A Successful Program to Add Women Faculty in the Sciences

university-of-rhode-islandA decade ago, the National Science Foundation awarded the University of Rhode Island a $3.5 million grant to increase the number of women faculty in science fields at the university. Nine new women faculty were hired in physics, oceanography, engineering, and life science programs.

The grant program has changed the climate in many departments at the university and as a result the university has seen an increase in the number of women graduate students. In addition, to the faculty members hired under the grant, another 10 women faculty have been hired in scientific departments after search committees were educated about best practices in increasing diversity. In the four years after the program began, 54 percent of new faculty hires in science programs were women, compared to 24 percent in the three years prior to the initiation of the program.

BarbSilver2“This program helped to dismantle the myths about why women aren’t usually hired in these disciplines – that there aren’t enough women available, that they’re not serious about their careers, and that the available women aren’t very good,” said Barbara Silver, assistant research professor in psychology and director of the grant program at the university. “Because the recruitment program was so high profile, it spotlighted how incredibly talented and successful these women were. We think that paved the way for everything else that followed.”

“The program has a visible legacy, and even though the grant funding is gone, and more needs to be done, we’re still moving in the right direction,” Dr. Silver added. “It all started with those first nine faculty hires. They’re all tenured now, they’re all successful, and they’re all still here.”

Filed Under: FacultySTEM Fields


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