ARROW: Promoting Women in Faculty Ranks

By Barry Waldman

A cultural shift that has gained acceptance in the last decade is that our region, country, and even the globe, cannot achieve its human and economic potential unless opportunities are opened to those who traditionally have been outside the power structure – specifically women, people of color and sexual identity minorities.

As an organization chartered to support economic development in the region, the Lowcountry Graduate Center (LGC) is highly focused on raising the economic floor, providing opportunity to more people, and more kinds of people, to participate in the Charleston area’s economic growth.  

The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), recognizing that women are under-represented at higher faculty ranks, in large part because of implicit gender bias, launched several years ago the Advancement Recruitment and Retention of Women (ARROW) program. ARROW is funded through the MUSC Provost office, College of Medicine and external grants.

ARROW offers a series of workshops, programs, networking opportunities, mentorship arrangements, career development programs and awards to support women at MUSC. Through its #STEMlikeagirl outreach into area schools, it also demonstrates to elementary and middle school girls how much fun a science career can be.

ARROW Awards Recognize Women and Those Who Support Them

ARROW bestows three awards to recognize and support women at MUSC. The John Raymond Fellowship Award provides funds for a junior member of the faculty at MUSC to travel and meet with a mentor over the course of a year.

The Eminent Scholar Award brings prominent female scholars to campus. Elizabeth Blackburn, a 2009 Nobel Prize winner in medicine, visited the MUSC campus in 2019, packing an auditorium with her recounting of how she discovered the chromosome-protecting properties of telomeres. Blackburn is one of 20 women among the 600 Nobel Prize winners in science.

The Advancement of Women Award recognizes someone instrumental in supporting women in science at MUSC. Men as well as women are eligible for this award.

Programs That Support Women Advancement in Science Fields

The long list of ARROW programs includes workshops and roundtables on topics like negotiation skills, time management, and how to say no. The group arranges networking meetings, informal coffee hours, and peer-to-peer mentoring.

This past spring, ARROW presented a workshop on how to avoid burnout during the pandemic. This urgently relevant topic was well-attended by women and men. Also during the pandemic, with children at home and many staff stressed for time, ARROW introduced a manuscript-editing service using scientists from outside the Medical University so that manuscripts written by MUSC scientists were ready formatted and ready for submission to scientific journals.

A two-day career development program prepares women for promotion or tenure, with education about what they need to include in their CV, the importance of a personal statement, meetings with mentors and recently promoted women, and more.

Perhaps the most immediately valuable service performed by ARROW is a grant review service that helps women and men at MUSC win funding for their projects. Because most grant-funded research is performed primarily by men, this service could serve to balance the scales. Any woman seeking funding could submit their proposal for external review two months in advance for feedback. The result has been a funding rate double the previous average.

So Many Resources for Women’s Advancement

Carol Feghali-Bostwick, Ph.D. is the SmartState® and Kitty Trask Holt Endowed Chair for scleroderma research and Distinguished University Professor in the division of Rheumatology & Immunology. She spearheads ARROW as a passion project on the side. She is on a mission to spread the word among women at MUSC that these opportunities exist to help them advance in their field.

“Take advantage of the resources,” she said. I’m amazed at how many people don’t realize the breadth and wealth of the resources we offer. A lot of this is facilitated by committees of volunteers dedicated to supporting the careers of others.”