Martha Grover was recently named the ADVANCE professor for Georgia Tech’s College of Engineering – a role focused on supporting the advancement of women and underrepresented minorities in academia.
Established with a 2001 NSF Institutional Transformation Grant, ADVANCE professors are nominated by their respective deans to serve as their college’s leading advocate for gender and race equality. There is an ADVANCE professor in each of Georgia Tech’s six colleges.
Professor Grover, who is the associate chair of graduate studies for Georgia Tech’s School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering (ChBE), says: “I began my faculty career at Georgia Tech in 2002, as the ADVANCE program was getting started. I was fresh out of my PhD, and excited to have the opportunity to start my career as an assistant professor at Georgia Tech.”
She adds, “Though not unaware of gender bias and dynamics, I had until that point tried to keep my blinders on and focus on my academic performance, building my research portfolio and credentials.”
Out of forty professors in ChBE at the time, there was only one other woman on the faculty (the total is now 12).
“While I appreciated the support of my male colleagues, I enjoyed the networking and social opportunities with the women at the ADVANCE events, and I participated actively,” Grover says.
Through ADVANCE programming, she learned about scientific, quantitative data on unconscious bias. “Learning about this data was affirming and uplifting for me,” Grover says.
“I did know about bias already from my own experience, but had difficulty articulating it to others without evidence,” she says. “This made sense to me, since I know that one cannot statistically infer anything from one data point. Instead of staying quiet because I did not want to be further marginalized as a complainer and a troublemaker, I could now point to published peer-reviewed studies in top scientific journals. And I often did.”
While Grover appreciates the many resources and opportunities at Georgia Tech, she adds: “As a woman, I am also well aware of the difficulties in fully accessing these resources. I am often, seemingly daily, met with overt surprise when I introduce myself as a professor. I am committed to continuing the work of ADVANCE, until all members of Georgia Tech are seen and included as true members of the community.”
As an ADVANCE professor, Grover aims to pay particular attention to the needs of black women on campus (not only faculty, but also staff and students). She quotes Martin Luther King in explaining her guiding principle with the ADVANCE program: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
ADVANCE professors are charged with promoting a culture of equity, diversity, and inclusion in the faculty hiring, promotion, and retention outcomes and in the hiring and advancement of women in the leadership ranks and honorific faculty appointments.
Grover’s interest in diversity extends to her research. As faculty lead for Education, Outreach and Diversity in the NSF/NASA Center for Chemical Evolution, she has published in the Journal of Chemical Education on the importance of diversity and cooperation in achieving complex function.
Grover also co-leads the new GT-EQUAL (Graduate Training for Equality in Underrepresented Academic Leadership) Program. ChBE was one of the first two institutions selected nationwide to be inaugural sites for the American Chemical Society’s Bridge Program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students who receive doctoral degrees in chemical sciences.