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Updated 11:00 AM January 9, 2006




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  Number of women in science, engineering rises
ADVANCE deemed success; U-M commits funds

A U-M project to bridge the gender gap in science and engineering has been so successful that officials have decided to make it permanent with funding commitments approved at least through 2011.

The number of women hired annually for science and engineering faculty positions has increased three-fold since the National Science Foundation (NSF) first supported the five-year ADVANCE project in 2001, a program aimed at improving recruitment and retention of women faculty in science and engineering. The University's commitment to extend the program of institutional transformation guarantees the effort will be at least a 10-year mission.

In the years before ADVANCE, 14 percent of tenure-track hires in science and engineering were women. Now the number is 34 percent.

"We were all inspired," the NSF site evaluation team concluded after reviewing ADVANCE and dubbing U-M a national leader. "There is enthusiasm among most of those we talked to, and belief that real change has transpired and can be sustained. We commend the University of Michigan for the resources, energy, commitment and imagination it has already dedicated to this transformation," the team noted.

President Mary Sue Coleman and Interim Provost Edward Gramlich announced that a number of the functions and activities developed through ADVANCE will be integrated into an ongoing institutional structure when NSF funding ends in December.

"Michigan was the first large American university to admit women in 1869 and ADVANCE continues to blaze new paths toward a more diverse university," Coleman says. "Its mission will continue to focus on using social scientific theories and evidence about both organizational and individual processes to improve our institutional capacity to recruit, retain and advance women scientists and engineers."

The new structure for ADVANCE is designed to provide help for departments in the self-study of their climate; assist with the continuous training and learning for all aspects of [faculty] recruitment, promotion and retention; and to be a resource to other programs.

The ADVANCE office will report directly to the provost and be housed in the Institute for Research on Women and Gender. The program also will broaden its mission to address comparable goals for faculty in all disciplines and other underrepresented groups and constituencies, such as graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

"We're committing further resources to this project because we see good evidence that we're making real progress toward important institutional goals," Gramlich says.

Besides raising the number of women hired for faculty positions, nine women scientists and engineers have been appointed to leadership positions, and a January 2005 campus survey found an improved work environment for women faculty.

Internal resources partially will replace the combination of external and internal funding that supported the first five years of ADVANCE activities. Internal support of $800,000 per year has been committed through June 30, 2011.

The planned funding includes support from LSA, the Medical School, College of Engineering and the STRIDE committee—a group of senior science and engineering faculty who lead workshops and provide departments with information and advice about recruitment.

Funding will ensure ADVANCE has resources for leadership, core staff and support for campus-wide STRIDE committees.

Other activities will be planned and undertaken by project leaders in consultation with the steering committee composed of the deans of LSA, the Medical School and Engineering, and the faculty leadership of the project—currently Abigail Stewart, project director of ADVANCE and professor of psychology and women's studies, and Pamela Raymond, professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology.

By January 2007 they will appoint an expanded advisory committee, drawing faculty from across the disciplines and from a wide range of schools and colleges.

"One important benefit of a secure infrastructure is that it can support applications for particular projects and provide strong evidence of institutional commitment to the aims of the ADVANCE program," Stewart says.

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