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Women in science get a major boost from NSF, UW-Madison

With the help of the National Science Foundation the University of Wisconsin-Madison will establish a new institute to promote the advancement of women in science and engineering, creating a "living laboratory" for gender equity in those areas.

Housed in the College of Engineering, the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI) will be a catalyst for initiatives intended to enhance the advancement of women in science and to measure the success of such efforts.

Funded by a five-year, $3.75 million National Science Foundation ADVANCE program grant, the initiative is intended not only to help broaden representation of women in science at all levels, but to help them achieve a greater role in scientific leadership and enhance the culture of science as it affects women. "Today, only 21 percent of UW-Madison faculty in science and engineering are women," says Jo Handelsman, a UW-Madison professor of plant pathology and an institute co-founder.

"There are major deficiencies in the U.S. work force in many fields of science and engineering, and NSF realizes that if we draw more women into these fields, we'll begin to address some of these core issues," adds Molly Carnes, professor of medicine and a co-founder of WISELI.

UW-Madison was one of nine U.S. universities NSF selected from a pool of 76 applicants to undertake a national initiative aimed at improving the working environment for women scientists.

"WISELI represents a major step toward improving the campus climate," says Chancellor John Wiley. "With their grant, NSF turned to us for leadership on the issue of women in science. They know we can lead the campus, and the nation, in making a difference."

Initiatives WISELI organizers are planning include developing workshops about campus climate for department chairs, providing leadership development for women academic staff scientists, providing grants to help women manage junctures where career and family conflict, developing national leadership programs for women faculty, hosting a seminar series featuring outstanding women scientists, and creating endowed professorships for women in science.

A number of engineering faculty will participate in the program. They include ISyE and EP Professor Vicki Bier, ISyE and Nursing Professor Patti Brennan, ECE Professor Amy Wendt, and Dean Paul Peercy. Several others, including EP Assistant Professor Wendy Crone, ISyE Assistant Professor Harriet Black Nembhard, ECE Assistant Professor Susan Hagness, MS&E Professor Sue Babcock, and ME Associate Professor Leslie Smith, are affiliated with the program.


Vicki M. Bier

Vicki M. Bier (21K JPG)


Patricia Flatley Brennan

Patricia Flatley Brennan (12K JPG)


Amy E. Wendt

Amy E. Wendt (16K JPG)


Paul S. Peercy

Paul S. Peercy (13K JPG)


Wendy C. Crone

Wendy C. Crone (18K JPG)


Harriet Black Nembhard

Harriet Black Nembhard (33K JPG)


Susan C. Hagness

Susan C. Hagness (12K JPG)


Susan E. Babcock

Susan E. Babcock (16K JPG)


Leslie M. Smith

Leslie M. Smith (25K JPG)