BOX 6-4

Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute: Climate Workshops for Department Chairs

Climate (Kli−’mi˘t), n. The atmosphere or ambience of an organization as perceived by its members. An organization’s climate is reflected in its structures, policies, and practices; the demographics of its membership; the attitudes and values of its members and leaders; and the quality of personal interactions. Committee on Women, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Working Group on Climate (2002).

Many women cite workplace climate—hostility from colleagues, exclusion from the department community and its decision-making process, and slights and ridicule—as pervasive in university settings. Men are often unaware of the impact that climate has on women and describe a better climate for women than women report experiencing. Those troubling trends in campus climates have been documented in faculty surveys at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Michigan. Harsh climates have made it difficult for universities to recruit and retain women faculty members.

At the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the Women in Science and Engineering Leadership Institute (WISELI)a has developed a series of workshops, the WISELI Climate Workshops for Department Chairs, that engage small groups of department chairs in discussions of climate in their own departments and give participants a chance to learn from each others’ experiences and ideas. The WISELI Climate Workshops for Department Chairs also provide information about various resources and people on campus that can assist department chairs in their efforts.

The goals of these workshops are

  • To increase awareness of climate and its influence on the research and teaching missions of a department.

bias, and a vehicle for department leaders to exchange strategies and best practices.

A recent national meeting of chemistry department chairs in collaboration with the major federal funders of academic chemistry research—the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institutes of Health—is an example of an effective cross-institutional strategy (Box 6-5).

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