Harris Search Associates hosts Think Tank 2.0 focused on Advancing Women of Color in Academic Engineering at the 2018 American Society of Engineering Education (ASEE) national conference

Harris Search Associates once again hosted the Think Tank focused on Advancing Women of Color in academic engineering at the ASEE national conference in Salt Lake City June 24th. 

The Think Tank was once again well attended and featured on the ABC local news affiliate. Click on the links below to watch the news coverage and view photos/video from the event.






This year’s Think Tank format 

A group of academic engineering deans, faculty, and doctoral students convened to explore practiced methods for advancing women of color in the field. At a time of growing enrollments in both the undergraduate and graduate levels of engineering, the numbers of women of color in the professoriate remains minute and thereby society foregoes the harvest of talent available in a time when women of color are otherwise increasing college enrollments and graduation in other fields of study.

Members of the Think Tank remain concerned about the continued trends of under-representation of women of color in engineering who will become the next generation of leaders in the field and are committed to the development of strategies to facilitate meaningful change....

In 2015, African-American women received just 937 — or fewer than 1 percent — of the 106,658 bachelor’s degrees awarded by U.S. engineering programs, according to a 2017 study by Purdue University, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and the Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN). Sadly, that figure was down from about 1,100 degree recipients a decade earlier. The scarcity of female African-American engineering students is on full display in a just-released report from the Center for American Progress, The Neglected College Race Gap, which analyzed degrees granted from 2013 through 2015. “Perhaps the most startling finding is the dramatic underrepresentation of black and Hispanic women in engineering relative to white men,” the report said. “For black women, only eight of every 1,000 bachelor’s degrees are in engineering, compared with 89 of every 1,000 white male bachelor’s degrees. This means that over this period, white men received engineering degrees at more than 11 times the rate that black women did.”

At the same time, those women of color who have advanced in engineering deserve note and are the repositories of experience and insight that can be harnessed to an effort to increase more women pursuing engineering study, academic careers, and professional advancement within the academy. Accordingly, the 2018 Think Tank undertook the following actions:

§  Recognition and celebration of Dr. Stephanie G. Adams, Professor and Dean of the College of Engineering and Technology, Old Dominion University, with the Harriet Tubman Award for Advancing Women of Color in Academic Engineering and benefitting from Dr. Adams’ own career success over two decades as shared by her.  When Dr. Adams assumed her current role at Old Dominion, she became one of only three female African-American engineering deans in the United States — a startlingly small number given that the nation has about 350 accredited engineering programs. Similarly, African-American women account for just 0.54 percent of the nation’s nearly 28,000 engineering faculty members.   http://www.harrisandassociates.com/web/pdf/SGA_Full_Story_424.pdf

§  Recognition of the lifelong work of Judy “JJ” Jackson to increase the diversity of STEM in higher education.

 §  Open and candid discussion of “what works” for women of color entertaining or actively pursuing a career in academic engineering and beyond, including –

o   Adoption of “pathways” rather than “pipeline” of talent as metaphors for conveying the need to begin early encouragement and continuing support of girls and women to explore and succeed in engineering

o   Acceptance that progress will be slower than anyone wants but ultimately depends on one-on-one engagement with a girl/woman of color who will, as one participant asserted, know that another, successful woman of color in academic engineering has the aspirant’s back both pushing from behind and steering in a process socializing the student to the engineering profession

o   Acknowledgment of and learning from the success of HBCU engineering programs in admitting, supporting, and graduating women of color, especially exploring the historical importance of peoples of color in advancing engineering

o   Recognition that the small numbers of women of color in the field almost invariably creates both the sense and reality of personal and professional isolation in a field in which white men are far more numerous, especially in positions of power

o   “Islands of progress” can be found in various programs intended to increase the numbers of women of color but these are seldom linked and therefore cannot be a comprehensive network of support

o   Shared frustration on the part of deans that their efforts to diversify engineering faculty are not working despite the deans’ best efforts to affect change

§  Update on efforts to secure NSF support for a comprehensive and linked “ecosystem” of existing service providers for whom incentives would exist to extend support efforts to women of color at the undergraduate and graduate level based on the experience of successful women of color already in academic engineering and informed by research from the social sciences addressing how best to affect greater diversity in the professions.

o   NSF ADVANCE generously funded travel support for women of color to attend the 2017 Think Tank and encouraged the development of a proposal for the development of the ecosystem concept

§  A proposal dubbed CATALISE (Center for the African-American’s Women’s NeTwork in the Academy: Leadership, Integration and Senior Advancement in Engineering) was submitted to NSF, deemed competitive but not funded due to the insufficient incorporation of insights and findings from the social sciences and a last-minute change in the project PI. The rewrite of the proposal is underway for resubmission.


For more information on the Think Tank and the CATALISE project contact Jeffrey Harris, Managing Partner at 614-798- 8500 ext. 125 https://www.harrisandassociates.com/web/index.php

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