Indian American professor at Columbia University, Sheena Iyengar, sued for gender discrimination


Court documents show that author and Columbia University alumna Elizabeth Blackwell has alleged in a gender discrimination lawsuit that Indian American professor Sheena Iyengar deliberately assigned her demeaning jobs such as applying her make-up and booking tables for her at restaurants for romantic dates

The story was first reported by Washington Square News (WSN).

In her lawsuit, Blackwell claims Iyengar assigned her research duties to a male co-worker because “she was a ‘woman’”.

According to court documents, Blackwell received a job offer from Iyengar in 2017. However, in her interview to WSN, Blackwell claims she quickly observed that Iyengar was assigning her research duties to a male co-worker. Blackwell has also accused Iyengar, who is blind and is a regular TED Talks speaker with a bestselling book called ‘The Art of Choosing’ to her name, of giving the research duties to the male co-worker despite those not being a part of his job description as a programme coordinator.

Blackwell , in her complaint, has accused Iyengar of assigning her to “personal and supportive” tasks since they were “better suited” for the “female gender.” WSN said these tasks included applying Iyengar’s makeup and booking restaurants for her romantic dates. According to WSN, at one point, Blackwell said Iyengar tried to set her up on dates, which she found “extremely upsetting.”

In her interview to WSN, Blackwell said that when she complained to Iyengar about the lack of research-related opportunities, the professor told Blackwell that she should feel lucky that she was hired because she is a woman. After a few days, Iyengar complained to University of Columbia authorities that she was being harassed by Blackwell.

When WSN reached out to Iyengar, she did not respond, but the website obtained recordings in which Iyengar is heard as saying, “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.”

Blackwell told WSN that Columbia University did investigate the matter, but that her complaints about gender discrimination were dismissed without consideration. “It became very clear to me at that point that they weren’t willing to support me,” Blackwell told WSN.

According to WSN’s reporting, “The university terminated Blackwell’s contract in January 2019 due to a lack of funding — despite her position being funded through June 2019. Her attorney, David DeToffol, called this decision “retaliatory.”

Blackwell told WSN that after leaving the university, she has struggled to find work. She continues to deal with insomnia, depression and anxiety, which she claims she developed while working for Iyengar.

Related posts