Ivey Business School (Photo)

The Richard Ivey School of Business, Mar. 28, 2018.

A discrimination complaint by an Ivey professor in 2017 spurred an investigation that found “systemic discrimination” against female faculty in the business school.

Professor Allison Johnson complained to Western University of sexist discrimination after she was denied tenure in 2017, resulting in an investigation that found discrimination existed systemically in Ivey, but was not responsible for Ivey’s decision against granting her tenure.

The investigation cited student feedback forms about Johnson that mentioned her pregnancy, which Ivey then brought up to her in reviewing her application for tenure.

As first reported by the London Free Press, the marketing professor’s story manifests an old sexist phenomenon across academia that the business school now admits. But neither Johnson nor Western’s faculty union accept that sexism had no role in her tenure application, and are poised to continue fighting it.

Johnson has subsequently filed both a union grievance and, according to the LFP, a human rights complaint about the bias from course evaluations in deciding tenure.

In a statement, dean of Ivey Sharon Hodgson said she could not comment on personnel matters, but that they take all “allegations” of discrimination seriously — though it was an official Western investigation that concluded there was discrimination.

“For women and for anyone who may feel their differences have the potential to disadvantage them, you have my commitment that we will continue to progress in all matters of equity, inclusion, and diversity,” she said.

Johnson has allegedly filed to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in August 2019, likely after her interior complaint within Western had finished. The documents have not been heard by a court, according to the LFP report.

The University of Western Ontario’s Faculty Association is backing the union grievance. They also confirm the findings of the internal investigation.

“Professor Johnson is a member of a disadvantaged group which has been, and continues to be, subjected to systemic discrimination,” they file in their grievance.

Hodgson pointed out in her statement that the union’s collective agreement was recently amended to try and prevent this sort of discrimination.

Issues began for Johnson in 2008, after Johnson became an assistant professor in marketing and then became pregnant.

She was given three months maternity leave but was asked to come back during the leave for a performance evaluation, according to the LFP, which is against the collective agreement Western’s faculty union holds with the university.

Following her pregnancy, Johnson cited issues with low course evaluation scores in 2009 and 2010 where “students made comments about … her marital status and childcare arrangements.”

The next major issue arose in 2016, according to the report, following her application to tenure.

Johnson told the LFP that questions asked during her tenure committee meeting were “insulting and demeaning” and that the same year, three men were automatically approved for tenure while the women were questioned.

Correction (Jan. 23, 12:05 p.m.): this article has been corrected to reflect that UWOFA filed in their grievance about Johnson, and did not give comment to the LFP directly.


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