Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:16 - Denice Denton was born and raised in Texas. As a high school student, she was interested in math and science. She is the first person from her family to attend a four-year college. 00:01:20 - In high school, DD was a member of the Junior Engineering Technological Society, a student group that participated in science contests. The summer between her junior and senior years of high school, she participated in an engineering program at Rice University. 00:02:02 - She explains why she chose to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Because she had enjoyed the electrical engineering portion of her Rice University experience, she decided to major in electrical engineering. There were few women in her classes. 00:04:04 - DD talks about the climate for women in science and engineering at MIT. The college had a women’s room reserved specifically for its female students. DD does not recall having any female faculty members until she was a graduate student. 00:05:30 - Mildred (Millie) Dresselhaus, a renowned physics and electrical engineering faculty member, served as a role model to DD. DD talks about Dresselhaus’s work relating to women in science at MIT. 00:06:16 - As an undergraduate and Master’s student, DD had several co-operative education positions in Silicon Valley. Although she enjoyed the work she did in integrated circuit design and manufacturing, she decided she did not want to continue this type of work for the rest of her career. This realization, along with her love of teaching, led her to pursue a PhD. 00:07:28 - As a graduate student, DD developed an informal intercession course targeted to women. In this course she taught students introductory hands-on skills relating to electronics, such as soldering and building small circuits. DD explains that although many male students learned these skills before they arrived at MIT, most women students did not, and therefore they were less likely to pursue electrical engineering because they were intimidated by the equipment. 00:08:56 - After earning her PhD, DD interviewed at seven schools. She explains that her job search was limited by her need to work at a school with a multi-million dollar facility known as a “clean room,” a room in which integrated circuits can be built. DD recalls that she was asked illegal questions at most campuses that interviewed her. For example, several interviewers asked her if she was married. She sensed a lot of discomfort and awkwardness during her interviews. 00:11:17 - DD was offered positions by most of the schools that interviewed her. She gives other examples in which interviewers betrayed their assumptions that her gender would impact the work she could perform. 00:13:49 - DD talks about the circumstances surrounding her visit to the UW-Madison campus. There were no women faculty in the department at the time, but she was pleased to see that several women staff members attended her talk. DD explains why she accepted UW’s offer over UC-Berkeley’s offer. 00:17:04 - When DD arrived at UW-Madison, there were 180 or 200 faculty in the College of Engineering. Of these, only one was a woman. DD spoke to this woman, who worked in the mechanical engineering department, and learned that she had not had a positive experience. Soon afterwards this woman left the university to take a position at the University of Texas-Austin. 00:19:02 - DD became friends with several of her colleagues, particularly the younger ones. Many of the older colleagues were unsure how to interact with her. She recalls that one senior faculty member refused to shake hands with her, and instead walked away when she introduced herself. Other faculty tried to be welcoming to her. 00:21:22 - DD compares the climate at UW to the climate at MIT. She notes that faculty at UW had a better balance between work and home life, in contrast to faculty at MIT, who were fanatical about their work. 00:22:01 - DD talks about Henry Guckel, the faculty member who ran the “clean room.” He had strongly supported hiring her because he wanted a colleague in his area of microelectronics. DD soon realized that Guckel hoped she would act as his post-doc or graduate student, rather than as an independent faculty member. She surmises he thought that by hiring a woman it would be easier for him to control her work for his own advantage. Their relationship became strained shortly after DD arrived. 00:25:11 - DD recalls talking to a female colleague in the law school who specialized in race and gender discrimination law. A number of senior women in the law school met with DD and encouraged her to write a letter to her departmental chair about Guckel’s behavior. 00:28:52 - DD’s department chair did not express surprise at her complaints about Guckel. DD learned that the entire department had been harassed by Guckel, but had been too intimidated to stand up to him. 00:29:42 - DD met with the college’s associate dean for research and then with the college’s dean, but was unsatisfied with their responses. The only other senior woman in the college, a staff member who ran the career services center, encouraged DD to see the university’s acting vice-chancellor, Phillip Certain. Certain was very helpful, and urged DD to send a letter to the acting chancellor, Bernard Cohen, informing him of her dean’s lack of support for her. 00:33:54 - DD explains how the situation was finally resolved. Her department chair set up a committee that concluded that Guckel should no longer run the clean room. DD was then given keys to the laboratory and was able to resume her research. 00:36:14 - Because of her battles with Guckel, DD was given a two-year tenure extension. Before this extension expired, DD pushed her department chair to put her up for tenure. She was convinced her department would turn her down the first time because her colleagues were not ready to have a female colleague, and wanted to get the experience over with so that she could apply for tenure a second time. DD was given tenure the second time she applied. 00:37:48 - One of DD’s colleagues told her that her outside letter from Mildred Dresselhaus would not count because Dresselhaus was a woman. DD was infuriated because Dresselhaus alone had more honors than the entire UW electrical engineering department. 00:39:11 - DD talks about her work in helping to change the law governing what happens when a candidate is unfairly denied tenure. Until this time, a department could discriminate against a candidate and the candidate could not have his or her tenure decision reversed. 00:41:51 - DD recalls that Governor Tommy Thompson made a sexist comment at the signing ceremony for this law. 00:42:56 - DD explains why more women began to join the College of Engineering in the late 1980s. As soon as there were a few women in engineering, DD organized a monthly lunch at which they could meet and network. She also started an evening wine and cheese event for junior women in engineering and science. 00:45:32 - DD served as faculty advisor for the student chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. She talks about some of the organization’s activities. 00:46:36 - Although the College of Engineering was making some efforts to recruit more women, DD does not remember a concerted effort from the dean’s office until the mid 1990s, when the dean hired a director of diversity. 00:47:19 - DD does not believe that Donna Shalala took an interest in increasing the number of women faculty in the college. At the campus level, Janet Hyde and then Betsy Draine held an administrative position relating to diversity and climate. One of them initiated a faculty mentoring program in which DD participated. 00:48:47 - DD talks about some of her service activities relating to women in science and engineering. In the early 1990s she served on the college’s Gender Equity Pay Committee. 00:51:04 - DD discusses her interest in improving engineering education. With funding from Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), she worked with the dean to create new introductory classes in order to improve students’ team-work and communication skills and to give them more hands-on experience. 00:54:21 - In the early 1990s, the National Science Foundation decided to fund a National Institute for Science Education (NISE). DD and a colleague put together UW-Madison’s proposal to house this institute. She explains why she thinks UW’s proposal was successful. 00:56:45 - DD notes that engineering comes from a military, hierarchical tradition. By replacing the discipline’s boot-camp mentality with a more welcoming and supportive atmosphere, she believes a more diverse group of students will be attracted to engineering. 00:58:37 - In 1996, DD accepted a position as dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Washington. She talks about the leadership roles she held and other experiences at UW that prepared her for this position. 01:01:29 - DD describes the efforts she has made to recruit and retain under-represented faculty and students at the University of Washington. She added resources to a number of pre-existent programs that focus on the disabled, women, minorities, and K-12 students. DD worked to create an online faculty recruitment toolkit that has been used at other universities. 01:03:15 - She explains that many engineering colleges began instituting recruitment and retention programs in the mid 1990s. Although the University of Washington is among the leaders in this area, it is not alone in promoting diversity. 01:04:02 - The University of Washington was given an NSF Advance Award in recognition for its success in recruiting and retaining women faculty. DD explains the ways in which the college has succeeded in attracting women faculty and students. 01:05:56 - DD talks about the importance of efforts at both the leadership and grassroots level in order to improve diversity. She gives examples of policy decisions that can negatively affect women’s ability to succeed in academia. Most universities now have liberal tenure-clock extension policies that make it easier for women to balance their academic responsibilities with childbirth. 01:08:18 - DD makes final comments about her career at UW. She says that she arrived at a time when the college was not yet ready for women faculty, and for this reason had a very difficult time. She attributes her success at UW to her strong-willed, stubborn nature and to the many people at the university who encouraged her to persevere.