LEAF is funded through a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant. While opportunites for women to earn STEM doctoral degrees have markedly increased in the last several decades, women (particularly women of color) continue to be significantly underrepresented in almost all STEM academic positions. While the degree of underrepresentation varies among STEM disciplines, women's advancement to senior professorial ranks and leadership roles is an issue in all fields. The underrepresentation of women is a critical issue for the nation at large as our need to develop a globally competitive and diverse workforce increases.
Research has proven that women's representation and advancement in academic STEM positions are affected by a plethora of external factors that are unrelated to their ability, interest and technical skills (Spencer, et al, 1999; Halpern and Tan, 2001; Hyde, 2005; National Academy of Sciences, 2007). Limiting factors include, but are not limited to: stereotype threat, societal impacts, organizational constraints of academic institutions; differential effect of work and family demands; implicit and explicit bias; and lack of women in academic leadership and decision-making positions. The cumulative effect of such diverse factors has been to create infrastructural barriers that impact the number of women entering, persisting and advancing in STEM careers.
Thus, the goal of the ADVANCE program is to develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. ADVANCE and LEAF will also therefore seminally contribute to and inform the general knowledge base on gender equity in the academic STEM disciplines.
For more information on ADVANCE please refer to the NSF website.