2014 Equity for Women Nominee – Dr. Mary Wyer
For the past 20 years, Dr. Mary Wyer’s work has illuminated the challenges to diversity in the STEM disciplines (and beyond) for both students and faculty. Her approach has been two-pronged: get gender studies research into scientific curricula and explore biases among faculty and students who are currently in or contemplating those fields. The select sample of publications below builds on the work of earlier NSF projects: “Innovations in Engineering Education: Women’s Studies and the Retention of Women Students” and “Educating the Science and Engineering Workforce in Collaboration with Women’s and Gender Studies Programs.“ This work demonstrates that individuals’ self-concepts as scientists and attitudes towards gender and racial equality in the sciences influence career commitments and persistence in the field.
A 2005 NSF grant, “Measurement Matters: Developing New Scales to Evaluate Undergraduate Students’ Images and Attitudes in SME Fields,” led to publications providing specific tools for charting student perceptions of scientific professions, with implications for choice of fields and retention.
The goals of 2008-12 NSF Advance project, for which Dr. Wyer served as Co-PI, perhaps best encapsulate the depth and breadth of her impact on gender and racial equity at NC State. “Developing Diverse Departments at NC State“ seeks “to increase the number of women and faculty of color in the professoriate; create a climate that promotes the success of all faculty, and eliminate factors that elevate women’s and ethnic minorities risk of leaving NCSU faculty positions.”
Much of our current diversity infrastructure with regard to women in STEM was built by Dr. Wyer. With 3 NSF-funded grants (1996 to 2005), she built a coalition of science and engineering faculty committed to gender equity. That coalition became the leadership team for “Developing Diverse Departments,” and several of its components are now formalized as university-wide practices:
• Climate Workshops for Department Heads
• Leadership for a Diverse Campus Workshop Series
• Faculty Liaisons to the Office for Institutional Equity and Diversity
That we no longer debate the presence of bias but talk more precisely about how biases operate in practice and in group dynamics is due in no small part to Dr. Wyer’s research and leadership. In the last 20 years, she has led over 100 seminars with faculty and graduate students and developed new tools for charting perceptions. She has given the campus a vocabulary to talk about the discrimination facing women students and faculty in STEM disciplines and beyond, as well as the means to remedy that discrimination, whether through representing women’s contributions and perspectives in science and WGS classrooms or effectively training search committees
Dr. Wyer’s innovative curriculum development has also positively impacted campus equity. She developed the first Women and Gender in Science and Technology course – now WGS/STS 210, a popular interdisciplinary GEP reaching nearly 400 students a year. Recently, she developed WGS 393, Advanced Studies of Gender in Science, which furthers the work of WGS /STS 210. Both courses ensure that our students know about women’s contributions in the sciences and implicitly encourage female students that they and a feminist perspective have a legitimate place there.
Last but certainly not least, since it inception, Dr. Wyer has also been a pillar of the WGS program. Her research, teaching, mentoring, and service all strengthen its program objectives–educating students about the long struggle for social justice and equity and preparing them to be effective advocates for both.