Female Faculty: Another Study from MIT
Last week MIT released their third Study on the Status of Women Faculty. The first in 1999 was groundbreaking—an elite institution admitting that it had for years created an unfriendly and inhospitable working environment for women. The 2002 study showed MIT making improvements. The newest study shows MIT making even more headway, but also something else.
The unintended consequence of creating a more female-friendly and family-friendly workplace may be the perception that standards for women faculty are lower than for their male counterparts. In other words, is it easier for women now to earn tenure with a less impressive records than male faculty members? This would be a complete reversal of the pervious situation in which female faculty members always seemed to need so much more—more publications, better reviews, more of everything.
MIT denies that women faculty are being treated any differently. However, the problem is often perception, not reality. If people believe that female faculty at MIT are somehow less qualified than they seem, it demeans their positions, their research, and all that they have worked for years to achieve.
Women who earn tenure or full professorships at MIT—or any other institution, for that matter—deserve to be viewed as equal with all other tenured and full professors. No one group should be given a status, with a qualifier added.
Numerous interviewees in the Women in Chemistry oral history collection mention receiving job interviews in academia and industry simply because they were women. Although they were never serious candidates for those jobs, women had to be included in the pool of interviewees. Those episodes took place in the 1970s and 1980s. In the 21st century we should not privilege one group over another. All that these women ask is simply to stand on equal ground in a non-hostile work environment.