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Why WISE Ventures

Why is this initiative called WISE Ventures?

Over many years, in a wide variety of venues, "WISE" has been a frequently-used acronym for "Women In Science and Engineering," across the English-speaking world, especially in university settings. For example, for many years, Stanford has organized graduate student “WISE” groups to support graduate women in science and engineering.
Stanford WISE Ventures, however, aims to go beyond only engaging women in science and engineering, setting about deliberately to encourage progress to ensure excellence in these fields, considering people, culture, and organizational behavior involved in creating an enterprise of excellence
Thus, we use the acronym in a nod to origins, but also to focus on "wise" paths to our futures,* toward overcoming the exclusion, stereotypes, and intentional and implicit biases of the past. With a vision to ensure Stanford’s leadership as the university of choice for all scholars in science and engineering, we need to consider both gender equity, and ways to develop an environment where the talents of all develop as fully as possible.
The word “Ventures” is intended to evoke bold, forward-thinking innovation and fearlessness in taking on the challenge of advancing gender equity in science and engineering. We seek to link the work with the culture and history of knowledge creation and entrepreneurial activity that characterize Stanford and are prized by the University community. 
*Interestingly, during the 1950s, the term wise was used in gay culture to describe straight people who understood the full humanity of gay people despite the overwhelming homophobia of the time (Goffman, 1963). Today, “wise interventions” (Walton, 2014) address specific underlying psychological processes that contribute to social problems or prevent people from flourishing, and depend on understanding people’s psychological reality—what it is like to be them and how they construe themselves and their social world. In creating a wise intervention, researchers identify an aspect of people’s psychology that harms their outcomes and aim to change this process.


Stanford University has frequently led the way among its peer institutions in creating progressive policies and programs to support women faculty, yet there is unfinished work to achieve gender equity among faculty in many science and engineering fields as well as in the most senior positions of academic leadership. During 2011-12, a number of senior leaders at Stanford considered next steps to expand efforts and activities which will ensure Stanford leads as the university of choice for women scholars in science and engineering. The concept of Stanford WISE Ventures grew out of these discussions. The goal for this new initiative is to publicize resources, build networks, and encourage collaborative research-based projects and programs toward increased representation and advancement of gender equity in science, engineering, and mathematics fields across the Stanford community. In September 2012, Dr. Carol B. Muller was asked to serve as the founding Executive Director of WISE Ventures, to help create programs and related activities to move from vision to reality. WISE Ventures welcomes input, information about ongoing activities connected to WISE Ventures purpose, and suggestions of people who and organizations that, on and beyond campus, can be helpful to build a stronger networked set of activities.