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'on-Ramping' Paves the Way For Women Scientists, Engineers to Return to Academia

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The path from academia to industry should not be a one-way street, according to University of Washington research.

A study by University of Washington researchers found numerous benefits to women who have been successful in government or industry returning to academia.

Credit: rnrmtzgr

University of Washington (UW) researchers interviewed 10 women who successfully transitioned into university faculty or instructor positions after working as corporate scientists or industry or government researchers.

The study found numerous benefits--to students, researchers, and academic institutions looking to diversify their faculty--making the return to academia easier.

The interviews explored the challenges and rewards in making the transition, the support and tools that made it easier, and how the skills women acquired in industry helped or hindered them. "We saw that there were some really good women out there who just needed some encouragement and a road map on how to translate their skills from industry into academia," says UW professor Eve Riskin.

One common strategy for increasing women faculty in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) departments is to hire from other universities. However, this approach fails to increase the number of female STEM faculty nationally.

The UW On-Ramps workshops aimed to broaden the pool of women from which universities can hire by helping qualified women with nonacademic career trajectories navigate the transition to academic employment. The On-Ramps workshops offered professional development advice, in-depth discussions that included personal issues and life stories, interactions with other potential on-rampers, and exploration of strategies for reaching their academic goals.

From UW Today
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