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Framing Success for Women Faculty in STEM

The small numbers of women faculty in STEM is a long-standing national problem. A 2005 study shows that women faculty in the top 50 research universities are underrepresented at all ranks, especially as full professors. The study also reveals that underrepresented minority women “ are almost non-existent in science and engineering departments at research universities” and are less likely than Caucasian women, or men, of any race, to be awarded tenure or reach full professor status” (Nelson & Rogers, 2005). The UMBC ADVANCE Program uses a comprehensive approach to meet the challenge of overcoming specific institutional and cultural barriers that limit the participation of women faculty in science and engineering. Our framework includes:

  1. Developing, revising, and institutionalizing policies and practices, and allocating resources, in ways that support the recruitment, hiring, and advancement of women – including minority women – for faculty at all ranks.
  2. creating a culture of inclusion by engaging the campus broadly in ongoing discussions, informal and formal, that address issues of racial and gender diversity in STEM fields
  3. Establishing a system of targeted, strengths-based mentoring programs designed to create clear and understandable pathways for STEM women to achieve tenure and promotion, and to transition to academic leadership positions at the university.

Recruiting and Hiring Women STEM Faculty at UMBC
Since 1999, the UMBC Faculty Diversity Recruitment Initiative promoted racial and ethnic diversity in faculty hiring. The Initiative, which was implemented under the auspices of the Office of the Provost, includes an annual workshop for department chairs and search committees. The workshop emphasizes techniques for diversifying the candidate pool, provides guidance and assistance in development of inclusive recruitment strategies, and requires submission of a Department Diversity Recruitment Plan for each authorized faculty search. When the ADVANCE Program was established at UMBC in 2003, gender diversity in STEM departments became an explicitly identified goal of the Initiative. Informal observation suggested that since 1999, the UMBC Faculty Diversity Recruitment Initiative had increased diversity among the candidates brought to campus for interviews, even if the resulting hire might be Caucasian and/or man.

In order to obtain more objective data about the impact of ADVANCE in promoting gender, ethnic, and racial diversity in faculty recruitment, the ADVANCE internal evaluation team reviewed personnel requisitions for all full-time faculty hires for the period 1999-2008. The team analyzed the results of tenured and tenure-track appointments in the ten STEM departments included in UMBC’s ADVANCE program with regard to gender diversity in the candidate interview pool.

Family Friendly Policies at UMBC

All faculty candidates meet with the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, who discusses support for balancing work and family issues, including information about the UMBC Family Support Policy and flexible tenure timelines for family and medical leave which was revised, implemented, and widely promoted under the ADVANCE Program. Unlike the national data where 42% (women) and 50% (men) of the nation’s STEM faculty have children, 73% of UMBC female faculty and 74% of UMBC male faculty have children. New hires identified the family support policy as a factor in their decision to come to UMBC and, whereas no women faculty took family leave for childbirth in the 5 years prior to the ADVANCE grant, nearly 25% of all female STEM faculty have used family leave under the revised policy.

In addition, women candidates in STEM meet with representatives of the ADVANCE Program to make them aware of the resources and support available at UMBC, and the campus leadership (including the President, in his role as ADVANCE PI) is available to candidates to discuss these issues. Finally, all women candidates for STEM faculty positions meet with faculty from the UMBC WISE group (our community-based network of Women in Science and Engineering).