Grant Supports Women Educators in the Sciences

TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 4, 2009) – The University of South Florida is joining with four Florida universities in a project to support women educators in the field of science, technology, engineering and math in hopes of creating a more diverse science and engineering work force.


USF is collaborating with The Florida State University, Florida A&M University, University of Florida and Florida International University in the three-year project funded by the National Science Foundation. Called the Advanced Paid grant, its goal is to address the underrepresentation of women in those career fields and promote the recruitment, retention and promotion of women in those disciplines.


 The project is led by Karen Holbrook, USF’s Vice President for Research & Innovation; Kathryn Borman, a USF professor of anthropology and the lead researcher at USF’s Alliance for Applied Research in Education and Anthropology; and Sylvia Thomas, a USF professor of electrical engineering.


Collectively, the faculty members and university administrators from all five universities participating in the project are part of the Alliance for the Advancement of Florida’s Academic Women in Chemistry and Engineering.


Statistics show a continuing disparity between the numbers of men and women pursuing careers in science and engineering. Even as the number of women earning doctoral degrees in science and engineering has increased from 17 percent to 49 percent since 1974, women make up only around 40 percent of all faculty at degree-granting institutions, the researchers report.


The gender gap widens as faculty move up the academic ladder. Only 39 percent of all female faculty have tenure compared to 52 percent of male faculty.


 “The Advance Paid grant is a major step for the collaborating universities in raising the visibility, success and advancement women in science, technology, engineering and math fields,” Holbrook said. “Such activities need to begin early in one’s education, but at this stage retaining and supporting women in the academic careers is crucial.”


The $600,000 grant will support mentoring programs for women faculty members at the five universities’ chemistry and engineering departments,” said Penny J. Gilmer, an FSU professor of chemistry and biochemistry who served a lead role in writing the proposal and will be coordinating the program’s activities. Senior faculty members will provide mentoring for junior women faculty in these departments and each program will offer career enhancement workshops, Gilmer said.


Angel Kwolek-Folland, associate provost for academic affairs at UF, said the award will help create and sustain a more diverse faculty while giving students a wide range of role models.


 “As faculty in research institutions, we have a responsibility to increase the visibility of faculty and administrative job opportunities to talented women candidates, and to promote hiring strategies to ensure that qualified women have equal benefit to win prestigious academic positions,” added Borman, an expert in educational policy.


Promoting greater diversity in the chemistry and engineering professions is not simply a matter of providing additional career opportunities for women, although that is certainly important, noted Rufina Alamo, an FSU professor of chemical and biomedical


 “Encouraging more women to pursue careers in these fields helps to create a stronger, more diverse and innovative work force, so everyone benefits,” Alamo said. “And at a time when the United States is no longer producing enough scientists and engineers to provide the technological advances upon which our nation’s economy has come to depend, we can’t afford to continue losing so many talented young women to other professions.”



The University of South Florida System is one of the nation's top 63 public research universities and one of 39 community-engaged, four-year public universities as designated by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. USF was awarded $380.4 million in research contracts and grants in FY 2008/2009. The system offers 232 degree programs at the undergraduate, graduate, specialist and doctoral levels, including the doctor of medicine. It has a $1.8 billion annual budget, an annual economic impact of $3.2 billion, and serves more than 47,000 students on institutions/campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, Sarasota-Manatee and Lakeland. USF is a member of the Big East Athletic Conference.



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