Strategic Career Development for STEM Women Faculty

Strategic Career Development for STEM Women Faculty

Suzanna M. Rose (Florida International University, USA), Yesim Darici (Florida International University, USA) and Sanaz Farhangi (Florida International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8476-6.ch022


Women continue to be underrepresented in the academic fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) relative to the proportion of doctoral degrees they earn. This also was the case in 2009 at Florida International University, where only 11% of the STEM tenure-line faculty were women. In this chapter, the rationale, implementation, and outcomes will be described for two strategic career development projects for STEM women faculty that were funded by the National Science Foundation; the Awareness, Commitment, and Empowerment project (2011-2016); and the FIU ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project (2016-2021). Also described will be the role that social media and digital formats played in developing and sustaining a sense of community among women faculty, as well as for doing research and evaluation.
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In 2009, the authors Rose and Darici sought to lay the groundwork for a successful proposal to the National Science Foundation ADVANCE grant program to develop strategies to recruit and promote more women and minority STEM faculty. The Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Kenneth Furton [now Provost], agreed to their request for administrative support and funded Rose to conduct two projects to provide the pilot data for a grant proposal. The first project was the 2010 FIU Faculty Climate Survey. The Climate study identified specific concerns of STEM women that were useful in preparing the first NSF grant proposal. Compared to men, women reported experiencing less departmental respect and influence and more instances of gender discrimination, consistent with the body of research showing that women in academia face a 'chilly climate' and deeply entrenched inequities (e.g., Britton, 2016; Pedersen & Minnotte, 2016). Consequences of gender biases and inequities are high for women. Moss-Racusin, Sanzari, Caluori, & Rabasco (2018) summarized some of them as women being less likely to be cited than men (Lariviere, Ni, Gingras, Cronin, & Sugimoto, 2013), to receive less start-up support (Sege, Nykiel-Bub, & Selk, 2015), and to be invited less often to present colloquium talks at top universities (across six academic fields; Nittrouer et al., 2017). They also are judged as less competent, less deserving of mentoring, are paid less, and are less likely to receive valuable pre-doctoral mentoring (Milkman, Akinola, & Chugh, 2012). Others like Rivera (2017) found that hiring committees consider women candidates’ relationship status more than men. Last, job applications (Moss-Racusin, Dovidio, Brescoll, Graham, & Handelsman, 2012) and scientific abstracts (Knobloch-Westerwick, Glynn, & Huge, 2013) are judged more negatively when they are perceived to belong to women. Thébaud and Charles (2018) suggest that cultural stereotypes about qualities of men and women and the nature of STEM work can explain a lot of this gender discrimination.

To abate the effects of some of these inequities, the second internally-funded project was a one-day Leadership Institute for Women Faculty focused on career planning. The eighty women faculty that attended expressed very strong interest in improving their leadership skills, communication and assertiveness skills, and career development strategies. These findings formed the basis of one of the proposed projects.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Department Climate: Features and common patterns of dimensions of department life or its members’ perceptions of attitudes toward these dimensions like collegiality, respect, and fairness.

Institutional Transformation: A profound change within many levels of an institution that transforms its culture and procedures.

Bystander Intervention Program: A type of training to prepare bystanders that observe harmful situations to respond in a way that changes the situation for better.

Intersectionality Theory: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.

Microclimate: A different departmental microenvironment that can exist for faculty from underrepresented groups.

Gender Bias in STEM: A difference in treatment and representation of women and men in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics based on gender stereotypes.

Unconscious Bias: Forms of cultural stereotypes about certain groups that leads to unintentional beliefs and treatments towards these groups.

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