Phyllis A. WallacePhyllis A. Wallace, a labor economist who pioneered the study of racial and sexual discrimination in the workplace, died in her apartment this weekend of natural causes. The professor emeritus of management at the Sloan School of Management and trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts was 69.
Wallace spearheaded a precedent-setting legal decision in a federal case that reversed sex and race discrimination in American industry. She directed studies for a federal lawsuit against AT&T, a suit which led to a 1973 decision that the company had discriminated against women and minorities. The company agreed to pay millions in back wages and change its transfer, promotion, and recruitment policies.
Sloan School Dean Lester C. Thurow described the AT&T case as "one of the pioneering discrimination cases -- opening up AT&T to women and minorities." He also cited Wallace's work as research director at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1966 to 1969 as influential in combating discrimination.
Wallace, who taught at the Sloan School for fifteen years, also conducted an important longitudinal study of women graduates of the Sloan School and their success in the workplace, where she tracked the progress of a group of women versus a group of men. She had planned to work with Thurow to study how the Sloan School responded to sexual harassment, and how that response could be integrated into the school's curriculum.
In a letter to the Sloan faculty on her death, Thurow said that as a labor economist, Wallace "widened all our knowledge." Her study of female Sloan graduates "made everyone wiser about the issues of women attempting to advance in the business world."
Wallace was also a trustee of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and had been recently named chair of the visiting committee of the Department of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian, and Near Eastern Art. She was also co-chair of the Committee on New Connections, which was charged with finding new audiences for the museum, particularly minorities.
The Nubian Art Gallery was a focus of Wallace's interest in the museum. She was active with the new Friends of the Nubian Gallery group and made a donation that allowed the museum to distribute a book written about Nubia to local schools and community groups. "She also was quite a force in meeting with staff members and meeting with gallery instructors," said Amy Greer of the museum's department of education.
Rita Freed, curator of the department, said, "Her energy and enthusiasm combined with her love of the Nubian collection and her desire to make this collection available to the people of the city make her shoes impossible to fill."
Wallace was born in Baltimore. She received a bachelor's degree in 1943 from New York University. She received graduate degrees from Yale in 1944 and 1948.
After receiving her PhD from Harvard, she joined the National Bureau of Economic Research as an economist and statistician, while teaching part-time at the College of the City of New York.
She served on the faculty of Atlanta University from 1953 to 1957, when she became a senior economist for the U.S. government, specializing in Soviet economic studies. She worked for the EEOC from 1966 to 1969 and was vice president of research for the Metropolitan Applied Research Center from 1969 to 1972.
After serving as a visiting professor at the Sloan School, she became the school's first female professor in 1975.
She was also a national trustee of TIAA/CREF, the prestigious professorial retirement program.
Her books include: Equal Employment Opportunity and the AT&T Case (1976), Women, Minorities and Employment Discrimination (1977), Pathways to Work: Employment Among Black Teenage Females (1974), and Black Women in the Labor Force (1980).
Survivors include her mother, Stevella Wallace; a brother, Samuel Wallace; three sisters, Lydia Mills, Ophelia Wallace, and Margaret Campbell; and a niece, Carolyn Mills.
Funeral services will be held Friday, Jan. 15, at 7:30 p.m. in the Metropolitan United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Contributions can be made in her memory to the Friends of the Nubian Art Gallery of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.