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October 5, 2006

New grants designed to help women succeed in academe

News and Information

The UW has recently received three grants that will assist underrepresented faculty, especially women, succeed in the academy.

A $250,000 Alfred P. Sloan award will help the UW to expand career flexibility for tenured and tenure- track faculty. The UW was one of five research universities to receive an award.

The UW grant will help finance an eight-part program. One element of the program will include expansion of Leadership Development Workshops for department chairs and emerging leaders in the sciences and engineering which were developed under an ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation. Other elements of the program include: implementing a pilot parental leave program for faculty, creating a tracking mechanism for use in the development of policies that could affect faculty career outcomes, creating a peer support group for “new mom” faculty members, and increasing the number of slots available to faculty who need infant and toddler childcare.

“This grant will address some of the concerns identified by faculty in the Leadership, Community and Values survey last year,” says Ana Mari Cauce, executive vice provost. “We know that the competing pressures of having a family and competing for tenure create tremendous stress. With this grant, we intend to conduct a number of experiments and explorations of policy initiatives to address these issues. We believe that the successful implementation of these programs will help all faculty, not just women.”

Principal investigators for this grant are Kate Quinn, special assistant to the executive vice provost, Cauce, and Eve Riskin, associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Engineering. More information about ADVANCE is at http://www.engr.washington.edu/advance/.

A second grant will support the development of a series of national leadership workshops for department chairs, deans and emerging leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The workshops will be based on the UW ADVANCE program’s leadership workshop series and two national pilot workshops, which are focused on providing academic leaders with the skills and resources to address issues of professional development and culture for all faculty. A pre-workshop mentoring-for-leadership event will be offered to women faculty.

“We are expecting to have broad impact from these workshops,” says Yen, program/research manager in ADVANCE. “These workshops will provide a venue for leaders from around the country to exchange best practices and strategies. We are expecting as many as 250 department chairs and emerging leaders to participate in the workshops. We know that issues of faculty professional development are critical to the success of faculty overall. In many cases, lack of orientation and support are often significant barriers to faculty advancement, especially for women.”

Yen notes that the scope of the project will be broad. Workshop organizers will collaborate with historically black colleges and universities, as well as other institutions, to ensure that department chairs and faculty of color are represented, especially women.

The grant from the National Science Foundation is for $500,000. The first workshop will occur in 2007. Riskin, Yen, and Cauce are principal investigators for this grant.

A third grant, to Claire Horner-Devine, assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences, will create an annual three-day symposium aimed at addressing the retention of female scientists, as well as issues related to the transition of women from early career to tenure track positions and leadership roles. The symposia will target women who are early in their career in the biological sciences, with an emphasis on ecology and evolutionary biology. The symposia (WEBS — Women Evolving the Biological Sciences) will provide female biologists with an opportunity to develop skills and networks which will help them to advance in their careers.

“Our goal,” says Horner-Devine, “is to increase significantly the retention and promotion of women in academia in biological sciences, in order to create greater diversity in academic and scientific leadership.”

This grant, also from NSF through ADVANCE, is for $300,000 and is shared with the University of California, Santa Cruz.