The Late and Great Wallace
An amazing story of an economist that helped get rid of discrimination within the workplace.
Dr. Phyllis Ann Wallace was a woman who fought for the betterment of society and looked for equality for all people in our society. Wallace, born June 9, 1921, in Baltimore, Maryland, was an advocate for equality and rights of women and African Americans alike. For this reason, throughout her career, she worked day in and day out to show the impact that a Black woman can make in society. Wallace was brought into a world of oppression, as a child growing up in America she fought hardships and had sorrows as she fought many battles to uphold her right to learn and prove that she and all women are men’s equal.
Wallace started her education at Frederick Douglass High School, that although named after an abolitionist was a segregated school. She graduated high school in 1939 at the top of her class. Due to restrictions in education, she decided to attend New York University for Economics. While at New York University she received her bachelor's degree in 1943 while graduating with magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Following this, she attended Yale University for her master's and Ph.D. in Economics graduating in 1944 and 1948 respectfully. She was the first Black woman in Yale’s history to graduate with a Ph.D.
After becoming a life-long learner, Wallace joined the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) as an economist while she also became a professor at Atlanta University. Her focus of economics was first in the Soviet Union’s economic growth but soon developed into the patterns of unemployment in United States’ minorities. In 1965, Wallace joined the recently created Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) as chief in technical studies.
The EEOC was established by Congress by the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Wallace joined the commission and pushed for its main goal of prohibiting discrimination inside the workplace. She became an activist for anti-discrimination within the workplace and was a very vocal leader in the movement. While researching she ultimately helped lead to a case with a landmark ruling by the federal government against A.T.&T. in 1973. Wallace found that the telecom giant was guilty of racial and gender discrimination and made a major impact on the anti-discrimination laws in the workplace.
In 1969, Wallace left the EEOC and joined the Metropolitan Applied Research Center (MARC) in New York. She became the president of research and worked at MARC until 1972. The final act of her career was becoming a tenured professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the Sloan School of Management in 1974 continuing until she retired in 1986.
Wallace’s career was extensive and dedicated to the betterment of society and improvement to minorities’ chances within the workforce.
Along with her long and prosperous career spanning nearly 40 years, Wallace was known to receive many awards for her devoted work and high optimism. As an economist, she received the Westerfield Award for her outstanding achievements from the National Economic Association (NEA) in 1982. Over her tenure as an educator and humanitarian she received the Cross Medal from Yale University in 1980 and the Distinguished Service Award from Harvard University Business School in 1988. Along with awards, she has been given honorary degrees by institutions such as Valparaiso University, Mount Holyoke College, Brown University, and Northeastern University.
The impact of Wallace is unbelievable with her dedicated time to helping the underprivileged and many minorities, it is amazing how one person can make a path for many people of the future. MIT’s Sloan School of Management created two endowment funds for African American students in honor of Wallace after her death on January 10, 1993 (71).
“Economics Blog — Phyllis Ann Wallace.” Posts Page, 29 Oct. 2020, www.felsted.org/news-events/posts-page/%7Eboard/academic/post/economics-blog-phyllis-ann-wallace.
Malveaux, Julianne. “Tilting Against the Wind: Reflections on the Life and Work of Phyllis Ann Wallace.” The American Economic Review, vol. 84, no. 2, 1994, pp. 93–97. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/2117809. Accessed 13 Feb. 2021.
McKersie, Robert, and Cherie Potts. “Phyllis A. Wallace: A Tribute.” IWER, MIT Institute for Work and Employment Research, 2015, iwer.mit.edu/about/iwer-pioneers/phyllis-a-wallace.
Notable Black American Women, Gale, 1992, p. 1197
“Phyllis A. Wallace, 1976.” MIT Black History, 2017, www.blackhistory.mit.edu/archive/phyllis-wallace-1976.
“Wallace, Phyllis A. 1920(?)–1993 | Encyclopedia.Com.” Encyclopedia.Com, 2019, www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/wallace-phyllis-1920-1993.