CSE grows number of females

Ethan Nelson

Just over a decade ago, women made up about nine percent of the faculty in the University of Minnesota’s College of Science and Engineering’s. 
 
But for the next school year, that amount is closer to 15 percent.
 
And though college leaders say they’re glad to see the improvement, they’re hoping to increase the number of female professors in the college to more closely reflect the student population. 
 
Nearly 24 percent of CSE’s 4,800 undergraduate students are women, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research.
 
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of CSE Chris Cramer said he hopes the two amounts will match within the next 10 years.
 
CSE is home to 62 female faculty members out of 432 in total.
 
As more women enter the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, the college has become a more welcoming environment for female applicants, Cramer said.
 
In 2004, 36 of the college’s 390 professors were female. And while professor hires increased 13 percent, the number of female faculty members doubled.
 
Cramer said there’s a “tipping point” at about 15 percent when minority communities begin to feel more recognized.
 
“To some extent, [CSE] is seen as a more welcoming environment,” he said.
 
Brenda Ogle, an associate biomedical engineering professor and co-chair of the Women’s Faculty Cabinet, said the problem goes beyond getting hired.
 
“More importantly, it’s the climate after hire,” she said, adding that the atmosphere is improving for women.
 
The college’s Program for Women provides advice and career support to female graduate students.
 
One of the program’s coordinators, chemistry doctoral student Sarah Gruba, said most of the recent faculty hires in her department have been women. She said there’s a support system between the women in the chemistry department.
 
The number of women in the department also make for a more attractive environment to women.
 
A study published in April suggested that nearly every field in higher education prefers hiring women when presented with three candidates who only differed in gender.
 
Ogle said she doesn’t think the results of the study can be linked to hiring practices, pointing to the number of women hired in STEM fields at the University and 
nationwide.
 
“It does open a dialogue and it puts the issue in front of everyone,” she said.
 
Cramer said that while CSE has added female faculty members, he wants the college to hire more women.
 
“It’ll take a little time for that wave to reach there, but you have to keep moving the goalposts,” he said.
 
Cramer said the college will screen faculty applicant lists for its departments. And if the pool doesn’t seem particularly diverse, the college’s leaders might re-evaluate how it advertises for positions and attracts new potential employees.
 
Creating less specific advertisements generally results in more applicants, for example, he said.
 
“If it really is true that there’s no diverse applicants in a pool, then we won’t stop a department from hiring,” Cramer said, “but we try to encourage practices that don’t lead to that outcome.”