UW Today

March 27, 2017

15 years of success for UW center in recruiting, supporting female STEM faculty

News and Information

a sunny day

Katherine B. Turner

Late last year, the University of Washington’s ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change quietly marked its 15th birthday. But now, with thriving programs for early-career faculty and record numbers of female faculty in STEM fields, the center is ready for a party.

On March 31, ADVANCE will hold a belated celebration of its work and achievements since it was founded in 2001. With workshops, new resources and mentoring services the center has strived to remake the faculty recruitment and retention process to emphasize diversity in the sciences and develop resources to support early-career faculty.

“Our work through ADVANCE is to build successful and productive faculty, because their success is the university’s success,” said Eve Riskin, UW associate dean of engineering for diversity and access, professor of electrical engineering and faculty director of ADVANCE.

There’s a lot to celebrate. Since ADVANCE opened its doors, the UW has nearly doubled the number of female faculty in 19 STEM departments across three UW colleges, from 60 in 2000 to 112 in 2015. In addition to this 93 percent increase, more than half of the female faculty in those departments are now full professors with tenure, countering the stereotype that female faculty don’t achieve full professorship as often as their male colleagues.

The UW also boasts the highest percentage of female faculty in the College of Engineering among the top 50 engineering schools in the country.

ADVANCE has worked to both increase the number of female faculty members in the STEM fields where they are historically underrepresented and establish support networks for faculty in the early stages of their careers.

“At UW, the early-career stage for faculty is very different today than it was when ADVANCE started,” said center director Joyce Yen. “Today in our STEM departments there is awareness of the critical importance of addressing faculty professional development, supporting faculty success at all levels and supporting our female faculty.”

The bulk of the center’s work currently focuses on three endeavors to promote faculty recruitment and retention:

  • Career development workshops for pre-tenure faculty
  • Workshops on effective leadership for department chairs and college deans
  • A “Mentoring-for-Leadership” lunch and speaker series for female faculty

ADVANCE designed its workshops for early-career faculty to address subjects that are important for faculty success, but which are often lacking in traditional doctoral and postdoctoral training.

“Our workshops cover topics that faculty have asked for help with, such as time management, personnel management, student mentoring and work-life balance,” said Yen. “Faculty want and need professional development. They know they can come to ADVANCE with questions and for help and resources. You don’t have to make it up as you go along or reinvent the wheel.”

Nine universities were in the first cohort of National Science Foundation ADVANCE grantees in 2001, each of whom was awarded a five-year grant. Each university’s ADVANCE program piloted a different approach. The UW center’s flagship innovation was to focus on leadership development at the university, particularly of department chairs and deans.

“A huge part of our success has been engagement with department chairs, because they have a significant impact on the success of early-career faculty,” said Riskin. “And since ADVANCE started working with chairs and deans back in 2002, we’ve found them terrific partners for recruiting and retaining diverse faculty, providing resources and addressing the problems and concerns of early-career faculty.”

Another endeavor is to help female faculty across the UW consider leadership opportunities as part of their career plans, such as becoming department chairs. This led to the “Mentoring-for-Leadership” lunch and speaker series, which is the only ADVANCE program open only to female faculty. One past speaker at this event was UW President Ana Mari Cauce, who was principal investigator for ADVANCE during much of its tenure.

Looking forward, Yen and Riskin said they want ADVANCE to continue these current projects, but also expand the center’s focus to include increasing female faculty from underrepresented minority groups and creating new programs to support mid-career faculty.

For its first six years, UW ADVANCE was supported by the National Science Foundation. The UW center continued thanks to additional grants and support from the UW, NSF and the National Institutes of Health.

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For more information, contact Yen at 206-543-4605 or joyceyen@uw.edu and Riskin at 206-685-2313 or riskin@uw.edu.

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