status of women.

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