Documentary short, “The Uprising,” showcases women in science who pressed for equal rights at MIT in the 1990s

"The Uprising" introduces the story behind the 1999 Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT. Seen here, biologist Nancy Hopkins played a central role in organizing the effort to compile data showing female MIT science faculty at the time received less lab space and lower salaries than their male counterparts. The report led to improved practices for ensuring equal access and pay, both at MIT and around the world.

Categories: Events + Outreach

The MIT Press today announced the digital release of “The Uprising,” a documentary short about the unprecedented behind-the-scenes effort that amassed irrefutable evidence of differential treatment of men and women on the MIT faculty in the 1990s. Directed by Ian Cheney and Sharon Shattuck, the film premiered on the MIT Press’ YouTube channel, and is now openly distributed.

A 13-minute film, “The Uprising” introduces the story behind the 1999 Study on the Status of Women Faculty in Science at MIT and its impact both at the Institute and around the globe. Featuring Nancy Hopkins, professor emerita of biology at MIT, the film chronicles the experiences of marginalization and discouragement that accompanied Hopkins’ research leading up to the study and further highlights the steps a group of 16 female faculty members took to make science more diverse and equitable.

The MIT report is today widely credited with advancing gender equity in universities both nationally and internationally. This ripple effect is highlighted in the film by Hopkins, who says, “Look at the talent of these women. This is what you lose when you do not solve this problem. It’s true not just of women, it’s true of minorities, it’s true of all groups that get excluded. It’s all of that talent that you lose. For me, the success of these women is the reward for the work we did. That’s really what it’s about. It’s about the science.”

“The Uprising” features interviews with leading current and former MIT scientists, including social psychologist Lotte Bailyn, biomedical engineer Sangeeta N. Bhatia, chemist Sylvia Ceyer, ecologist Sallie “Penny” Chisholm, materials engineer Lorna Gibson, biologist Ruth Lehmann, geophysicist and National Academy of Sciences President Marcia McNutt, cognitive scientist Mary Potter, oceanographer Paola Rizzoli, geophysicist Leigh Royden, and biologist Lisa Steiner. “The Uprising” was produced in conjunction with the feature-length documentary film, “Picture a Scientist.

“The Uprising” was funded by a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as support from Nancy Blachman and an anonymous donor. The film was produced by Manette Pottle, in collaboration with the MIT Press. Amy Brand, director and publisher at the MIT Press, served as executive producer.