Asst. Prof. Meg Sobkowicz-Kline demonstrating things to a female student in the plastics recycling lab.

Brief Institutional Profile

UMass Lowell is one of five campuses that comprise the University of Massachusetts public higher education research university system. With roughly 17,000 students in bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs, the Lowell campus has a long history in engineering and the natural sciences. Of the 415 current tenured/tenure-track UML faculty, 49 percent are in STEM fields (excluding Social & Behavioral Sciences, SBS).

Institutional Data on Faculty

Figure 2.1 provides a summary of the current composition of STEM faculty at UML. The data is separated into three sets: Engineering, Natural Sciences, and SBS faculty. Consistent with the national norm, SBS at UML has a higher percentage of women. Despite percentages close to or higher than the national average (especially in engineering), UML’s numbers are typical of many STEM departments, where women faculty reside in small numbers. The numbers of African American and Hispanic women STEM faculty are even more deplorable – fewer than five in total. Ten of 14 STEM (non-SBS) UML departments have one or no female full professors. There is, however, good representation of women in leadership roles at UML. University-wide, one-fifth of research center directors are women, and half of the deans are women. Women are also well represented in positions such as vice provost and vice chancellor; yet, none of the science and engineering department chairs, associate deans, or deans are women. 


FIGURE 2.1. The percentage of female tenure-track faculty within each rank– a comparison of UML to the national average (in Engineering, Natural Sciences, and SBS). The data label above each UML bar indicates the actual number of women faculty at each rank. [12]

Since 2010, the tenure and promotion success rates for women in STEM (not including SBS) at Lowell were 100%. However, absolute numbers remain low. Of the 21 STEM faculty members tenured during that time, only 4 were women. Women promoted from assistant to associate professor and from associate to full represented 16.7% and 37.5% respectively of the total STEM promotions (not including SBS). Despite numbers that compare well to the national average, baseline studies described in Section 2.4 indicate that the environment for women faculty is still not equitable to that for men. While the larger institutional climate at UML is supportive of women in leadership roles, progress lags behind at the departmental and interpersonal levels. Improving the climate at these levels now is critical to the success of the increasing number of female assistant professors (Table 2.1).


Table 2.1 New hires in AY2011-2013, showing an increase in women STEM/SBS faculty at UML