UW News

April 21, 2009

Workshop seeks to lure women researchers from industry to academia

UW News

A series of national workshops at the University of Washington will try a novel approach to boost the number of women faculty in university science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments. It will seek to lure women from industry–in other words, help women who have established careers in the private sector to consider applying for academic jobs.

The On-Ramps into Academia workshops are funded by a new grant from the National Science Foundation. The program is geared to provide an alternative to the intense competition that exists when hiring talented women faculty to tenure-track positions.

“Instead of recruiting women away from other universities, there is a mostly untapped pool of Ph.D.-level women scientists and engineers in industry and research laboratories,” said principal investigator Eve Riskin, a professor of electrical engineering and director of the UW’s Advance Center for Institutional Change.

“Wooing women faculty from one U.S. university to another is, nationally, a zero-sum game,” added co-investigator Joyce Yen, a program manager at Advance.

The first workshop, to be held in Seattle over two days in October, will provide practical tools and support to women who are interested in making a transition. Senior women researchers who have made the jump to successful academic careers will provide information, networking opportunities and support to others who might be considering a similar move. Topics to be covered will include the job application process, interviewing and start-up negotiations.

Women with at least three years of experience after completing a Ph.D. or postdoctoral position are invited to apply. The workshop is free and, because of the weak economy, participants for the fall workshop can apply for stipends to cover travel costs to Seattle. The online application takes less than an hour to complete, Riskin said. The application deadline has been extended to Aug. 15.

Other disciplines such as business and law have used similar strategies to bring experienced women back to the workplace after extended maternity leaves. On-Ramps into Academia will use this approach for the university.

This fall’s event will be the first of three annual workshops.

“Throughout the U.S., colleges and universities are working hard to hire women faculty in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” commented Maria Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College and board member at Microsoft Corp. “The On-Ramps program is a creative way to increase the pool of outstanding women faculty for all universities.”

Co-investigators on the grant are Suzanne Brainard, director of the UW’s Center for Workforce Development; Ana Mari Cauce, dean of the UW College of Arts and Sciences; and Matthew O’Donnell, dean of the UW College of Engineering.


For more information, contact Riskin at 206-685-2313 or riskin@u.washington.edu. To apply for the workshop, go to http://www.engr.washington.edu/onramp/Application.htm.