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Shaping Policy in Academia and Across the Nation

03/29/2011 1:30 PM Kresge
Marc A. Kastner, Dean, MIT School of Science; Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley; Dean of the School of Science, MIT 1991"2000; Heidi B. Hammel, SB '82, Executive Vice President, Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy; Lisa Maatz, Director of Public Policy and Government Relations, American Association of University Women

Description: Issues of work/life balance and campus climate dominate this panel looking at policies to foster and retain girls and women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). As moderator Marc Kastner notes, in spite of dramatic improvements at places like MIT, significant challenges remain.

The University of California, Berkeley has seen "slow but steady progress," reports Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Women represent just under 30% of the overall faculty now; 20% serve in STEM fields. Much of these gains he attributes to family"friendly policies the university has implemented in recent years, such as lightening duties and extending the tenure clock for new parents; a campus concierge to help with relocation and spouse job hunts; and a large childcare program subsidized for graduate and undergraduate students. "Many small things that make life easier for people -- when you remove these typical barriers, have an incredibly important effect on women's careers and satisfaction levels," says Birgeneau. The university has also decided that "equity and inclusion need to be part of every conversation," and has created a senior administrative position devoted to this goal. There is also a new research center focusing on multiculturalism, diversity, and democracy, which Birgeneau hopes will eventually yield "the functional equivalent of Nobel Prizes in equity and inclusion."

As a single mom with three kids, Heidi Hammel "knows all about family issues." She describes the difficulty of striking a work"life balance, using props she collected from her own house. She tosses different"colored Lego pieces representing Work and Life into paper cups dangling from either side of a scale held together by straws and a crayon. As urgent job duties vie with family crises, the Legos pile up first in one cup, then the other, and the scale never steadies _ just like real life in academia and elsewhere. "Policies can helpbut won't solve the problem," says Hammel, who relates her early struggles at MIT as a research scientist. "All these programs for faculty don't help people like me, and there are many young women here who won't necessarily become faculty. What are we doing to help them?" Hammel left MIT when she wasn't permitted to work off site, but then found a more accommodating employer. "The message: it's not easy being a full"time working scientist, academic and parent." She asks high"level administrators to help "young people in your midst not on tenure track."

The American Association of University Women has a long history of working on STEM, Lisa Maatz recounts. In 1920, the association gave Marie Curie her first gram of radium (worth $150 thousand). Today, it strives to direct school girls toward science and engineering, and "deal with the climate issue" for women in academia. Some key activities include pressing for changes in the No Child Left Behind law to make science a more prominent course of study; helping girls get into the right math track in middle school; ensuring that educational programs, and not just sports, comply with Title 9 (the 1972 law barring gender discrimination in programs receiving federal financing); and lobbying for increased childcare funding, as well as "commonsense" changes in campus childcare programs such as night and weekend hours.

About the Speaker(s): Marc Kastner joined the Department of Physics in 1973, was named Donner Professor of Science in 1989, appointed Department Head in February 1998, and in July 2007, became Dean of the School of Science. A graduate of the University of Chicago (S.B. 1967, M.S. 1969, Ph.D. 1972), he was a research fellow at Harvard University prior to joining MIT.

He served as Head of the MIT Department of Physics Division of Atomic, Condensed Matter, and Plasma Physics from 1983 to 1987, and as Associate Director of MIT's Consortium for Superconducting Electronics-a collaborative program designed to advance the technology of thin"film superconducting electronics-from 1989 to 1992. He served as Director of MIT's Center for Materials Science and Engineering from 1993 to 1998.

Host(s): Office of the President, MIT150 Inventional Wisdom

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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December 16, 2011 18:40
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