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Nov. 13, 2004


U-M hiring of female professors doubles in math and sciences

ANN ARBOR, Mich—The number of successful offers made to female professors has doubled since 2001 in science and engineering, according to a new report monitoring the progress of the U-M ADVANCE project at its midway point.

The report indicates that in 2001, about 20 percent of successful job offers went to women but in 2003 and 2004 nearly 40 percent of successful job offers went to females. The promising figures are contained in a progress report on the National Science Foundation-funded ADVANCE project's impact 2 1/2 years into the five-year grant period.

Seventeen of 25 science and engineering departments in the three participating schools (Engineering, Medical School, and Literature, Science, & Arts) have successfully recruited women faculty in the past two years. In fact, of 82 new science and engineering faculty on the tenure track, 31 are women, the report said.

“I think that those numbers suggest that Michigan has come up with a system for more effective searches and their recruiting efforts are more effective so they are getting a broader, more expansive pool of more high caliber applicants including women,” said Alice Hogan, director of the NSF ADVANCE program.

U-M is one of 18 ADVANCE projects nationwide. ADVANCE's goal is to improve the campus environment for women faculty in science and engineering, thus increasing recruitment, retention, and promotion of tenure track women faculty.

“There are several reasons for the increase in successful recruitment of women,” said Abigail Stewart, professor of psychology and women’s studies, and one of the principal investigators on the project.

“Search committees made aggressive outreach to female candidates, and the committee on Science and Technology Recruiting to Improve Diversity and Excellence (STRIDE) offered advice to search committees. They made formal presentations, met with committees to discuss strategies, distributed a handbook on recruitment strategy, and posted their Powerpoint slides on their Web site. Their goal was to increase awareness of the impact of unintentional bias on hiring.”

They also offered advice to search committees about effective strategies in recruiting women candidates. For example, well-intentioned faculty often stress their department’s desire to hire a female scientist when talking to candidates, but the STRIDE committee advises that women often find that approach insulting; they recommend not stressing the gender issue to recruits, Stewart said.  

“A woman scientist wants to be recruited as a scientist, just like a man does,” Stewart said.

Successful recruitment of women faculty in the natural sciences is an important goal of the program. Other goals include successful retention and promotion of women, as well as improvement in the climate for women faculty on campus. Evidence of the impact of UM’s ADVANCE project in meeting these goals is not as clear, though there are a variety of initiatives underway to improve career advising, and to address these other issues.

For example, one ADVANCE-sponsored effort aimed at improving the environment for women faculty is provided by the CRLT players (Center for Research on Learning and Teaching). In 1 to 1 ½ hour   sessions, they perform brief sketches that represent some of   the challenges female faculty may encounter in interactions with other faculty. These sketches provide a foundation for dialogue about climate and collegiality.

The NSF’s Hogan said both STRIDE and the CRLT players are two of the unique and highly effective strategies that U-M is has developed to recruit more women.

“It’s clear that the various efforts that the ADVANCE program has supported on campus have made a real difference in our success at recruitment of gifted women faculty in the sciences and engineering,” Provost Paul N. Courant said. “I hope we can expand its impact over the next few years, and build in permanent structural support that will sustain successful recruitment of outstanding faculty from diverse backgrounds long into the future at the University of Michigan.”

U-M is also interested in recruiting underrepresented students. To that end, another NSF-funded project is underway at Rackham Graduate School. The program allots   $6 million over five years to develop innovative models to recruit, mentor and retain minority students in science and engineering doctoral programs, and to develop strategies to identify and support under-represented minorities who want to pursue academic careers.

U-M has participated in the NSF program, called the Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate, since 1998. However, this year Rackham has formed a partnership with Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

For information on ADVANCE:

For information on Stewart:

Contact: Laura Bailey
Phone: (734) 647-7087 or (734) 647-1848