Trends in Ed: Female Ph.D’s in STEM; MIT

| March 25, 2011

Earlier this week the New York Times reported on a recently released study carried out by M.I.T., chronicling the successes (and failures) of a twelve-year attempt to increase female faculty representation.  After a report detailing the disparity between male and female representation and achievement among the M.I.T. faculty, they committed themselves to a process that has now resulted in nearly a doubling of female faculty in science and engineering.

These developments at M.I.T. are only part of a larger, nationwide trend.  Women now account for 43% of faculty nationwide, and although their representation in the STEM disciplines is still somewhat lagging, progress is being made on that front as well.  The tools M.I.T. has developed to increase female representation include more family friendly policies, a broadening of search criteria, and active efforts to overcome unconscious bias.

This progress has been made, however, at the cost of “unintended consequences,” perhaps the most salient being the perception that women have been given an unfair advantage in the hiring and promotional processes.  The Times article does not investigate the potential veracity of this perception, but, as usual, this is only because they have outsourced their more controversial reporting to that tiny, overworked news-bureau inside each of us which publishes its investigations under the masthead “Common Sense.”