Grant aims to increase female leadership in STEM field

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STEM grants-1Lehigh has received a second grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE-Institutional Transformation (IT) program, which aims to increase the ranks of women in academic science and engineering careers. This second grant arrived after the completion of a five year, $2.6 million grant received in 2010.

The NSF ADVANCE PLAN IHE (Partnerships for Learning and Adaptation Networks across Institutions of Higher Education) grant aims to achieve a level playing field for female associate professors in STEM fields, or Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.

This initiative is part of a project titled Patriot League Institutions Mentor Associate Professors WISEly (MAPWISEly), which includes other universities such as Georgetown, Bucknell, Lafayette and the United States Military Academy.

Pat Farrell, Provost and Vice President for academic affairs, will serve as the lead principal investigator for the grant. He will also have the help of co-principal investigators Vince Munley, deputy provost for faculty affairs, and Kristen Jellison, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and faculty director of Lehigh’s ADVANCE grant.

Lehigh’s first ADVANCE grant, which was received in 2010, was titled Building Community Beyond Academic Departments, and mainly attempted to enhance the recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty in the STEM fields at Lehigh.

“After the notable success of the first NSF grant, we wanted to get other Patriot League schools (with engineering programs) involved so that everyone could learn from each other,” Farrell said. “Historically, the NSF had given this grant mostly to large state schools as opposed to small Patriot League schools such as Lehigh, but they were impressed with how hard we went after the grant and how interested we were in receiving it.”

The NSF was also particularly intrigued by the interdisciplinary nature of Lehigh and felt strongly that even once the grant ran out that Lehigh would continue to pursue the retention of female STEM professors. After receiving the first grant in 2010, the recruitment and retention of female professors was one of the main objectives and ultimately proved so successful that Lehigh wanted to share its successes with these other Patriot League schools.

“While the NSF grant was aimed mostly at the recruitment of female professors, we also saw that there was an increasingly impressive collection of male recruits as well,” Farrell said. Lehigh is very pleased with the success of the NSF grant so far and hopes to see the inclusion of other Patriot League schools pay off in the future as well.

According to U.S. News and World Report, of full-time faculty 69 percent are men and 31 percent are women. The part-time faculty gender distribution is 51.8 percent male and 48.2 percent female.

Data from The Chronicle of Higher Education shows that full professors that are male receive a salary of $145,593, while women only receive $129,051. Associate professors that are male receive a salary of $95,976 and associate professors that are female receive a salary of $94,851.

The inequality switches when it comes to assistant professors – males receive $93,510, whereas females receive $96,642.

The new grant’s focus is to provide mentoring and resource support aimed at advancing the academic and professional careers of newly promoted women associate professors in STEM fields, according to Vince Munley, deputy provost for Faculty Affairs.

“This new grant isn’t focused on the hiring of more female professors, though that was one of the foci of the five year NSF ADVANCE Grant for Institutional Transformation that Lehigh received in 2010 and is now ending,” Munley said.

The grant contains four key components, which Lehigh hopes will lead to even more success with this second grant. The first component is the assembly of a Faculty Search Committee as well as a Faculty Search Committee Training Program, which has recently emphasized the importance of recruiting a diverse collection of faculty. They are making a push to find more and more people that come from diverse and unique backgrounds. The other components of the grant include a research team, which is currently looking at whether women are more likely to be retained in an interdisciplinary program like Lehigh’s, as well as a mid-career/leadership development program aimed at finding ways to help women develop their careers during their time at Lehigh, and finally, an interdisciplinary mentoring program.

“The interdisciplinary mentoring program is very unique because it allows faculty members to have a senior mentor in another department,” Farrell said.

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