MIT's student body is diverse in race, gender and nationality. However, as in other leading research universities, the science and engineering faculties are not.
In some fields, this lack of diversity still reflects the pipeline and/or the slow rate of turnover in the faculty. But a study conducted by MIT's School of Science in 1995-96 suggested that additional factors contribute to the small number of women faculty in science and engineering and to the quality of their professional lives, Professor Nancy Hopkins reported at the AAAS on Feb. 18. Hopkins, the Amgen Professor of Biology, was an author of the 1996 study and speaks frequently on topics including fair hiring processes, recruitment and evaluation of women faculty in science and engineering fields.
"Two factors identified were the greater demands for women of balancing family and work, and subtle forms of gender bias that result in the marginalization of women. The subtler forms can be accompanied by women receiving lower salaries, fewer resources for research, and being excluded from participation in positions of influence within their departments and scientific fields," Hopkins said.
To address these issues, President Charles Vest and Provost Robert Brown have established permanent committees in all five MIT schools to collect data pertaining to the equitable distribution of resources, salary, space, etc., for female and male faculty. In collaboration with the school deans, these committees make corrections if inequities are documented.
In addition, Vest and Brown established a Council on Faculty Diversity to address the underrepresentation of both women and minorities on the faculty. Three subcommittees of the council address family/work issues, hiring practices and pipeline issues.
These initiatives have led to an increase in the number of women in the administration of science and engineering departments (from one to nine), and led to a review of policies for family leaves and new guidelines for faculty hiring, Hopkins reported. The nature of these administrative policies and their potential to produce a faculty whose diversity more closely reflects that of the students MIT trains will be discussed.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 27, 2002.