In the mid-1990s, Nancy Hopkins, a biologist and tenured faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), realized that she had been allocated less lab space than her male colleagues, so she turned to a trusted friend: data. She measured every inch of her lab to irrefutably prove the inequitable distribution of space. Along the way, she teamed up with her fellow women faculty members to address other aspects of gender bias at the institution. In their investigation, they found that senior women faculty felt invisible, were excluded from positions of power, and received fewer resources and rewards than their male counterparts. Their report, published in 1999, was instrumental in bringing about a change in MIT policies to improve the status of women faculty.

Despite the changing landscape, gender disparity in academia still exists. This is in the spotlight now because March is National Women’s History Month, but I believe that efforts to support women in science should be perpetual, not restricted to a celebratory month or day. However, this occasion presents an excellent opportunity to share the stories of exemplary women, track ongoing progress, and take action to aid and inspire the current and next generation of women scientists. 

At The Scientist, we want to celebrate women in science in all ways. Throughout the month, we will highlight stories that feature women scientists on our social media platforms. For the month of March, we are also accepting nominations of exceptional women scientists—your colleagues, friends, role models, or yourself—through our “Peer Profile” program. Just tell us who we should cover, what they work on, and why you find them so amazing. We look forward to your nominations!

Nominate a woman scientist

Reference

  1. Chisholm SW, et al. MIT Faculty Newsletter, Special Edition: A Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT. 1999. Issue 4, Vol. 11.