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The goal of the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) ADVANCE program is to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce.

ADVANCE encourages institutions of higher education and the broader science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) community, including professional societies and other STEM-related not-for-profit organizations, to address various aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators. As such, ADVANCE is an integral part of the NSF’s multifaceted strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce, and supports the critical role of the Foundation in advancing the status of women in academic science and engineering.

Since 2001, the NSF has invested over $130M to support ADVANCE projects at more than one-hundred institutions of higher education and STEM-related not-for-profit organizations in forty-one states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including twenty-four EPSCoR jurisdictions.

Why is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) significant?
Not only is the STEM workforce vitally important to keeping America globally competitive, we do not have enough people working in STEM to meet the demand.

According to Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, occupations in STEM fields are the second-fastest growing in the nation, just behind health care. The number of STEM jobs will grow 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. It is predicted that the United States will  have more than 8.6 million STEM-related jobs available in 2018, but the National Math and Science Initiative warns that as many as three million of those jobs might be unfilled.

To close that three million worker gap, it is crucial to address the disparities in STEM education. According to the National Center for Women & Information Technology, 18 percent of undergraduate computing and information science degrees are awarded to women.

In 2009, 24 percent of the scientists and engineers in the United States were women. Nationally, women earn 41 percent of the doctorates in STEM fields today, but make up only 28 percent of tenure-track faculty in those fields.  At UMass Lowell, of the 415 current tenure-track faculty, 49 percent are in STEM fields (excluding Social & Behavioral Sciences, SBS).