South-Western College Publishing - Economics  
No Room at the Top for Women: MIT's Glass Ceiling
Subject Discrimination
Topic Labor Markets
Key Words Discrimination, Education, Salaries
News Story

MIT has admitted that female professors in the School of Science have been discriminated against in terms of hiring, awards, promotions, committee membership, research money, and space allocation. The proportion of women in science decreases as the level of education increases, and only 8 percent of the science faculty are women. The women feel more marginalized as they become more senior in the university. There has never been a female department head or associate head. A study revealed that male colleagues made unwarranted assumptions about female faculty work habits and their need for raises, and overlooked women's comments in a meeting.

MIT is unlikely to be the only institution with discrimination: it is simply the only one to admit it. The American Association of University Professors states that the problem is widespread. Nationally, since 1975, while the proportion of faculty that is female has risen from 23 to 35 percent, the difference between male and female salaries has widened.

(Updated May 1, 1999)

1. Draw a diagram of the labor market for science faculty. Add separate supply and demand curves for men and women. Make sure you show the female faculty forming a smaller proportion and being paid less.
  a)Part of the reason for the position of women faculty is that there is a low proportion of women in graduate school science programs. How is this reflected in your diagram? Explain.
  b)MIT admits that discrimination has also played a part. It is thought that other institutions are no different. How is this reflected in your diagram? Explain.
2. Since 1975, the employment of female faculty has grown more than male faculty, while the gender pay gap has widened.
  a) Bearing this in mind, in a diagram of the labor market for faculty, draw the equilibrium positions of male and female faculty in 1975 and 1999.
  b)Look at your diagram and determine why females' share of employment has improved while their relative pay has declined.
3. What would you recommend to institutions such as MIT? Show the effect of your recommendations in a diagram like that in Question 1.
Source Carey Goldberg, "M.I.T. Acknowledges Bias Against Female Professors", The New York Times, March 23, 1999.

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