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The Women in Engineering ProActive Network has named Nandika D’Souza, the University of North Texas College of Engineering’s associate dean for undergraduate studies, to its board of directors. The organization’s mission is “to propel higher education to increase the number and advance the prominence of diverse communities of women in engineering.” D’Souza was appointed based on her dedication, leadership and advocacy.
D’Souza says it’s her aim to help develop processes to retain female faculty.
“Research shows that the largest reason women are dropping out of the field is intentional or unintentional experiences in the engineering workplace,” D’Souza said. “WEPAN has strengths in looking into what the drivers are for women leaving, different nuances of the issue and best practices to fix it. We need to stop feeling like women have to change all the time, but actually start asking the environment to adapt more.”
D’Souza says that while the corporate world has a very clear human resources structure to report negative work environments, academia is lacking in processes to deal with faculty concerns.
“If you have a staff issue, you can go to HR. If you have a student issue, you have a dean of students. But for faculty, it’s very ambiguous,” D’Souza said. “I recently queried a large group of women and found the absence of clarity is widespread. There is a substantial amount of anecdotal information, but unlike the corporate world, there is no process to resolve, heal and move forward as colleagues. You need to bring everyone into the room and hear what the negative experience was like so it doesn’t happen again.”
WEPAN’s expansive research enables the organization to target workplace culture issues, create transformations and measure the impact of new environments. This, D’Souza says, is why she’s excited to be on the board.
“I definitely wanted to be part of a group that wanted to change the culture,” she said. “I like being on boards that grow my awareness of what needs to be changed and where I can have an impact. Women in academia need to realize it’s not what you’re doing, it’s what the workplace is giving you.”