UW News

October 18, 2001

Grant to promote women in science, engineering

The University of Washington has received a $3.75 million federal grant to transform the academic culture in science, engineering and mathematics on campus and bring more women to the forefront of fields many consider critical to national prosperity and our future lifestyles.

The grant, one of eight awarded nationwide under the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program, will be used to create a Center for Institutional Change, according to Denice Denton, dean of the College of Engineering and principal investigator for the new program.

“This award represents a great opportunity for the University of Washington to do an even better job at ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to excel, especially in science, math and engineering,” Denton said. “We will all win if we continuously work to improve the environment in these traditionally male-dominated fields.”

Although women earn 40 percent of all doctoral degrees in the United States, they continue to be underrepresented in almost all disciplines of science and engineering, according to the NSF. Overall, women make up approximately 22 percent of the nation’s science and engineering workforce, and less than 20 percent of science and engineering faculty at four-year colleges and universities.

The new UW center will sponsor activities to promote leadership development, changes in departmental culture and policy transformation to help women advance. It will also provide a mentoring program to guide more women into leadership roles.

The awards are part of a comprehensive effort undertaken by NSF to diversify the scientific work force. The intent is that programs created by the participating universities will become models that can be replicated by institutions across the nation.

“Intellectual diversity helps give our nation its competitive edge,” NSF Director Rita Colwell said. “These awards represent a substantial commitment by a diverse set of institutions to alter the way we approach participation in science and engineering careers.”

Co-investigators for the UW project include David Hodge, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; Eve Riskin, associate professor of electrical engineering; Nancy Barcelo, vice president, Office of Minority Affairs; and Suzanne Brainard, executive director, Center for Workforce Development.