ADVANCE at the Earth Institute

Lead PI: Dr. Robin E. Bell, Patricia Culligan , Prof. Mark A. Cane , , John Mutter (Co-PI), Stephanie Pfirman (Co-PI), Roberta Balstad (Former Co-PI)

Unit Affiliation: Columbia Engineering

January 2004 - December 2010
North America ; United States ; Columbia University
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The Earth Institute at Columbia University's ADVANCE program is based both on a study of the status of women at Columbia and research on the progression of women in science elsewhere. The five major targets of the Columbia ADVANCE program are to (1) change the demographics of the faulty through intelligent hiring practices, (2) provide support to women scientists through difficult life transitions including elder care and adoption or birth of a child, (3) enhance mentoring and networking opportunities, (4) implement transparent promotion procedures and policies, and (5) institutional self study. The impact of these efforts will be determined by an evaluation team lead by Peter Messeri and Mary Clare Lennon of the School of Public Health. The Earth Institute ADVANCE program addresses issues that tend to manifest themselves in the earth and environmental fields, such as extended field programs, which lay the foundation for leadership positions, but which may be difficult for young faculty. The strategy is to use the Earth Institute as a test bed for institutional climate change, and then expand the successful programs to other Columbia Science and Engineering Departments, as appropriate. Columbia's administration is committed to changing policies and supporting successful programs beyond the completion of the NSF grant.

Earth Institute ADVANCE programs include (a) a self study including a climate survey modeled after the 1999 MIT study, (b) a senior faculty working group that will facilitate recruitment and retention by providing support for searches, faculty development, and retention, (c) internal funding competitions designed to recruit and retain women scientists and engineers, and (d) focused workshops and conferences. The ADVANCE program will establish offices both on the Morningside and Lamont campuses. With these and other interventions, the Earth Institute seeks to create a scientific community within the Earth Institute that at each scientific level is comprised of at least 30% women.

The overall mission of the ADVANCE Program is to increase the participation of women in the scientific and engineering workforce through the increased representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. Despite increases in the number of doctorates earned by women in science and engineering over several decades, women scientists and engineers continue to be significantly underrepresented in some science and engineering fields and proportionately under-advanced in science and engineering in general in the Nation's colleges and universities. There is increasing recognition that the lack of women's full participation at the senior level of academe is often a systemic consequence of academic culture.

This institutional transformation project contributes to the development of a national science and engineering academic workforce by supporting the full participation of women in all levels of faculty and academic administration, particularly at the senior academic ranks, through the transformation of institutional practices, policies, climate and culture. This project involves the implementation of a coordinated campus effort to achieve needed institutional transformation in order to increase the participation and advancement to senior and leadership positions of women faculty in the science, mathematics and engineering disciplines within the Awardee Institution. During and at the completion of this project, new knowledge will be made available, assessed and disseminated to inform the academic community of the fundamental institutional issues inhibiting the advancement of women faculty and of effective approaches academic institutions can implement to address such issues.


National Science Foundation (NSF)





Laird, Jennifer D., Robin E. Bell, Geraldine Downey, and Stephanie Pfirman. "The science of diversity," Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v.88, 2007, p. 10.

Rhoten, Diana and Stephanie Pfirman. "Women in interdisciplinary science: Exploring preferences and consequences," Research Policy, v.36, 2007, p. 56.

Pfirman, S., P. Balsam, R.E. Bell, P. Culligan, and J.D. Laird. "Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 2: Collaboration and Networking," Science Careers, 2008.

Pfirman, S., P. Balsam, R.E. Bell, J.D. Laird, and P. Culligan. "Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 1: Publication, Citation, and Impact," Science Careers, 2007.

Laird, J.D., R.E. Bell, and S. Pfirman. "Assessing the publication productivity and impact of eminent geoscientists," Eos Transactions, American Geophysical Union, v.88, 2007, p. 370.

Rhoten, D. and S. Pfirman. "Women in interdisciplinary science: Exploring preferences and consequences," Research Policy, v.36, 2007, p. 56.

Pfirman, S., P. Balsam, R.E. Bell, P. Culligan, and J.D. Laird. "Maximizing Productivity and Recognition, Part 3: Developing a Research Plan," Science Careers, 2008.

Stephanie Pfirman, Caryn Block, Robin Bell, Loriann Roberson, Patricia Culligan. "Transitioning from Pet to Peer," Science Careers, 2009.

Block, C.J., Koch, S.M., Liberman, B.E., Merriweather, T.J., Roberson, L. "Contending With Stereotype Threat at Work: A Model of Long-Term Responses," The Counseling Psychologist, v.10, 2010. doi:10.1177/0011000010382459


education women hiring practices networking mentoring advance women in science