Women in Science & Technology: Critical for Innovation

women-in-tech

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 U.S. CONNECT@RIT (Creating Opportunity Networks for Engagement and Collective Transformation) focuses on improving conditions for female STEM faculty, with a unique emphasis on women who are deaf and hard-of-hearing at the university. RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology) will address issues of recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty through reassessment of some of its academic and human resource policies, expanding a newly established faculty mentoring program and increasing professional development and leadership opportunities.

Part of the NSF research included looking inward at RIT where a climate survey and examination of HR data trends led to the identification of barriers for women faculty. These ranged from the recruitment and advancement of women faculty to balancing work and life. 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.

Among the Connect@RIT project goals includes attracting 30 percent female applicants for RIT STEM faculty positions, at least 75 percent of STEM departments achieving a critical mass of female faculty, retention rates for female faculty that closely mirror those of male faculty, and an increase in the percentage of women in academic leadership positions to a level which maps to their overall representation at RIT. The finish line for the project is five years out and the researchers have plenty of work ahead. But we are confident they will have a similar finish to last year’s race team.

In summary, a diverse and inclusive workforce is crucial for attracting and retaining top talent. This is especially true for colleges and universities, like RIT, that specialize in innovation. RIT has historically been a leader in developing new technologies, systems and approaches. RIT faculty and research teams often partner with business and industry leaders on research and development initiatives. In order to effectively continue in this capacity – to cultivate the best and brightest minds and to be an innovation resource for industry – everybody must proactively encourage diversity.

Diversity isn’t an altruistic aspiration; it’s a competitive demand.

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About olivierlehe

Passion for Innovations

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