Advancing Women Faculty in Engineering through Institutional Transformation: The Iowa State University NSF ADVANCE Program in the College of Engineering

Constant, Kristen
Constant, Kristen
Bird, Sharon
Hamrick, Florence
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Materials Science and Engineering

The goal of the ISU ADVANCE program is to investigate the effectiveness of a multilevel collaborative effort to produce institutional transformation that results in the full participation of women faculty in science, technology, engineering and math fields in the university. Our approach focuses on transforming departmental cultures (views, attitudes, norms and shared beliefs), practices (what people say and do), and structures (physical and social arrangements), as well as university policies, through participation of individuals at all levels of the university. At the department level, faculty in nine focal departments, three from the college of engineering, form the core department-level working groups. A three-step process for departmental transformation includes (1) focus groups to discuss department culture, practice and structure, (2) needs assessment meetings and training sessions tailored to meet the unique needs of individual departments, and (3) collaborative problem solving sessions involving department faculty and ADVANCE program leaders. Key partners are a college "Equity Advisor", a department-embedded "ADVANCE Professor" and the department chair. The first ADVANCE department in the College of Engineering at ISU is Materials Science and Engineering. Two more departments will be added as the grant progresses. In the Spring of 2007, faculty in the department participated in focus group discussions and individual interviews with an external facilitator. The purpose of this data collection effort was to understand departmental cultures, practices and structures that support, or inhibit, faculty productivity. The data collected were analyzed and presented to the faculty in the Fall of 2007 as a basis for needs assessment. Collaboratively, faculty established benchmarks and goals for change that will enable full participation of women and all faculty. General strategies to be discussed include improving transparency in the promotion and tenure process, reducing isolation, improving mentoring, and emphasizing flexible career options.