How It All Began

2003 – 2006

In 2003, UIC took ownership of increasing gender equity in STEM by launching the WISEST Initiative. With a small amount of funding from NSF and monies made available by the Provost and the Vice-Chancellor of Research, WISEST began to undertake a series of significant programs.

The WISEST Initiative was proud of its accomplishments in the three years prior to receiving the NSF ADVANCE award:

  • The Executive Committee consisted of the Provost, the Vice Chancellor for Research, the Director of Center for Research on Women and Gender,  the WISEST Lead Facilitator, and five co-Principal Investigators (the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, the COE Dean, the LAS Dean, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and the WISEST Director).
  • WISEST Facilitators from each of the 11 STEM departments undertook departmental self-studies and data gathering that led to six recommendations to the Provost, including: increasing the accountability of deans and heads for gender equity; cluster hiring when there are fewer than three women in a department; expanding campus childcare to include infant care.
  • Data required for reporting to NSF were amassed, analyzed, and reported out, with data indicating slight gender disparity in salaries but not in start-up packages, lab space, or time at rank.
  • A climate survey  was fielded to all LAS STEM and engineering faculty with a 67% response rate. The analysis provides baseline values for measuring several project outcomes.
  • Nine WISEST Leadership Seminars were hosted featuring experts on gender equity and diversity in STEM. Presentations were well attended and evaluations uniformly positive.
  • Two Women in Science and Engineering Research (WISER) Fund grants were awarded to help get research back on track after a period of intense caregiving.
  • All deans and LAS heads must now include progress towards gender equity in their annual reports; promotion and tenure forms include a section asking how the applicant has advanced diversity or gender equity on campus.
  • Based on WISEST recommendations, UIC funded a needs assessment on expanding campus childcare to include infant care.
  • The WISEST Initiative served as a university-wide catalyst. A sister initiative, the College of Medicine Dean’s Committee on Faculty Academic Advancement, co-chaired by Dr. Morrissey with members Dr. Rao and Dr. Geller, greatly benefited from the groundbreaking work of WISEST.

2006 – 2012

In 2006, NSF selected WISEST to receive a $3.3 million NSF ADVANCE Award over a five-year period (later extended to six). This funding allowed WISEST to accelerate its activities to increase the number, participation, and leadership status of women faculty – majority and minority – in the eleven science and engineering (STEM) departments at UIC.

2006 WISEST Funded Proposal

In these six years, WISEST collaborated with a network of faculty facilitators from all STEM departments, department heads, an executive committee of key administrators, and social scientists to carry out six integrated and mutually reinforcing strategies:

  • Warm the climate and decrease the isolation of women STEM faculty
  • Recruit minority women faculty through a unique mentored postdoctoral program
  • Transform STEM departments to foster diversity and women’s leadership
  • Promote women’s scholarship and teaching
  • Improve the ability to track and report on gender equity at UIC
  • Advocate and collaborate across the UIC campus and nationally to increase the presence and influence of STEM women in the academy and workforce

Many proposed WISEST outcomes for STEM women faculty were achieved, including (please see the 2013 final report to NSF  for details):

  • Increased numbers of majority and minority women faculty
  • Salary equity with men of similar accomplishments and productivity
  • Increased percentage of leadership positions held by women faculty
  • Improved job satisfaction
  • Increased national visibility for UIC scholars

2012 – present

Many WISEST initiatives are continuing with funding from the Provost and the COE and LAS Deans. The models established under the NSF ADVANCE grant (for example, the facilitator model) are being carried forward.