Sandra C. Greer broke into the old boys club at the University of Maryland College Park in February. That was when, as the newly appointed chairwoman of the department of chemistry and biochemistry, she lunched with the 13 other heads of departments in the College of Life Sciences -- all of them men.
"We were all just miserable," she said of that first monthly lunch. "Nobody introduced me."
Lunch is much more pleasant now for Dr. Greer, one of fewer than a handful of women in the country to head a chemistry department at a major research university and only one of four in charge of the 62 academic departments at College Park.
Twenty years ago, the University of Chicago-trained chemist was turned away for a job at the same campus by a department chair who refused to hire women.
The tide is turning. The 45-member chemistry faculty at College Park includes five women, about twice the national average. Dr. Greer was hired in 1978.
Last year, College Park became one of the first research campuses to pass a "stop-the-clock" tenure policy that allows women -- and men if their deans agree -- to interrupt their careers to have families.
The idea is being pushed by the National Science Foundation to encourage women in research careers that now require seven years of graduate school and an additional six years of up to 70-hour workweeks by young faculty trying to establish themselves and earn tenure.
In 1988, Dr. Greer headed a campus committee that recommended hundreds of changes to improve campus life for undergraduate women and attract more of them into the sciences. Some suggestions in the Greer report, including summer programs for high-school girls, are now being funded.