Women at MIT
Women make up nearly half of MIT's undergraduate student body and a growing number of its faculty and leaders, including MIT's former President, Susan Hockfield. In 2009-2010, there were 1,916 undergraduate women and 1,916 graduate women studying at MIT, and 213 female faculty.
MIT's founder, William Barton Rogers, envisioned MIT as a place which would "draw all the lovers of knowledge of both sexes to the halls of the Institute." In 1873, shortly after MIT's opening in 1865, Ellen Swallow Richards became MIT's first woman graduate (and later its first woman instructor). Richards' work testing drinking water supplies and water contaminants made her a pre-eminent water scientist before her graduation. Later, she created the first sanitary engineering laboratory in the United States.
In the past 30 years, as society finally began to see that math, science and engineering weren't "just for boys" anymore, MIT has enrolled a skyrocketing number of women students. Gifted young women with a passion for technical subjects have found in MIT an extremely collaborative and supportive educational environment - and they have made it even stronger and more dynamic.
What does it really mean that we have a "collaborative culture"? It means, for example, that undergraduates routinely study in groups, and often participate in frontline research with faculty and graduate students. It means that we don't calculate class rankings, name a valedictorian or grant any honors upon graduation. And that culture is only deepened by the extremely strong bonds that students forge with their living groups.
Even today, many young women who love math, science and technology find themselves isolated or simply bored in elementary, middle and high school. As our female alumni and students can tell you, finding themselves at MIT, suddenly surrounded by women and men, young and old, who all think it's cool to be very good at math and science, was simply unforgettable.
Resources for women
All of MIT's resources are available to women students. You will also find a number of resources specifically intended for women, from the Margaret Cheney Room (a special lounge set aside for current female students, featuring a grand piano, a full kitchen and study areas) and to advisors in Student Support Services who can help you address interpersonal and academic issues.
MIT Medical offers a range of health and wellness classes, to help you stay fit and healthy while at MIT. During IAP in January, the MIT Campus Police also sponsor a practical self-defense class.
A number of groups on campus are run by and serve the women's community at MIT, including the Society of Women Engineers, Mujeres Latinas, the Black Women's Alliance, Queer Women Looking for Life in Tech School (QWILLTS), the Network of Sloan Undergraduate Women (NSUW), and a freshman women's support group.
There are several groups specifically for graduate students. Graduate Women at MIT (GWAMIT) is a student-led, institute-wide organization which is a subcommittee of the GSC. GWAMIT's mission is to promote the personal and professional development of MIT's graduate women. They host a mentoring program, a fall leadership conference and a spring empowerment conference. Also, the ODGE runs [[a graduate women's group which meets monthly for lunchtime discussions (often hosted in the Cheney Room) and a women's reading group.
There are also departmental groups for women, including:
- Mechanical Engineering Graduate Association of Women (MEGA Women)
- Sloan Women in Management (SWIM)
There are also six national sororities at MIT: Alpha Phi, Alpha Chi Omega, Sigma Kappa, Kappa Alpha Theta, Alpha Epsilon Phi, and Pi Beta Phi as well as an [wilg.mit.edu Independent Women's Living Group] (WILG).
If you have further questions, please contact the Coordinator for Programs and Support for Women Students at Student Support Services, 617-253-4861.
Women's & Gender Studies Program
The Women's and Gender Studies Program offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of issues related to women, gender and sexuality. Students may major, minor or opt for a concentration in Women's Studies. The program offers twenty-eight subjects crosslisted in approximately 16 different fields. If you're interested in cross-registering for women's studies courses at Wellesley and Harvard, program staff can help with the logistics.
Women and Residential Life
MIT offers one all-female dorm, McCormick Hall, which houses 238 undergraduate women in single, double and triple accommodations. (The rest of our dorms are co-ed.) After freshman year, many McCormick women choose to spend their upperclass years living in their sorority halls across the river in Boston, or in the WILG facility. See Living Groups and Greeks for more information.