Home / News / World /  Indian-American prof sued for gender bias, assigning ex-female student jobs like 'applying make-up'

Indian-American Columbia University professor, Sheena Iyengar, is being sued by her former student Elizabeth Blackwell. The latter has argued she faced gender discrimination during her tenure as research associate at the Columbia Business School, Daily Mail reported. 

Iyengar, who is also a best-selling author of the book The Art of Choosing, is a Professor of Business in the Management Department at Columbia Business School, widely and best known as an expert on choice.

The lawsuit mentioned that Iyengar assigned Blackwell tasks 'suited to the female gender', as opposed to her males colleagues who were assigned more ‘serious work’. 

Blackwell has said that she was assigned ‘female jobs’ which included applying make up on Iyengar or booking restaurants for her. Blackwell has said that she was given 'personal and supportive' tasks since they were 'better suited' for the 'female gender,' according to the complaint, Washington Square News reported.

Blackwell has described that she was assigned the task of making dinner reservation, and apply Iyengar's makeup.

Notably, Iyengar, who is blind, has previously spoken about how she faces difficulties and therefore often requires assistance, Daily Mail report states. 

Blackwell further states that Iyengar tried to set her up on dates of her own, which she found 'extremely upsetting'.

The complaint from Elizabeth Blackwell says that she received the job of a research assistant with Iyengar after a five-month long grueling interview process, whereas her male counterparts 'encountered none of the obstacles that Ms. Blackwell was forced to overcome'.

Blackwell had made a complaint after her contract with the university was terminated in 2019. At that time the University had done a prima facie investigation following which Iyengar had responded by suggesting that in fact it was she that was being harassed.

'If there was discrimination in this office, it was, it is, the discrimination that I felt as a blind professor who was being perpetually bullied by my employee and does not accommodate the very needs of this position,' Iyengar said in recorded conversations obtained by WSN.

Blackwell in her complaint says that many of her issues were disregarded by the University during the initial investigation in 2019. 

'It became very clear to me at that point that they weren't willing to support me,' Blackwell said. Her lawyer David DeToffol described Columbia University's decision to cancel Blackwell's contract in January 2019 as 'retaliatory'.

Blackwell said that after leaving the university she has struggled to find work and deals with various issues including depression, insomnia and anxiety - which she attributes to working under Iyengar.

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