It’s no secret the technology and engineering fields haven’t put a lot of emphasis on diversity. Professionals there like to think they’re a meritocracy, so diversity tends to be an uncomfortable topic. But recently, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology determined it has to do a better job in recruiting and retaining black and Hispanic faculty, who apparently have a more difficult time getting promoted compared to their white and Asian colleagues. In some departments – such chemistry, mathematics and nuclear science and engineering – no minorities have been hired in the last two decades.
The findings from MIT’s Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity study were published by the Boston Globe, which noted:
MIT’s first comprehensive study of faculty racial diversity and the experiences of underrepresented minority professors highlight a national problem across academia: the need to improve the pipeline of black and Hispanic scholars. Blacks and Hispanics make up only 6 percent of MIT faculty, an increase of 4.5 percent since 2000 but far below the university’s goal of achieving parity with the nation, where underrepresented minorities make up 30 percent of the population. The report indicates that in addition to focusing on recruitment and retention of these minority professors, the university needs to provide increased mentoring and expanding professional opportunities to make the climate at MIT more welcoming to underrepresented groups.
So why is MIT undertaking such a brutal self-analysis? Bottom line, the university wants to double the percentage of underrepresented faculty, and triple the number of underrepresented minority graduate students, within ten years. The idea is if you increase the number of minorities within the faculty ranks, diversity will trickle down and naturally increase the number of minorities who become engineers, scientists and technologists. So, the school plans to increase its efforts to recruit more diverse candidates into its hallowed halls.
Is MIT is taking the right action? Post your comments below.
— Sonia R. Lelii