Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Keeping up with the Times

Apparently, when women start to succeed, this is a problem. Or so MIT has found, as the Times reports:

Among other concerns, many female professors say that M.I.T.’s aggressive push to hire more women has created the sense that they are given an unfair advantage. Those who once bemoaned M.I.T.’s lag in recruiting women now worry about what one called “too much effort to recruit women.”


But with the emphasis on eliminating bias, women now say the assumption when they win important prizes or positions is that they did so because of their gender. Professors say that female undergraduates ask them how to answer male classmates who tell them they got into M.I.T. only because of affirmative action.

Cue anger. Cue frustration:

Because it has now become all but the rule that every committee must include a woman, and there are still relatively few women on the faculty, female professors say they are losing up to half of their research time, as well as the outside consultancies that earn their male colleagues a lot of money.

Even the intelligent people at MIT cannot be expected to devise the solution on their own:

Yet now women say they are uneasy with the frequent invitations to appear on campus panels to discuss their work-life balance. In interviews for the study, they expressed frustration that parenthood remained a women’s issue, rather than a family one.

As Professor Sive said, “Men are not expected to discuss how much sleep they get or what they give their kids for breakfast.”

Administrators say some men use family leave to do outside work, instead of to be their children’s primary care giver — creating more professional inequity.

The problem is not that women have begun to succeed, but that women can only begin to succeed. Still, I find it bold, brave, and even encouraging that an institution like MIT has undertaken this kind of scrutiny of its own policies and practices and their effects. How else can we work for change?

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