Margaret Bailey is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering within the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY, USA. She teaches courses and conducts research related to Thermodynamics, engineering and public policy, engineering education, and gender in engineering and science.
What is the biggest challenge you face as a woman in STEM?
Isolation, cultural/climate related issues can make isolation feel worse. There’s also challenges around work-life integration. In the academic fields, because of the timing of our careers and when we’re going for tenure occurring at the same time, we’re having children, and the responsibilities that you have when you’re creating a family, this can be the same for men if they’re the primary care giver, but most women continue to serve in that role. Vital that there is shared household responsibility to allow both to thrive in their careers.
Another challenge is that in some fields, it’s still very male dominated, so that causes a lack of role models. For both students and faculty, this has impacts. We may not see as many women in leadership roles. You may see fewer women professors in fields like engineering or physics.
What have you seen as changes that have happened among women in STEM?
When I was an undergrad at Penn. State, I didn’t have any women faculty teaching me in my STEM classes. SWE (The Society of Women Engineers) had recently started at Penn State and the programming was minimal and my friends and I did not participate in it. We thought it was odd that they’d have programs for us. We didn’t really understand why. Back then, people didn’t talk about it, so we didn’t realize why it was important. But, I did often wonder, “Where are all the women faculty? The women in my major tend to be at the top of our class and yet we don’t have any women teaching us.” There just wasn’t the kind of conversations that there are today about these issues. Currently 25% of faculty are women in my department of mechanical engineering. Most, if not all students in Mechanical Engineering would be able to be taught by women and men. So, women and men students benefit from having that in their educational experience.
The numbers have changed dramatically, so have programs and initiatives focused on work-life integration as well as programs to help reduce isolation, and help support building community networks. All those types of initiatives have grown tremendously helpful.
What is one change that, in your opinion, would hugely benefit aspiring women scientists?
In order to ensure that women continue to enter STEM education and careers, efforts need to continue focused on reducing isolation and promoting growth of networks and cultural change for all members of the campus community - students, staff and faculty. I’d say out of all of those, cultural change is the most important and the most difficult as, it challenges current norms and behaviors that are acceptable within an organization. Cultural change efforts often challenge people to be reflective, sometimes a bit vulnerable, and open to the possibility of alternative models of behavior. So, this type of organizational development is challenging to create, and administer; however the results can be well worth the effort.
Professor Margaret Bailey, Ph.D., P.E. recently moved from her inaugural role as Senior Faculty Associate to the Provost which she has held since 2013 to become the first director of the newly institutionalized ADVANCE RIT unit within the Provost Office. Dr. Bailey has led various NSF ADVANCE funded efforts since 2008 including a six-year, $4M institutional transformation effort which resulted in the newly institutionalized ADVANCE unit. Dr. Bailey is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering within the Kate Gleason College of Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology in Rochester, NY, USA. Dr. Bailey teaches courses and conducts research related to Thermodynamics, engineering and public policy, engineering education, and gender in engineering and science. In addition to co-authoring the engineering textbook, Fundamentals of Engineering Thermodynamics, which is used worldwide in over 250 institutions, she is also an author on over 85 peer-reviewed publications.
In addition to technical scholarship areas, Dr. Bailey is directly engaged in research related to gender within STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). In 2008, she obtained funding through NSF and served as principal investigator (PI) on two aligned projects which focused on women at different points in the STEM academic career path; the Pathways Project focused on engineering undergraduates and the EFFORT@RIT project focused on faculty. The Pathways Project (NSF 0827490) was a large, cross-university research project which investigates the relationships between gender, participation in co-op, self-efficacy development, and likelihood of retention through graduation among undergraduate engineering students. The Establishing the Foundation for Future Organizational Reform and Transformation at RIT or simply EFFORT@RIT (NSF 0811076) project was a three-year university level self-study funded through the NSF ADVANCE IT-Catalyst program. A detailed self-study report resulted which explored barriers to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty. The findings were based on a faculty climate survey, a human resources objective data review, and a policy/practice benchmarking effort. Bailey used results from the EFFORT@RIT project to position RIT to receive a much larger NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation grant in 2012. She served as PI on this effort (NSF 1209115) titled AdvanceRIT. This large-scale (over $4M), multi-year university-level organizational transformation effort has a goal of increasing the representation and advancement of women STEM faculty, by removing barriers to resources that support career success and creating new interventions and resources. An additional emphasis involves adapting interventions to address the needs of key sub-populations including women of color and deaf and hard-of-hearing women faculty. RIT has institutionalized the AdvanceRIT effort and Bailey was recently named the Founding Director of ADVANCE within her university. At the university level, she co-chairs the President’s Commission on Women. Professor Bailey is also the Founding Executive Director for the nationally recognized women in engineering program called WE@RIT. Dr. Bailey is a registered professional engineer.