The WiSE Faculty Networking Group provides an informal forum for women faculty (tenure-track and non-tenure-track) in science and engineering to communicate about topics of mutual interest and discuss issues related to their career. The group was created in May 2000 and continues to meet for lunch once a month.
The WiSE Networking Group:
The story of the WiSE networking group at USC begins in 2000 with a unique $20 million gift that has created an endowment for the purpose of increasing the representation of women in science and engineering (WiSE) in the College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences, and the Viterbi School of Engineering. The excitement and energy created by this gift generated discussions among faculty and administrators on how best to implement the program. A short email sent by the Provost Office on February 24, 2000 called for the first meeting of administrators and a few faculty to discuss how to set up programs that would help women at all stages of the their career, from undergraduate students to senior professors. Shortly after, several senior women faculty who got to know each other during those initial meetings decided that direct input from the group of WiSE faculty is essential to ensuring that the needs of women faculty are addressed. To this end, Hanna Reisler, a professor of chemistry, sent an email to the women faculty that she could identify inviting them to a series of meetings, the first of which took place in May 17, 2000. At that meeting it was agreed that hiring to achieve gender equity is a long-term process that should have top priority, and programs are also needed to offset subtle biases that hinder the career advancement of current faculty. In addition, it was decided to establish an informal networking group of WiSE faculty who would communicate by email and meet on the last Thursday of each month to discuss topics of common interest. The first topic was naturally the creation of the USC WiSE Program—its goals and governance. From these initial meetings evolved the present WiSE networking lunch meetings. The following year a letter of invitation was sent to the non-tenure-track women faculty (research and lecturers) to join the networking group and this is the current composition of the group. Today, the program is open to any faculty member who shares interests with the WiSE group and can benefit from networking. In 2008, the email list contained over 60 names; see a partial list at http://www.usc.edu/programs/wise/about/faculty/. The networking group has strong ties to the WiSE program, and its members serve on WiSE committees and the advisory board.
The lunch networking group meets at noon on the last Thursday of each month in HNB 107. Participants bring their own lunch; coffee, tea and cookies are provided. The networking meetings are coordinated by one of its founding members, Hanna Reisler, email@example.com. Once a semester, a catered lunch is hosted by the WiSE Program, usually to welcome new faculty or a distinguished visitor. Additional discussions are carried out by email correspondence using the WiSE email list. Upon accepting USC’s offer, each new woman faculty receives a letter of invitation from the coordinator and a request to include her in the email list. The main activities of the group are:
There is no formal agenda to the WiSE networking group lunch meetings, unless there is a request to discuss a specific topic. New faculty hiring, service on committees, funding, promotion, childcare, and partner hire are frequent topics of discussion. Women faculty who are mothers of young children exchange information on childcare and other issues related to combining career and family. Suggestions to the WiSE Program on possible activities are discussed periodically. External visitors, e.g. administrators and seminar speakers, are occasionally invited.
In most departments there are only a few women faculty members and thus they often seek advice outside their department. Meeting women faculty face-to-face at lunches, receptions, and WiSE committees increases familiarity and facilitates further communication in one-on-one meetings. This is particularly important for new faculty who get a chance to meet other women with common interests.
At USC, as in many other institutions, there are relatively few senior women faculty in science and engineering. These senior women often give advice to younger colleagues outside their departments on issues ranging from space preparation, grant submission, running a group, promotion, service on committees, requests to chairs and deans, conflicts between career and family, etc. Newly hired faculty often communicate with senior WiSE faculty even before they arrive.
Recognizing that women scientists typically have fewer networking resources than men, members of the networking group share information on opportunities in and outside campus, and on possibilities of interdisciplinary collaborations.
Networking members give short presentations periodically on their research work, highlighting interdisciplinary aspects. These may lead to collaborations and further information exchange.
Members of the networking group advertise the achievements of WiSE faculty, recommend them for awards, and submit their names as candidates for leadership positions. Serving on one of the WiSE committees is often the first service assignment of a WiSE faculty outside her department. Members of the WiSE group have served as department chairs, vice provosts, associate deans, chairs of university-wide committees, presidents of the Academic Senate and the College Faculty Council, etc. For recent achievements of WiSE faculty see the WiSE Program web site.
The WiSE networking group works closely with the Director and Manager of the WiSE Program in the provosts office. The group suggests activities such as workshops and invitations to outstanding women scientists who are also active in WiSE affairs. Recent invitees include Mildred Dresselhaus, Linda Buck, Geraldine Richmond, Maria Klawe, and the late Denice Denton. Details can be found at: http://www.usc.edu/programs/wise/.
Issues such as space allocation and preparation, promotion, attaining leadership positions in departments, family leave, etc. are frequent topics of lunch discussions.
Senior administrators whose responsibilities include topics of interest to the WiSE group are invited occasionally to acquaint them with WiSE faculty, educate them on gender-related challenges, discuss faculty hiring, etc. These meetings have proven to be very valuable.
To join the WiSE Networking Group: Professor Hanna Reisler, firstname.lastname@example.org, 213-740-7071.
For more information on the WiSE Program see: http://www.usc.edu/programs/wise/.