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Report details status of women scientists and engineers

U-M will announce the results of a survey to measure the working environment for women on the science and engineering faculty at the University at noon Thursday, Sept. 26, in the ballroom of the Michigan League.

“Major research universities, including the U-M, CalTech and MIT, have realized that we have to improve the campus environment for women faculty in these fields if we’re going to attract and retain the brightest and best for our respective institutions,” says Abigail Stewart, professor of psychology and women’s studies and associate dean for academic affairs in LS&A, who directs the project. “The proportion of women in the highest faculty rank, full professor, is disappointingly low. At the U-M, the overall proportion of women on the faculty in natural science departments in LS&A actually decreased between 1990 and 2000.”

U-M’s five-year program is supported by a $3.7 million ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to support efforts to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. “Our process at U-M was distinctive in that we began with rigorous baseline research that was internally supported, even before we knew NSF was funding our proposal. Now that we’ve gathered it, we’ll be able to evaluate how much we’ve really been able to improve things with the help of the NSF award,” Stewart says.

At the end of the project, the results of this survey will provide hard data that will allow the University to measure its progress toward increasing the number of women faculty in the science and engineering disciplines and improving their career satisfaction, Stewart says.

U-M is one of only a handful of research universities to publicly announce the results of such a study. MIT’s 1999 report, which looked at how marginalization had frustrated the careers of many women faculty, resonated with many women scientists. One result was NSF’s ADVANCE program, which awarded nine institutional transformation grants to ensure fuller participation and advancement of women faculty in science and engineering.

At U-M and nationally, the number of women on the tenure track in science and engineering fields has lagged far behind gains made by women in non-science fields, and female scientists have not achieved the levels one would expect given the number of women who have earned doctorates in these fields.

Paul Courant, interim provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs, will host the Sept. 26 event. Speakers include U-M President Mary Sue Coleman; Pamela Raymond, professor of cell and developmental biology and senior counselor to the provost; Alice Hogan, NSF project director for ADVANCE; and Stewart. Light refreshments will be served at 11:30 a.m., and a question-and-answer session will follow the presentations.


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