Faculty and Staff Resources

Project Catalyst

What is "Project Catalyst"?

"Project Catalyst" is a project designed to increase the diversity, especially the percentage of women, in faculty positions in the Faculty of Science.

Why is "Project Catalyst" needed?

Although the representation of women in undergraduate science programs at the University of Alberta is now 52%, the percentage of women in faculty positions across the seven Departments in the Faculty of Science has remained at about 15% for the past seven years.

Why is it important to catalyze this change?

We know that to maintain our place as one of the top Canadian Universities and to foster further excellence, we must attract outstanding faculty. Competition among post-secondary institutions is intense. We need to be proactive in recruiting the best from the whole available pool.  The more outstanding faculty we have, the easier it becomes to bring to the University the best students, both graduate and undergraduate.

What are the initiatives of "Project Catalyst"?

Many Universities have examined the factors which are resulting in the continued low representation of women among faculty members in science and have developed plans to counteract these factors.  Project Catalyst has used this information and is implementing a plan which will include the following activities:

  • Information and discussion sessions with Department Chairs to raise their awareness of unrecognized and systemic biases in hiring which discourage diversity in their Departments.

  • Editing the wording of advertisements for faculty positions, so that women are less likely to self-select themselves out of applying for the position.

  • Identifying strong female candidates for individual positions and personally inviting them to apply.

  • Making presentations to all hiring committees for available positions across the Faculty to raise awareness of practices which may be discriminatory to women, even though not intended as such, and to recognize best practices so that a model selection process which is more likely to be inclusive can be formulated and implemented

  • Discovering some of the systemic biases which affect the hiring and retention of women.

  • Raising awareness of and encouraging use of the various funds available, for example, to invite an additional woman candidate to campus for interview, to allow members of the faculty to go to conferences which are likely to provide the opportunity to interact with potential women candidates, and to increase the number of women seminar speakers.

  • Working with the University Administration to make tenure extension of one year automatic for faculty who have become parents by birth or by adoption (a policy recently adopted by Princeton University)

  • Implementing and monitoring an effective mentoring program for new women faculty.

  • Ensuring that practices for promotion and tenure are as transparent as possible.

  • Lobbying for adequate high quality day care spaces on or near campus.

  • Having sessions with female graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and research associates in each Department in which women are markedly under-represented to discover changes which might be made to improve their interest in planning a career in academe.

  • Maintaining contact with women who complete their undergraduate degree at the University of Alberta and who go on to graduate school at other universities, as potential candidates for faculty positions.

  • Identifying the factors which will create a welcoming and supportive Departmental environment, and helping to implement change, so that women are more likely to stay and have successful careers in the academy.

Project Catalyst is involved in several Canadian initiatives involving other Universities and community groups with the ultimate goal of “developing, implementing and evaluating strategies to bring sustained change to the recruitment, retention and advancement of women in science and engineering in the academy.”