May 14, 2006

Progress on hiring women science faculty members stalls at MIT

Bummer. Science magazine reports that "[t]he number of women faculty members at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge has declined or remained flat in five of its six science departments since 2000, whereas the number of women in other areas, such as engineering and architecture, increased significantly during the same period."

The rate for women in the brain / cognitive sciences fell slightly, to 8 / 33 — which is, according to this chart, the highest percentage of women in any of the science departments at MIT.

In his lecture (mp3 file) at Hamline University School of Law last fall, Malcolm Gladwell recounted a story of how more women got hired by symphony orchestras. It used to be that music auditions were face to face, and so the male orchestra leaders could tell the gender of the musicians. Oddly (snark), male musicians were consistently rated WAAAAAY better than female ones, and so they got hired in disproportionate numbers. However, in 1980, "blind auditions" were implemented (for privacy reasons, not to reverse gender bais) in which the conductor could not see the musicians. Shortly thereafter, the number of women in orchestras increased dramatically. (read more about that on Aaron's blog or in blink itself.

Would it be possible to conduct blind job interviews? Might that solve the problem? If there aren't women in science departments now, there won't be any more in 20 years ... just my humble opinion.

Rare for me to jump on my soap box, but sometimes it has to be done.

No comments: