ADVANCE RIT project team hosts program launch Feb. 13

Event highlights status of program to address career advancement for female faculty

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Cornell University

Marjorlein van der Meulen

Rochester Institute of Technology is beginning its first series of campus-wide projects to increase career opportunities and overcome barriers to advancement for its female faculty.

RIT’s ADVANCE project team will host a program launch event introducing these projects at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 13 in the University Gallery, in James E. Booth Hall.

ADVANCE RIT is intended to drive long-term changes that will transform RIT’s culture. This campus launch will highlight the overall project status as well as faculty receiving Connect mini-grants for projects associated with the broader ADVANCE initiative, said Laurie Clayton, program director.

“We received 23 grant requests from individuals and department groups across campus, for team development, negotiation strategies and transition planning, for example, and we will announce the eight awardees at the launch,” said Clayton.

The university was awarded $3.5 million last year from the National Science Foundation ADVANCE Program for “Connect: Increasing the Representation and Advancement of Women Faculty at RIT.” It is a five-year effort intended to enhance recruitment, retention and advancement opportunities for women faculty in STEM disciplines, as well as in key sub-populations of women of color and deaf and hard-of-hearing women faculty.

The launch event is free and open to campus faculty, staff and administrators. Registration is required and can be done online.

Marjorlein van der Meulen, Swanson Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University, will be the keynote speaker at the launch event. As one of the principal investigators of Cornell’s ADVANCE program, van der Meulen worked with a campus team at the university to coordinate its institutional changes since its award in 2006. She will provide information about that process, how the findings from the university’s self-study influenced subsequent projects, and how the campus adapted and incorporated recommendations from those projects.

Since 2001, the National Science Foundation has invested more than $130 million to support ADVANCE projects at nearly 100 institutions of higher education and STEM-related, not-for-profit organizations across the country. The purpose is to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.

RIT is the only university to receive both the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation and ADVANCE IT-Catalyst grants. In 2008, RIT’s research group began the institutional transformation process through EFFORT@RIT to quantify core data that would become the basis for the current ADVANCE RIT project.

Findings from that EFFORT@RIT self-study indicated that RIT had only 23 percent of its female tenured and tenure track faculty in STEM disciplines, below the 30 percent average represented in U.S. colleges and universities, even though the number of female faculty had tripled at RIT over a 15-year period. Further data revealed gender-based, average salary gaps existed at each faculty rank, and that women left the faculty ranks at a rate nearly twice that of their male colleagues. These findings mirrored national trends for women in STEM careers in academia and in industry. Aware of the trends, RIT had already begun efforts to expand its diversity and gender equity commitments, and is continuing with ADVANCE RIT.

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