The well-known 1999 report on space allocation at MIT by Nancy Hopkins alerted the research world to gender-based inequities in lab space allocations. In light of that report, the results of a recent assessment at Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) are both stunning as well as concerning. The May 2022 “Space Allocation” report confirms that women scientists have on average half the research space and one third the research storage space as their men counterparts. The report considered differences in funding, tenure, research group size, and discipline. In doing so, the SIO report debunks the assumption that bigger spaces are “naturally” allocated to scientists with longer seniority. The report notes practices that sustain space inequities include letting scientists inherit their space from a departing PI rather than following a policy for equitable space distribution. Perceptions among Scripps scientists were consistent with the quantified data: in a survey of 77 faculty, 42% of the women said they don’t have sufficient space for their work (compared to 6% of men). UC San Diego, the home institution for SIO, affirms that they are actively reevaluating space allocations not just for SIO but across the entire university, at every level.
This fine-grained statistical report is unusual because most institutions do not publicly disclose such information; UCSD and SIO’s transparency about this issue is encouraging. The University of Maryland’s Faculty Workload Equity project also recommends that workload and resource allocations like this be shared transparently (a google sheet is simplest) within departments. If you do not know the research space allocation in your department, please ask your chair. At Michigan Tech, chairs have access to the ADVANCE Faculty Equity Query Tool which includes research space allocation data. Regularly examining research space allocations and reflecting upon current practices and policies is key to fostering processes that allow all faculty members to be allocated resources to thrive in their research endeavors.
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