of the Gender Equity Project is to leverage the MIT School of Science
report (see History) for the
most positive outcome in redressing gender bias in higher education.
MIT, we aim to institutionalize a process whereby
women faculty members are assured of equity, and
where their future marginalization is prevented.
MIT, we will use the lessons, successes, resistances, and failures
of our MIT experience to help other universities
creatively confront these issues, and
consider using MIT's approach of committees focused on the equity
and marginalization issues of women faculty.
of Science Report
March 1999, MIT released "A
Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT,"
an analysis of the women faculty members at MIT's School of Science.
This report addressed the question of why, thirty years after civil
rights and affirmative action legislation, there are still so few
women on the science faculty. The report also included an evaluation
of the quality of the professional lives of those women. At the
outset of the study, there were 15 tenured women and 194 tenured
men in the 6 departments of the School of Science. The report identified
what we believe are several key reasons for the small number of
women faculty. Clearly, a key causal factor was the gender bias
that women faculty experience as they progressed through their academic
key findings were:
- Junior women faculty
feel well supported within their departments and most do not believe
that gender bias will impact their careers; they believe, however,
that family-work conflicts may impact their careers.
- Many tenured women
faculty feel marginalized and excluded from a significant role
in their departments.
- Marginalization increases
as women progress through their careers at MIT, and was often
accompanied by differences in salary, space, awards, resources,
and response to outside offers; women receiving less despite professional
accomplishments equal to those of their male colleagues.
- This pattern repeats
itself in successive generations of women faculty: as of 1994,
the percent of women faculty in the School of Science (8%) had
not changed significantly for at least 10 and probably 20 years.
The inclusion of substantial numbers of women on the science and
engineering faculties of MIT will probably not occur during the
professional lives of our current undergraduate students. The
inclusion of significant numbers of minority faculty will lag
for even longer because of the underrepresentation of minority
students in the pipeline.
to the Report
response to the findings of the study, MIT took prompt action to
redress inequities stemming from gender bias. These have already
resulted in highly significant progress, including an increase in
the number of women faculty in the School of Science.
the release of the report was a statement from President Charles
M. Vest, who commented, "I have always believed that contemporary
gender discrimination within universities is part reality and part
perception. True, but I now understand that reality is by far the
greater part of the balance." The Dean of MIT's School of Science
also accepted the report's conclusion about the existence and effect
of gender bias. Both President Vest and the Dean expressed their
concern about addressing the more difficult root causes of the problem.
See also Council
on Faculty Diversity.
Response to the Report
combination of the facts of the report and the statements from MIT
leadership resulted in an unanticipated level of visibility for
the effort and for MIT. News of the findings reached the front pages
of the Boston Globe, the New York Times and other major newspapers.
The authors of the report and the administrators involved were contacted
by more than forty-five newspapers, television and radio stations,
and magazines. There was also a steady stream of e-mail, letters
and phone calls from women professors and administrators throughout
the United States. The responses were and continue to be overwhelmingly
positive regarding MIT's frank admission of this fundamental, often
unrecognized problem of gender bias. Collectively, the responses,
however, also strongly support the view that the problem of gender
bias is (a) widespread and (b) often denied in the academy.
Equity Project (GEP): Mission and Structure
the School of Science study, MIT was faced with a major challenge.
Many in the academic world looked to us for leadership, but our
own experience was still very limited. Our challenge was to maintain
our progress in the School of Science, and also to translate the
initiative from that school to the other four schools at MIT. At
the same time, we wanted to begin formally to help the many other
institutions and individuals outside MIT who sought our advice on
how to carry out similar studies.
women faculty from the School of Science, and a number of other
women faculty in the other four schools at MIT, all had a strong
sense of what needed to be done, both within and outside the Institute.
So in the spring of 2000, with the generous support of the Ford
Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies, the GEP was established
to enable faculty women to pursue their course of action. The philanthropies'
- gives the faculty
time and assistance for working on the equity
committees and various GEP projects
- provides funding
for the projects themselves, which include
To add breadth and
depth to MIT's examination of gender bias, extending within and
beyond the School of Science to foster positive change throughout
the Institute. The goal is to institutionalize a process whereby
women faculty members at MIT are assured of equity and where their
future marginalization is prevented.
To use the lessons,
successes, resistances, and failures of our MIT experience to
help redress gender bias issues on a larger platform. With our
MIT experience as a model, we will help other universities creatively
confront these issues, and consider using the Institute's approach
of establishing committees focused on the equity and marginalization
issues of women faculty.
Following the publication
of the School of Science report, an equity committee was established
at each of the other four schools at MIT (Architecture and Planning;
Engineering; Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; Sloan School
of Management). These committees were modeled on the Science committee,
and are composed of a tenured woman from each department, plus senior
male faculty, preferably men who are or have been department heads.
(All departments do not necessarily have a tenured woman.)
Equity is being measured
in terms of salaries, resources for research, laboratory space,
and similar metrics. Marginalization is also being assessed, as
far as possible, by examining the role of women as decision-makers
in their departments, particularly on search committees, as chairs
of influential committees, and as directors, heads, and associate
heads of departments, labs, and research centers.
The reports of the gender equity committees of all five schools
at MIT are now available (http://web.mit.edu/faculty/reports/).
It is expected that additional projects and initiatives will be
launched at MIT as a result of the Equity Committees' reports.
Initiative for Minority Women Faculty (NIMWF)
MIT is aware that the
issues of gender equity cannot be separated from broader concerns
about equity in higher education. In particular, we want to emphasize
that gender equity includes all women, not just those from the majority
group. Due to the absence of women from underrepresented minority
groups in the senior ranks of the MIT faculty, the Institute has
established a National Initiative for Minority Women Faculty (NIMWF).
This part of the GEP is under the auspices of the MIT
Center for the Study of Diversity in Science, Technology, and Medicine,
directed by Professor Evelynn M. Hammonds.
- To develop strategies
to address the needs of underrepresented minority women scientists
- To foster research
opportunities for both invited scholars and the MIT community.
NIMWF brought to the campus a group of distinguished senior women
of color in the sciences and engineering, from other research
institutions, to confer with members of the GEP. This meeting
was held January 18-19, 2002 (see Tech Talk http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/tt/2002/jan30/hammonds.html).
From this group, we hope a few will come to MIT as research fellows,
where appropriate matches can be made.
women undergraduate and graduate students will also be invited
to participate in the NIMWF. Research assistantships will be available
to MIT students participating in this project.
Council on Faculty
MIT has established
on Faculty Diversity, which is chaired by the Provost. The
Council (which is a rarely-used organizational structure at MIT)
is empowered to do whatever it takes to bring and sustain diversity
of all kinds (women and under-represented minorities) at MIT.
One of the Councils's two faculty co-chairs, Prof. Nancy Hopkins,
has also been named a member of MIT's Academic
Council , a group that serves as the President's cabinet.
See list at Administrative
Centers and Offices