Wednesday, August 4, 2010: 4:30 PM-6:30 PM
Exhibit Hall A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Diane M. Debinski
It has long been recognized that there is a “leaky pipeline” of women moving into the professoriate, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Despite the high numbers of female graduate students, the proportion of women in STEM faculty positions grows at a much slower pace than one would expect via standard demographic projections. In essence, there is a differential “survival rate” of women and men in science and engineering. These issues are only exacerbated for women of color.
In order to create a more diverse workforce for the coming century, the issues driving the leaky pipeline need to be addressed. The reasons for the leaky pipeline are numerous and have been well described by social scientists, administrators, and faculty members in STEM fields over the past few decades. Some of these issues involve isolation, lack of mentoring, lack of work-family balance, and lack of transparency in institutional policies and practices.
Earlier NSF programs sought to address the leaky pipeline by “fixing the women” and did so by providing resources directly to women scientists. Although this can be very effective for the individual who benefits, it is not a sustainable strategy at an institutional level. NSF has recognized that fixing the system is the only long-term solution to making academia an attractive career to women and faculty of color.
Academic institutions are steeped in tradition and slow to change. The goal of NSF’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program is to encourage assessments and interventions that address the factors resulting in the low representation of women in the STEM professoriate. NSF has funded three rounds of Institutional Transformation grants. These five-year grants are multidisciplinary endeavors that seek to create lasting change in the culture of the institutions.
A number of ecologists have been involved in ADVANCE efforts across the country, either as co-PIs or as collaborators on these efforts. However, the major venues for dissemination of the results of such work tend to be in disciplines such as sociology or higher education studies. In an effort to communicate directly with the scientists, we have assembled a group of ecologists at ESA to describe the efforts that have been ongoing at their universities to improve the recruitment and retention of women in science.