UA awarded $3.3 million to increase participation by women in science and engineering

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a five-year, $3.3 million grant to The University of Arizona to increase the participation of women in science and engineering careers. The UA, led by principal investigator Leslie Tolbert, is one of only five universities nationwide to receive full funding so far by the NSF's ADVANCE program in the most recent round of awards.

The NSF ADVANCE program seeks to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce.

The award follows more than a decade of intensive work at the UA to identify and address equity issues among faculty.

"Far too few women pursue careers and succeed in science and engineering," said Tolbert, UA vice president for research and Regents' Professor of neurobiology. "We are going to address a key underlying problem, subtle discrimination, which thwarts many efforts to recruit and retain women in these fields."

ADVANCE funding will be directed toward the UA's "Eradicating Subtle Discrimination in the Academy" initiative. The project's three primary themes are fostering the scientific and leadership careers of women, promoting responsibility for equity among faculty and administrators and equipping the University for sustainable transformation.

The program, focused in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, will initiate a comprehensive series of strategies to reach its goals, including the development of a unique software program to promote more equitable decision-making in recruiting and negotiating with faculty.

Other strategies include interdisciplinary diversity grants, mentoring programs and workshops for young scientists, establishment of gender-equity faculty advisers in each department and education on the role that subtle discrimination plays in the hiring, promotion and retention of tenure-track faculty.

"We are confident that the ADVANCE program not only will diversify our science and engineering faculty, but also contribute to a much-needed increase of new scientists and engineers in Arizona," Tolbert said.

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The UA's program also will have a significant research component focused on the issue of gender equity in the academic environment.

In addition to Tolbert, the leadership team for the project includes Gail Burd, associate dean of the UA College of Science; UA Provost George Davis; Kate Dixon, head of the UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology; LouAnn Gerken, director of the UA Cognitive Science Program; Sally Jackson, UA vice president for learning and information technologies, mathematics Professor William McCallum; and Beth Mitchneck, associate dean of the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.


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