Thursday, January 7, 2010

Hiring at the BYUs

Back a few weeks, there was a discussion on this blog about women working outside of the home and what the church’s actual position on it might be (which i claimed isn’t very black-and-white, as opposed to church culture, which is pretty intensely one-sided, i think). I said in an email conversation with one of the commenters on that post that at some point i’d post my thoughts on it given hiring practices at the Brigham Young University campuses (i used to work at one of them), so here it is:

I have to admit that i have difficulty believing that the prophets actually want women who desire to work outside the home not to do so. I mean, consider that faculty appointments at the Brigham Young University campuses are subject to approval by the Church Educational System Board of Trustees, and that group includes half of the Quorum of the Twelve and all of the First Presidency (among others). If the prophetic stance was actually that women (or at least women with children at home) shouldn’t work outside the home, then wouldn’t there be no appointments of women with children at home to the faculty of Brigham Young University? And yet there they are…

And before it happens, in case someone says it’s because of nondiscrimination rules, that doesn’t apply here. Colleges and universities in the United States with clearly defined religious missions are exempt from nondiscrimination rules in two ways: They’re allowed to discriminate based on religious affiliation, and they are allowed to discriminate in other ways that clearly relate to the religious doctrines of the affiliated religion. In other words, the BYUs can give hiring preference to practicing, devout Mormons—which they do—and they can refuse to hire anyone whose hire would contradict the religious doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That they hire women with small children at home anyway at the very least sends a signal that that isn’t a point of religious doctrine for the church.


Urban Koda said...

If I might add, as a former employee of the Corporation of the President itself...

They really didn't have a problem hiring women, especially for lower positions within the organization. Secretaries and seamstresses and that kind of thing. But that said, it is next to impossible for a woman to advance within the organization to any serious position without extreme harassment and generally most of the senior management type positions require candidates to be priesthood holders.

Michelle said...

Oh, David (said while smiling and shaking my head). You've found a topic that probably everyone in the church has a strong opinion on - and not the same opinion. You do love to stir it up, don't you?!? ;)

Maybe it's the whole Law of Moses mixed with free agency thing again. Church leaders give talks about women staying home with children, but they're not going to deny someone their free agency if they decide to work outside the home. I, for one, choose to stay home with my child. However, if I worked outside the home and was denied various privileges/opportunities in the church because of that, I would not feel comfortable with the direction the church was going.

This is a touchy subject, though, because I have found that no one wants to be told that their method of parenting is wrong. There's a ripple-effect there, too. If a child or grandchild of someone raises their children in a different method, that parent or grandparent can feel insulted, like their method of raising children is being shown as wrong or faulty. Hopefully that makes sense.

Here's another element to add to the mix-
Here in Romania it is literally impossible for most mothers to stay home with children. Salaries are so low that a one-income family cannot afford to pay utility bills in the winter. And that's even with people living in multi-generational homes. However. Every woman in our branch is astonished at the fact that in countries where (money-wise) it is possible for the mom to stay home, some don't. And that reaction seems to stem more from their feelings about children than from anything Church leaders have said.

Heather the Mama Duk said...

Some women with children at home MUST work. For example, my best friend has 5 young children (2 to 13). She also has a cheating good for nothing husband. She is getting education to be able to leave him. She will have to work.

And then the free agency thing is definitely true. Just because the prophet says mothers should stay home with their kids, not everyone follows what the prophet advises.

Jeanne said...

My mother and I were just talking about how the issue of women working or not is so divisive. Women are constantly hurting each others' feelings on the issue. For instance, one of the sister missionaries asked my mother if she gets bored sitting at home all day. (My mom has worked very minimally since she had children and even now that her children are grown chooses not to work so she's available to help out where needed.) The comment hurt my mom's feelings - and seemed quite ironic the next day when my mom received a call from someone who needed a ride and the sisters had suggested they call my mom for help.

We women really need to find a way to support each others' choices (having faith, perhaps, that we all have individually spoken with Heavenly Father about them and are making the right choices for us and our family?) rather then belittle anyone who chooses a different pathway than the one we have chosen.

Michelle said...

Jeanne - I can feel your mom's pain. I think everyone I met during our first 6 months in Romania asked if I get bored at home. I got really tired of the "what do you do all day?" question paired with a shocked look.

And yes, I've determined that women are each other's worst enemies.

David B said...

@Michelle: <innocence style="wide-eyed">Stir it up? Me? What a weird idea.</innocence>

More seriously, i posted this ’cause i alluded to it a few weeks ago, and promised to flesh it out then—so here it is.

Reading through these comments, it occurs to me that this is rather completely not a Mormon-specific issue. I mean, consider the whole “Mommy wars” phenomenon—there’s this tendency to believe that if it’s right for me, it’s right for everyone.

Speaking of which, @Heather, my post was simply trying to point out that the church appears to actually have no policy on the subject, no matter what church culture appears to hold. There are religiously-controlled schools that don’t follow hiring practices that other schools are required to, including sex discrimination in hiring, due to policies of the controlling religion. That the BYUs don’t do that, and given that faculty hires to the BYUs require approval at such a high level…Well, it’s simply interesting.

But @Urban Koda’s comment got me thinking that it would be interesting to see how many deans and higher the various BYUs (plus the LDS Business College) have ever had. I have no idea what the numbers would look like, but there’s a master’s thesis for somebody just waiting to happen, if it hasn’t been studied already.

Finally, i have to say that i’ve liked stirring things up a bit on this topic. One of the best reasons for enjoying it is that Mormons have this tendency to come back at people who bring up issues at variance with moderately conservative Mormon culture with the killer line “You’re just trying to justify your own sins.” (I mean, i’ve seen that one pulled out in Sunday school classes over issues ranging from women working outside the home to caffeinated beverages to women wearing nylons to men wearing white shirts and ties.)

Well, Jeanne’s doing the stay-at-home mom thing right now, and it’s fun to poke at something when that’s not a valid retort. But it also brings to mind the question of why that one gets used, anyway, since it’s a pretty clear logical fallacy…Maybe there’s a future blog post in there somewhere.