University programs in science and engineering made significant headway over the past year in the recruiting and retaining of female faculty members.

Provost Paul Courant announced on Monday several advances in a University-wide initiative to increase female representation in the sciences. Part of the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, the University’s plan has been in effect for about one year.

“I believe we have made good progress this year in all four of the areas I’ve outlined – recruitment, retention, climate and leadership (of female faculty),” Courant said in Monday’s address.

In the past year, the University hired 43 female instructional track science and engineering faculty, about half of whom are in the clinical departments in the School of Medicine. Six teach in the College of Literature, Science and the Arts, and seven in the College of Engineering.

Evita Nedelkoska, vice president of the Society of Women Engineers, believes the University creates a hospitable environment for women engineers and feels that it’s moving in the right direction.

“The University does a great job of creating an environment where you don’t see engineering as a male-dominated field. The real world displays the stereotype of engineering being male-dominated. In a sense, the University’s positive environment is motivating,” said Nedelkoska, a mechanical engineering senior.

ADVANCE differs from other recruitment and retention initiatives because it is data-based. The administration uses both quantitative and qualities data to evaluate the circumstances of women in the faculty and the hiring practices of professors.

“Through the program’s advisory committees, they recognized that there was a need to change university practices; we had to change traditional ways of recruiting. Faculty members tend to hire people like themselves, so if we really want a diversity, then male faculty members have to change some of those practices,” said Tony England, associate chair of the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department.

“NSF sets up programs to effect change. We give money, and it gives people incentive to look at why these things are happening. If NSF hadn’t been there, the faculty would not have had time to educate ourselves and structure a recruiting program,” added England, who is also a member of Science and Technology, Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence, an advisory committee under ADVANCE that focuses of recruitment.

The process, England admitted, takes time. Over the summer, the advisory committee, of which he is a member, met several times to discuss and research recruitment practices.

“Improvement always can be made. In all areas where we have underrepresented minorities, we have lots of room for improvement. In some respects it’s a matter of going to K-12 and getting girls interested and involved in the sciences. That’s a challenge that everyone’s facing,” atmospheric sciences and chemistry Prof. Mary Anne Carroll said.

Concerning the initiative’s future, female faculty and staff recognized the ongoing need for improvement and growth in the areas of retention and recruitment.

“This year we are focusing on continuing recruitment efforts, while enhancing our activities in the areas of climate and leadership. We know that we need to ensure that women scientists and engineers are able to thrive as researchers, teachers and colleagues once they come here. We will be initiating some new programs on mentoring and on the climate for women faculty,” said Abigail Stewart, the ADVANCE program’s director.

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