Tenure at MIT Still Goes Mainly to Men

December 06, 2007

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — where almost a decade ago officials pledged to do something about the gender discrimination experienced by female faculty members — it appears that change is slow.

Only one out of 25 faculty members granted tenure at the university this year is a woman, The Boston Globe reported. Women have been achieving tenure at a lower rate than men over the past 10 years, the newspaper reported, citing an MIT analysis. Women make up 16 percent of the tenured faculty, up from 10.5 percent a decade ago.

Meanwhile, the number of female junior faculty members granted tenure each year since 1997 has ranged from zero to eight, compared with a range of 10 to 24 men a year during that same period.

The gender gap was illustrated recently in the university’s in-house newspaper, which published photographs of the faculty members who were granted tenure so far this year. Only one woman, Amy Finkelstein, a professor of public economics, was pictured. “When I looked at her picture, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at MIT whose research in the early 1990s on gender bias against female scientists at the institution served as a catalyst for science departments across the country. (In a follow-up report last year, Ms. Hopkins said that gains for female professors tended to peak during specific initiatives but trail off in subsequent years.)

Susan Hockfield, MIT’s president, told the Globe that she also found the single photo of a woman among the pictures of newly tenured professors was “unsettling,” but added that the university was still committed to hiring more women and improving their tenure rates. —Audrey Williams June