Tuesday, February 14, 2006
But you don't look like an engineer.
Following her campus-wide lecture on Biomimicking: engineering design from Natural Structures, Dr. Lorna Gibson joined us for a discussion of the infamous climate for women at MIT. Her perception is that things have outwardly improved, but one trend that remains concerns her: MIT's tendency to hire their own graduates appears to extend only to men. Because these new hires already have mentoring relationships among the faculty, often continue on the same research projects, and know where to go for further assistance, they have a great advantage over hires from outside the institution. Since women faculty almost exclusively come from elsewhere, they start at a disadvantage, and because disadvantages accumulate (see seminar syllabi for readings on the subject), it is very difficult to overcome. In addition, these younger men seem to have adopted not only the methods and styles of their mentors, but also their prejudices. With the biases entrenched in the faculties, hopes that the climate would improve with the eventual retirement of the old guard seem overly optimistic.