March 12, 2018

Foundation Grant Aims to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in Physics

The Department of Physics and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics recently received a $500,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation to increase the gender diversity of its faculty members.

“The most recent grant will be used to partially fund the salary and benefits of three women across the Department of Physics and the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics for five years,” said Edward (Rocky) Kolb, dean of the Physical Sciences Division.

He also added that three women will be hired as assistant or associate professors and hold the title of “Clare Boothe Luce Professor.”

The Henry Luce Foundation has maintained a relationship with the University since the 1930s. At Yale University, Henry Luce, a former publisher of Time magazine, was a fraternity brother of Robert Hutchins, who served as president and chancellor of the University of Chicago from 1929–1951.

However, the University could not receive funds from the Foundation at first, because the Foundation was restricted to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, and to Christian schools in China.

In the 1970s, University trustee Gaylord Donnelley established a partnership which made the University an eligible institution to submit support proposals to the Foundation. That partnership formed the Clare Boothe Luce Program, created in 1987 “to encourage women to enter, study, graduate, and teach” in science, mathematics and engineering.

Since then, the University has been awarded grants on five occasions in STEM fields, in both undergraduate and graduate studies.

“Unconscious bias and other obstacles have prevented women from entering STEM fields, resulting in underrepresentation and a lost talent base,” Kolb said. “The grant…will have the immediate impact of increasing the proportion of women faculty in the Physical Sciences Division.”

Kolb expressed a goal outside the Clare Boothe Luce Program of hiring 12 women faculty in various departments across the Physical Sciences Division by 2023.

Currently, the percentage of female faculty in the Physical Sciences Division is 14 percent, but it is projected to rise to 20 percent if this goal is achieved.