Campus Life

National Science Foundation awards UWF researchers nearly $600,000 to support women faculty in STEM

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $598,354, five-year grant to a team of faculty researchers at the University of West Florida (UWF) who will investigate ways to support women faculty in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.

The core of the program focuses on providing a supportive and inclusive environment conducive to the recruitment and retention of women faculty in STEM.

“This project is about helping people realize their potential,” said Dr. Laura Koppes Bryan, lead investigator and director of the UWF School of Psychological and Behavioral Sciences. “There are significant barriers to the success of women faculty in STEM, and this grant will help uncover ways to manage and overcome some of these barriers.”

New faculty intent on applying for tenure only have a limited timeframe in which to complete certain requirements and activities to demonstrate their qualifications, such as starting a research lab or being published in scholarly journals. Research shows a significant drop-off in the number of women who earn tenure in STEM disciplines.

“The time frame in which a woman faculty member has to be promoted from a junior-level assistant professor to associate or full professor often coincides with life events like marriage or having children,” said Koppes Bryan. “Women faculty may be forced to choose between furthering her teaching career at a university and having a family. Our research will examine ways to better foster a positive work-life balance.”

The research will include a review of work-life policies, including a tenure clock extension, modified duties policy, family/parental leave and others. Further, the program will initiate a mentoring program for women faculty and provide executive coaching and professional development opportunities, including a faculty women in STEM conference and awards program.

“This type of award is typically made to major research universities, so the fact that a school of UWF’s size and scope was selected is a tribute to the outstanding work of these researchers,” said Associate Vice President for Research Dr. Richard Podemski.

Other faculty included in the grant award are Assistant Professor of Psychology Dr. Sherry Schneider, Assistant Professor of Chemistry Dr. Pamela Vaughan, Associate Professor of Psychology Dr. Susan Walch and Professor of Psychology Dr. Rosemary Hays-Thomas.