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Women-only tech scholarships, ‘Man Tax’ violate California discrimination laws: lawsuit

Imagine the ‘pink hats’ that would march if they were male-only

A lawyer who specializes in securing equal treatment for both sexes under California law is taking on new territory: women-only scholarships.

Last week Alfred Rava filed suit on behalf of two male students who were barred from applying for a scholarship that is explicitly intended to “introduce women interested in careers in cybersecurity to the financial community.”

The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center, a member-owned nonprofit that “share[s] timely, relevant and actionable physical and cyber security threat and incident information” among nearly 7,000 members, excludes male applicants from the only scholarship it offers, the two-year-old Building Cybersecurity Diversity scholarship.

American recipients of the $5,000 scholarship also get networking opportunities and an all-expenses-paid trip to the FS-ISAC summit this fall in Chicago, where they can meet top executives in the industry.

“Imagine the uproar, the protests, and the calls for a boycott by feminists and other equal rights activists” If FS-ISAC only made a scholarship available to males, the June 14 lawsuit filed in San Diego Superior Court begins:

To top it off, imagine the resulting kerfuffle if FS-ISAC had the nerve to include the word “diversity” in the title of its hypothetical no-women allowed scholarship for which half of the population was not eligible … Feminists and equal rights activists might take to the streets wearing pink hats, carrying torches and pitchforks if FS-ISAC ever did this.

Farewell to masculum collegium discipulus

Rava has taken on more than 300 sex-discrimination cases in 15 years concerning California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination based on sex among other protected categories, he told The College Fix in an email.

“All of” those targeted businesses stopped discriminating against one sex in response to his litigation, Rava said. He cited a landmark case he won at the state supreme court that found discrimination victims didn’t have to “first confront” the business and “affirmatively assert their right” in order to have legal standing.

But this is his first case where someone “approached me about … being denied a female-only scholarship,” according to Rava (below).

MOREWant a job at UCSD? Confess that women face ‘barriers’

If it were not for their sex, military veterans Rich Allison and James Hamilton would have applied for the FS-ISAC scholarship, the suit says.

The male students were in San Diego when they read the online criteria in the application including being older than 21, in a degree-seeking educational program, and interested in a career in cybersecurity. But because they could not meet the female requirement, they didn’t apply.

The FS-ISAC summit limits valuable opportunities to female scholarship applicants, such as having a “STEM industry mentor” and the chance to “jump start their careers,” in spite of the fact that “the percentage distribution of students enrolled in high school STEM courses is almost the same for female and male students,” according to the suit.

The only difference is that some science, technology, engineering and math courses have more women, and others more men, it says. (An economist at the University of Michigan-Flint recently shared new federal data that show women are earning more degrees than men in several STEM fields.)

The suit cites various statistics that show women have more education, fewer workplace accidents, shorter commutes and shorter workdays than men. This scholarship as structured “assures that masculum collegium discipulus will become an even more rare species on college campuses.”

It is particularly galling for “any business operating in the progressive state of California in the year 2018, during the height of the #MeToo movement,” to treat men and women differently, the suit claims: It is no different than if FS-ISAC had offered Caucasian-only or heterosexual-only scholarships.

Lawsuit targets women-only scholarships under California discrimination laws by The College Fix on Scribd

Charged a ‘Man Tax’ in violation of other law

FS-ISAC is bound by California law because it does “sufficient business” in the state, the suit says, and it’s violating more than than the Unruh law.

By denying males an all-expenses-paid trip to the fall summit, the organization also violated the Gender Tax Repeal Act, which bars discrimination “with respect to the price charged for services of similar or like kind.” Men who want to attend the fall summit, in other words, are charged a “Man Tax,” the suit claims.

Jane Khodos, senior director of communication and content for FS-ISAC, and Andrew Hoerner, vice president of marketing and communications, did not respond to Fix emails for comment Monday and Tuesday.

Rava told The Fix Tuesday that he received notice that the summons and complaint had been received by FS-ISAC President William Nelson that morning.

The lawyer said he’s not aware of anything in California law that would protect a man from losing the FS-ISAC scholarship if he identified as a woman in his application, even one who is not transgender.

Rava said he hopes that most Americans would see scholarships “based on a person’s immutable characteristics” as controversial, but he faces pushback “all the time” on the idea that men can suffer from sexism.

“Sadly, there are many sexists in America, and around the world, who, for some strange reasons, believe in equal rights for women but not for men, i.e., ‘Equality for me, but not for thee,’” he told The Fix.

MORE: Women dominate science in bachelor’s degrees, federal data show

IMAGES: Gorodenkoff/Shutterstock, Times of San Diego screenshot

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About the Author
Maggie Malecki -- Pennsylvania State University