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March 2001

After the survey: Putting words into action

Gender equity in science and engineering has been in the national news as well. Meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 30 January, the leaders of nine major research universities released a joint statement that reads, in part, "We recognize that barriers still exist to the full participation of women in science and engineering." The statement calls for diversity in hiring, equity for and full participation by women faculty, and "a profession, and institutions, in which individuals with family responsibilities are not disadvantaged. We recognize that this challenge will require significant review of, and potentially significant change in, the procedures within each university, and the scientific and engineering establishment as a whole."

The year 2000 saw heightened focus by UCAR and NCAR management on the organizational climate for women scientists in particular and for all staff in general. Two projects assessed how we're doing and what we could do better: an external review of the position of women scientists by the Committee on the Status of Women in Physics of the American Physical Society (APS) and an internal review of recruitment and retention practices by the UCAR Diversity Task Force. A second task force report examining the workplace climate for all staff is scheduled for release later this year. For the rationale behind these efforts, see April 2000 Staff Notes Monthly. Staff Notes Monthly spoke with a number of people charged with implementing change. Here is the first of a two-part series on what's happened since the two groups submitted their findings to the President's Council.

There are signs everywhere: new career-development guidelines, a new forum for scientists in the early stages of their careers, four new NCAR Scientist I positions, and talk of mentoring wherever you turn. What's going on? Like crocuses pushing through late-winter snow, responses to recommendations from the UCAR Diversity Task Force and the APS report are popping up around the institution.

The APS report focused on the climate for women scientists; the Diversity Task Force is charged with examining issues of diversity and equity for all staff, at all levels (see "Read all about it"). There's plenty of overlap in the recommendations, and NCAR director Tim Killeen sees the task force as a principal tool for putting APS recommendations into action.

Recruitment: "We want to be leading."

Both reports made it clear that, without a departure from business as usual, UCAR and NCAR cannot become leaders in recruitment and retention of the best women and men from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. In the scientific staff, the APS team highlighted our institutional demographics as a major weakness: "Flat NSF funding and an aging scientific staff are serious problems, which must be dealt with creatively." One solution to this staffing problem was in the works even before the APS site visit: a commitment of funds to hire four new Scientist I's each year for the next several years. UCAR president Rick Anthes proposed this plan last June at the NCAR director's retreat and pledged 50% support from the UCAR general fund. NCAR responded with a commitment of the other 50%—25% from the Director's Office and 25% from the divisions. For each appointment, the division in which the Scientist I is working will be responsible for full funding after the first two years. Tim reports that a "high-caliber," diverse pool of over 170 applications has been received, and planning is already under way for the second cycle of four more hires. "I have great hopes for this program—that it will increase our ability to lead in interdisciplinary research fields, that it will lead to a more diverse cohort of scientists, and that it will bring new ideas and vitality to the center," Tim says. At his town meeting last November, Tim stressed that, while our percentages of women and people of color are at levels close to the national average for the geosciences, "We don't want to be at the national average, we want to be leading."

Norma Beasant and Bob Roesch. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

The recruitment problem has been on UCAR management's mind for some time. Even though our demographics outside the scientist track also match the norm, here again, says HR director Bob Roesch, "It's not so much a numbers issue, it's where we want to be as an organization." Norma Beasant came to HR from Space Imaging, a Lockheed Martin subsidiary, in October 1999 to concentrate on diversity outreach for all positions. "When we look at diversity at UCAR we're talking about people of all ages, with different religions, languages, nationalities, educational backgrounds, military experience, and physical abilities, as well as from a variety of cultures and with different values," she says.

Norma has met with over 35 community-based organizations in the Denver area, added UCAR/NCAR presence to numerous Web sites, and developed contacts in several professional organizations, including the Association of Women in Science, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers. Norma is traveling to local universities and high schools and would like to visit more universities awarding degrees in atmospheric science to students from underrepresented groups. Some funds for advertising were available in fiscal years 2000 and 2001, and the FY 02 budget has been increased to support travel and other outreach activities recommended in the task force report.

Although she is now a generalist covering six divisions, outreach is still in Norma's portfolio. When she trains hiring supervisors, she works to raise awareness of the legal environment in support of equal employment opportunity. "Administrators, directors, and supervisors are responsible for knowing the employment laws and applying them," Norma explains.

Tom Windham has several years of experience recruiting candidates to UCAR's SOARS program, which he directs. "Diversity strategies can and need to be an integral part of our projects and programs, not added on," says Tom. To recruit people of color to UCAR and NCAR, he suggests finding out what talented candidates with master's degrees want, and then "making them an offer they can't refuse," which might include support toward a Ph.D. He stresses the importance of building personal relationships with faculty and students at UCAR affiliates and other appropriate institutions. "That's what it takes—an investment in people," Tom says.

Read all about it

You'll find a list of key recommendations from the APS and Diversity Task Force reports, plus links to the full reports, President's Council responses, and related Web sites, in Read all about it.

Communication and consistency

The APS report identified some inconsistency in applying scientific appointment policies (particularly in designating a position as scientist, associate scientist, or project scientist) throughout UCAR and directed that managers ensure that policies are better understood and consistently implemented. In response, a committee chaired by NCAR associate director Steve Dickson is reviewing the way policies are communicated and applied in the associate scientist and project scientist job categories. That committee's report is expected later this spring. UOP director Jack Fellows is one of the people interested in the outcome of the review. He's working with the rest of the President's Council on this and other issues coming out of the APS and task force reports that relate to UOP.

The Early Career Scientist Assembly (ECSA), formed last September at the urging of the task force with assistance from Al Cooper (director, ASP), is in a good position to foster multidirectional communication. The 12- person steering committee is working on several forums addressing common concerns. The first, a scientist-promotion discussion on 22 January, drew over 50 participants. The speakers were Bob, six division directors, a UCAR program director, and one current and two former members of the Appointment Review Group. On 20 February a proposal- writing workshop, sponsored jointly with ASP, also drew some 50 people who heard from Sharon Hurley and Tim Hundsdorfer (NCAR Budget and Planning), Cliff Jacobs (NSF), Bob Harriss (NCAR associate director and ESIG director), and four NCAR senior scientists. Future forums will address family issues and mentoring. The ECSA also has a budget to bring a few scientific leaders to NCAR each year for short-term visits to interact with the early-career scientists.

Mary Barth. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

Mary Barth (scientist, MMM/ACD), who leads the ECSA steering committee, has a wider view of the group's role beyond organizing forums. "We can also take messages from [ECSA members] . . . to the division directors and upper management at NCAR. And the directors provide us with feedback, so that gives us quite a good line of communication," she says. Forum co-organizer Bill Spotz (project scientist, SCD) reports that his involvement has already given him access to "a great deal of useful information I would not have otherwise had."

The APS report also recommended appointing an ombudsperson "to review serious disagreements between staff and management and make recommendations concerning their resolution." This is the only APS recommendation the President's Council has chosen—after extensive discussion with the UCAR Management Committee—not to pursue, at least for the moment. "Grievances and instances of discrimination need to be brought forward through our regular channels," Tim told the FL town meeting. "All of our office doors are open. If that doesn't work, we'll revisit the question." Next month, Staff Notes Monthly will examine the open-door theme in more depth.

Becoming a mentoring organization

Dave Carlson. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

If "mentoring" is beginning to sound like a mantra these days, it's because both the APS and task force reports emphasized its importance. Dave Carlson (director, ATD), who co-chairs the Diversity Task Force with Maurice Blackmon (director, CGD), points out that "every report, internal or external" for the last decade has identified mentoring "as an important aspect of a healthy work force." At a meeting on 10 November of the President's Council and about 15 women scientists, Rick said, "We want to make this organization excel in mentoring." To that end, the council issued a memo to all staff on 12 February announcing new guidelines for a formal mentoring process as part of annual performance evaluations. "Every supervisor will ask his or her supervisees—every one of them—to be prepared to discuss a five-year career plan," Rick says. "We'll see whether staff like it, whether supervisors like it. It just might start the conversation at a deeper level than the typical communication we have about the next thing we have to do." Career-development guidelines have been posted on the Web.

The task force worked to identify internal and external practices that enabled mentoring to become "an ongoing, sustainable part of [the organization]," Dave says. Career planning during annual reviews is just one of these. Another is mentor training. Katy Schmoll (vice president for F&A) is leading the search to identify outside trainers, and her office will audition one candidate's mentoring class on 20 March. "The selection of an appropriate trainer is critical," says Katy. As a scientific organization, Bob adds, "the training needs to be right for us. We want to make sure whatever we present is not seen as fluff."

"No one size fits all," Rick told the women scientists gathering. "Mentoring shouldn't be a one-way thing; we all have something to learn from one another, regardless of age or experience level." Mary agrees: "The assumption is that early-career scientists need mentoring, but the ECSA is also looking at its members as potential mentors. Whether you realize it or not, you become a mentor fairly early on."

According to Bob, "This is a long-term process. If you're going to shift cultures, it's not a quick fix." All supervisors will be offered training in coaching and career-development skills, but it's understood that some people will show greater strengths as mentors than others. "An individual's mentor and his or her supervisor may not turn out to be the same person," Bob says. "But the supervisor will still need to be on board with the mentoring process and be supportive of it." That support will come from making mentoring part of the culture, "the way we do things around here."

• Zhenya Gallon

Next month, Staff Notes Monthly will look at the remaining components of the APS report and Diversity Task Force charge: flexibility (including the tenure clock), family friendliness (including the day-care issue), and the challenges of creating a more welcoming climate for all staff.

Transition of NCAR scientists by gender and rank, 1991–98 (cumulative)

The number of women in the scientist track remained constant at 14 from 1993–98. The promotion rate from Scientist II to III from 1991 to 1998 was 76% for men; it was half that rate (38%) for women. Since its founding in 1960, NCAR has promoted two women to Senior Scientist: the first in 1992, the second in 1995. In fall 2000 a third was added: Annick Pouquet was hired as a Senior Scientist to direct NCAR's Geophysical Turbulence Program. This jumped the "promotion" to Senior Scientist rate for women to 50%. (Illustration from "An Integrated Approach and Implementation Plan to Diversify UCAR's Work Force," UCAR Diversity Task Force, June 2000.)

Count


Men Women

Promo to Higher Rank Other Promo to Higher Rank Other
Scientist III 17 11 2 0
Scientist II 19 6 3 5
(Entry) Scientist 1 30 6 9 2

Percent


Men Women

Promo to Higher Rank Other Promo to Higher Rank Other
Scientist III 61% 39% 100% 0%
Scientist II 76% 24% 38% 63%
(Entry) Scientist 1 83% 17% 82% 18%

Number of NCAR scientists by rank: Comparison of 1993 and 2000

In 2000 NCAR had 9 Scientist I's, compared to over 30 in 1993. During the same period the percentage of women in the highly competitive ASP postdoctoral program increased from less than 10% to roughly 50%. The President's Council views the new program to hire more early-career scientists as an important tool to increase participation by both female and minority scientists while helping bring the ratio of early-career staff to Senior Scientists into better balance. (Illustration from "APS Site-Visit Response," UCAR President's Council, November 2000.)

UCAR Diversity Task Force members

Maurice Blackmon (CGD), co-chair
Dave Carlson (ATD), co-chair
Norma Beasant (HR)
Lara Cervantes (HR)
Clarke Chambellan (HAO)
Dave Fulker (Unidata)
Maura Hagan (HAO)
Kevin Petty (RAP)
Bob Roesch (HR)
Anne Smith (ACD)

Past members

Karon Kelly (DLESE)
Roger Pielke (ESIG)
Edna Comedy (HR, departed)
Susan Jesuroga (COMET, departed)
Paul White (F&A, departed)


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
Prepared for the Web by Jacque Marshall
Last revised: Thu Mar 22 15:52:04 MST 2001