USD Receives $600,000 NSF Grant to Boost Ranks of Female Science and Technology Professors

The University of San Diego was awarded a $600,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to increase the ranks of female professors, particularly those of color, in science and technology.

“We’re excited about the opportunity to become a model for undergraduate institutions that want to increase their diversity and provide a supportive environment for female faculty,” said Mary Boyd, dean of USD’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The five-year grant for $600,000 will support the project, Advancement of Female Faculty: Institutional climate, Recruitment and Mentoring (AFFIRM) to boost efforts to recruit women, especially those of color, in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) as well as the social and behavioral sciences.

Boyd continued that while women earn more than 40 percent of the doctorates in those disciplines, male faculty continue to outnumber female faculty by more than two to one nationwide. The percentage of doctorates earned by historically underrepresented groups has increased substantially over the past few years, yet fewer than 10 percent of faculty – male or female – at four-year institutions are African American, Hispanic or Native American, she added.

USD “has made some progress in these areas but there is much more we can do,” Boyd said. Women now make up 41 percent of the faculty in STEM departments and the social and behavioral sciences but only five are female professors of color.

Research suggests that the disparity of women in higher education can be explained “by an academic culture that provides women fewer opportunities, limited support and inequity in leadership,” Boyd said. “Too often we still see talented young female professors leave the academy because of feelings of isolation, problems with balancing career and family life and other issues. The AFFIRM project can help change the culture and provide the support to attract, retain and advance more outstanding female professors in areas of science and technology that are vital to our nation’s future.”

Designed for a liberal arts, faith-based institution, the AFFIRM project will include a baseline survey of female professors to help measure progress, workshops targeting key transition points and necessary skills, and interactive theatre to provide a platform for dialogues on women in higher education. A distinguished professor series, featuring prominent academic women of color, and a mentoring program will also be part of the project to empower women across campus.

“USD currently has a female president, female provost and three of six deans are female,” noted Boyd. “We are well-positioned to support a strategy where women are fully represented in all our ranks of leadership and academics.”

About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 9,000 students from 69 countries and 50 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. The university's eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD's Envisioning 2024 strategic plan capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.