AFIT to promote women in STEM

Photo courtesy Air Base Wing Public Affairs Dr. Aihua Wood, Air Force Institute of Technology LEADER representative.

For Greene County News

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Following a six-year collaborative effort, the Air Force Institute of Technology recently signed an Memorandum of Understanding between AFIT, Central State University, the University of Dayton, and Wright State University to promote the recruitment, advancement, and retention of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.

The Launching Equity in the Academy across the Dayton Entrepreneurial Region (LEADER) consortium, is funded in part by the National Science Foundation ADVANCE program. This program is aimed at increasing the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. LEADER is a partnership of the four diverse institutions of higher education in the Dayton region that share this common goal.

Dr. Aihua Wood, AFIT’s LEADER representative, is the equity advisor and institutional coordinator of the consortium. She earned her bachelor degree from Peking University in China, both her master and doctoral degrees in applied mathematics from the University of Connecticut.

“LEADER has been instrumental in promoting the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in the STEM fields within the consortium institutions,” Wood said.

Under LEADER, AFIT has established the position of equity advisor, which provides unconscious bias training to AFIT faculty, facilitates bias-free faculty searches; reviews annual scorecard data for the institution, and implements equity programming aligned with the unique diversity needs of AFIT. The MOU signifies the commitment of the partner institutions to continue the mission initiated by LEADER.

Wood noted that AFIT has made great strides in promoting equity and diversity since its inception. The vision and objectives of the consortium are well-aligned with the Air Force’s core values. The number of civilian, tenure-track women faculty has doubled and includes an above national average percentage of full professors. Hiring and promotion practices have been enhanced through the introduction of an equity advisor and unconscious bias training for faculty committees. The quarterly women faculty luncheon, which is inclusive of all women with doctoral degrees at AFIT regardless of employment status, has improved communication, camaraderie, and mentoring opportunities.

The faculty handbook has been revised to more clearly communicate family-friendly policies, and a family-friendly toolkit for department heads has been developed. The graduate school’s faculty development program has incorporated learning communities and other best practices identified through the LEADER project to improve the mentoring environment at AFIT for junior faculty.

AFIT has strengthened the faculty mentoring through LEADER-initiated programs such as mini-grants, daily grinds, and AFIT’s own learning communities. Initiatives include a Developing Future Leader Program, sending promising women faculty members to prominent leadership training institutes and placing women in leadership positions.

Story provided by 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs.