The National Science Foundation’s Advance Institutional Transformation program awarded the five-year grant for an initiative called CONNECT@RIT: Increasing the Representation and Advancement of Women Faculty.
A group of RIT faculty members submitted the grant proposal. The group, which formed four years ago, seeks to improve conditions for female STEM faculty members, especially women of color and women who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
“We believe this will improve the climate for STEM fields at RIT,” said professor Stefi Baum, director of the Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science at RIT.
Baum, who is a member of the group, added: “This is a generic problem in academia in the U.S. — women faculty in the STEM professions are not hired as much and retained at the same rate as their male counterparts.”
In 2008, Baum noted, women made up just 23 percent of the faculty in tenured or tenure-track jobs in the STEM fields at RIT — less than the 30 percent national average.
With this funding, RIT will reassess some of its academic and human resource policies, expand its newly established mentoring program for women and increase professional and leadership opportunities for them.
The grant also will help launch professional networking for female STEM faculty and assist in their research careers.
And RIT will develop dual-career hire initiatives, which will help find jobs in the Rochester area for the spouses of female faculty members.
Data compiled by the group also showed some gender-based salary gaps at RIT, which Baum said the administration is addressing.
“We will monitor this,” Baum said.
Mechanical engineering professor Margaret Bailey, who heads the group, told of the broad benefits of this funding, which will provide training for department heads and the refinements needed in faculty recruiting.
“Many of the initiatives that will be rolled out over the five years will not only help STEM faculty but all faculty — male and female,” said Bailey, who is also adviser to the provost on female faculty issues.