Tuesday, October 14, 2003


TEXTBOOK CASE: Harvard library assistant Desiree Goodwin says she's been passed over 13 times for promotion because she's black - and sexy.
- Mark Garfinkel

October 13, 2003 -- Beautiful Harvard reference assistant Desiree Goodwin is one smart librarian - but her sexy short skirts, tight blouses and dark skin are holding her back professionally, her lawsuit against the stodgy university claims.
The 39-year-old Cornell graduate has two master's degrees and 16 years of experience in her field, but those qualifications haven't helped ignite her career.

Goodwin says she's missed out on more than a dozen promotions in the past nine years because of gender and racial discrimination.

"I've been at Harvard for nine years and not once have I encountered a black professional librarian at any meeting or any gathering anywhere," Goodwin said. "I've heard about them, but I haven't seen one."

In her complaint, Goodwin says she was passed over for 13 promotions that went to white men and women with less experience and fewer qualifications. She also said her female boss identified her "sexy" wardrobe, "low- cut" tops and an alleged bad reputation as reasons for her professional stagnation.

"A man would never be penalized for being too attractive," Goodwin said. "It could only enhance a man's career if he is sexy. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger. Exaggerated femininity will work against you, but hyper-masculinity will work in your favor."

Goodwin, who still works at the Harvard Design School's Frances Loeb Library, said her boss's claims were bogus.

"White women wore sexy clothes, were outgoing, attractive and they were getting mentored and getting promoted, while I was being ignored and asked to work extra hours," Goodwin said. "I think it is racist because they feel threatened by the success of someone they don't feel is like them."

Goodwin added that most of the people in a position to hire and promote new staff members are white and called their lack of support for her advancement "cultural nepotism."

"They repeatedly select young white men and women to mentor as their protegees," she said.

Goodwin said she was told she'd never get a promotion at the Ivy League institution. She also claims a supervisor told her she'd "have no problem getting a job elsewhere because the first thing employers look for is a qualified black person."

Harvard University said the suit doesn't have legs.

"The case is without merit," Harvard spokesman, Joe Wrinn, said in a statement. "Gender and race were not factors."

Wrinn said the proof is in the pudding: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination both dismissed Goodwin's case.

The university has filed a motion in Boston federal court to dismiss the complaint. Goodwin has until Oct. 31 to respond.

New York Post Online Edition: news

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