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In 2001, the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program began awarding five-year grants to colleges and universities to address a common problem: how to improve the work environment for women faculty in science and engineering. Drawing on the expertise of scientists, engineers, social scientists, specialists in organizational behavior, and university administrators, this collection is the first to describe the variety of innovative efforts academic institutions around the country-have undertaken.
Focusing on a wide range of topics, the contributors discuss both the theoretical and empirical aspects of these initiatives, with emphasis on the practical issues involved in creating the approaches. The cases represented in this collection depict the many issues women faculty in science and engineering face, and the solutions that are presented can be widely accepted at academic institutions around the United States. The essays in Transforming Science and Engineering illustrate that creating work environments that sustain and advance women scientists and engineers benefits women, men, and underrepresented minorities.
WHY DO WE NEED INSTITUTIONAL TRANSFORMATION?
Abigail J. Stewart, Janet E. Malley, & Danielle LaVaque-Manty
ACADEMIC SCIENCE and engineering suffer from a peculiar sort of brain drain in the United States: they persistently lose highly accomplished women, not to other countries, but to industry and unrelated careers. Increases in the proportion of women faculty in tenured or tenure-track positions at research universities lag far behind the increases in the proportion of science and engineering doctorates that have been awarded to women in recent decades. The problem is clearly not that women cannot (or do not want to) conduct scientific research at the highest levels. What, then, is it?
When the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation program, an NSF program designed to cultivate the success of women in academic science and engineering, it stated that "women scientists and engineers continue to be significantly underrepresented in some science and engineering fields and proportionately under-advanced in science and engineering in the Nation's colleges and universities. There is increasing recognition that the lack of women's full participation at the senior level of academe is often a systemic consequence of academic culture. To catalyze change that will transform academic environments in ways that enhance the participation and advancement of women in science and engineering, NSF seeks proposals for institutional transformation" (National Science Foundation 2001). This statement expressed concisely a perspective that shifted attention away from remedying real or imagined deficits in women (e.g., lack of suitable ability, personality, ambition, or willingness to work) as the cause of women's relatively low participation in science and engineering, and toward problems at the institutional level. This was not the first time a call for "institutional transformation" with respect to colleges and universities had been issued (see, e.g., Bleier 1984; Hubbard 1990; Schiebinger 1989), but it was a very significant one, in that it focused on the faculty, on science and engineering, and came from a federal funding agency. Though the problematic climate for women (students and faculty) in science and engineering had been discussed for decades (see, e.g., Hall and Sandler 1982, 1984), NSF's new program both legitimated the importance of that discussion as an explanation for the continued low representation of women scientists and engineers on college and university faculties, and called for action. Moreover, it backed that call with funding resources. In short, NSF not only changed the conversation about this issue, but also provided significant incentives for institutions to make serious efforts to change.
In order to make a serious effort to change, though, institutions needed to develop analyses of the problem. The funded institutions represented in this volume (and no doubt many that were not funded, or were funded in later rounds of the program) drew on a wide range of theories of organizational change, and human behavior, as well as many empirical studies, in developing their own analyses. They began searching for ideas in isolated social scientific studies of science (see, e.g., Sonnert and Holton 1995; Zuckerman, Cole, and Bruner 1991), as well as in studies of related issues in nonscience settings (Kanter 1977). Many quickly found that the best place to begin to develop an integrated understanding of the important factors minimizing women faculty's participation in science, or those that might maximize it, was Virginia Valian's volume Why So Slow? (1999). Valian brought together a wide range of social science studies of cognitive processes affecting evaluation that might account for women's very slow progress in virtually all professions in the second half of the twentieth century. Her book provided outstanding conceptual tools for many ADVANCE Institutional Transformation project efforts to understand women's experiences in science and engineering.
Perhaps the most central concept in articulating the need for "institutional transformation," at least in the domain of women in science and engineering, is the notion of underrepresentation itself (see Kuck 2001; Nelson 2005). This concept can be defined in different ways. For example, it could be argued that women should participate in every activity in the society in rough proportion to their numbers in the population (thus, about half). Alternatively, it could be argued that women should be expected to participate on university faculties in rough proportion to their attainment of doctoral level degrees (allowing for changes in the rates of that attainment). In the case of women faculty in science and engineering, women are "underrepresented" either way. But because university faculty members in all fields must hold higher degrees, ADVANCE projects have mostly operated from the latter definition. Like NSF itself, they have noted that in virtually all science and engineering fields, there are relatively few tenured women faculty at research institutions (Nelson 2005). But does this constitute underrepresentation? In deciding whether it does, projects also must consider a range of issues: what is the proportion of women students at every level in the present institution? What are the consequences for the students of having the faculty look very different from the student body? What was the proportion of women students getting doctoral degrees in various disciplines both at this institution and nationally five, ten, and twenty years ago? Does the faculty represent those figures or are women underrepresented on the faculty compared with past degree attainment too? (See Hopkins 2006 for a thoughtful discussion of these issues.)
There is no one right way to assess the adequacy of women's representation on science and engineering faculties, but the process of reviewing the data is an important element in coming to grips with the nature of the problem. When an institution can satisfy itself that the proportion of women on the faculty does mirror national levels of degree attainment (in any particular field or even across the institution, as for example, at Hunter College; see Rabinowitz and Valian, this volume), then the issues facing it are quite different from those facing an institution that draws a different conclusion. If there are too few women on the faculty, then hiring women becomes an important priority-and in many instances so does working harder to recruit more women into the field at earlier educational stages.
What does it actually mean for an institution to have "too few women"? We have noted (like Hopkins 2006) that it may suggest a distortion in past hiring, and it can have implications for students. But how does it affect the women who are actually on the faculty in those fields? At least two concepts have proven extremely important in thinking about this issue: token or solo status; and lack of critical mass. The literature on "solos" or individuals who are the sole representatives of their group (by race, gender, or other defining characteristic) suggests that they are perceived and treated differently than individuals who share a characteristic with other members of their group in a work setting (Niemann and Dovidio 1998; Yoder and Sinnett 1985). Overall, solos-particularly solos who are members of lower-status groups in the society-are subject to more stereotyping, scrutiny, and negative judgments (Thompson and Sekaquaptewa 2002). Not surprisingly, they also experience greater internal stress. The notion of solo status has been extended, in an attempt to understand the point at which group membership stops being noticed-when "critical mass" is attained (see, e.g., Etzkowitz et al. 1994). Although there is no definite cutoff point, literature suggests that when a group becomes a significant "minority" (perhaps as large as a third of a larger group), individuals are viewed through a more individualistic (less stereotyping) lens. Thus, belonging to a particular socially defined group (e.g., by gender or ethnicity) matters less under these conditions-both to perceivers and to the person being perceived (see Valian 1999, 139ff., for a review).
The second overarching concept underlying institutional transformation efforts is the notion that features of the institutional environment itself matter; this concept links the failure of women to thrive in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields not to their own inadequacies but to features of the workplace in which they operate (Johnsrud and Des Jarlais 1994; Long 2001; Preston 2004; Wright et al. 2003). Particular concepts that have been used to understand and study institutions include the climate, tacit knowledge (of how the institution, discipline, funding agencies work), networks (and exclusionary processes), schemas (associated both with gender and with the fields of study), evaluation bias, and accumulation of disadvantage.
Most of the ADVANCE institutions recognize that whether or not women are underrepresented in science and engineering, the climate for their effort is often "chilly" or not welcoming. That is, women are often treated-by students, colleagues, or staff-as in some way unsuitable for the work, and therefore untrustworthy as authorities, undesirable as colleagues, and not fitting in (Ambrose et al. 1997). This perception, when communicated to women, can create and feed self-doubt and alienation. Even when this perception is not directly communicated, it often leads to women being excluded from networks by which important information about how institutions work, as well as opportunities, are communicated (Hitchcock et al. 1995). Equally, being viewed through the lens of gender results in men's accomplishments in science and engineering being routinely overvalued and women's undervalued (Banaji and Hardin 1996; Banaji, Hardin, and Rothman 1993; Steinpreis, Anders, and Ritzke 1999). Annoying but possibly minor in a single instance, this pattern of evaluation bias-multiplied on many different occasions of evaluation of lectures, manuscripts, grant proposals, and so on-results in the accumulation of significant advantage to men and disadvantage to women over a lifetime. Valian has identified this as the process of creating mountains (of disadvantage) out of molehills (1999, 4-5). Institutionally the "chilly" workplace environment is communicated through policies and practices that assume that faculty members are not primary caregivers for others, and that they can rely on others to take care of those responsibilities in their lives (Preston 2004; Xie and Shaumann 2003). The gendered career trajectories produced by institutional biases result in a particular dearth of women in leadership roles in STEM fields, which of course symbolically legitimates the gendered system itself, and helps it to reproduce itself.
One important advantage to recognizing the institutional basis of women's underrepresentation and difficulty thriving in science and engineering (that is, of employing systems theory in at least a loose way to understand the problem; see von Bertalanffy 1975; Weick 1976; Weick and Orton 1990) is that it shifts the burden of guilt off of individuals. Just as women cannot be blamed for their own exclusion from science and engineering, men (and the few women on the "inside") cannot be blamed for it either, as individuals. If the problem reproduces itself unless it is interrupted (an inevitable feature of a system's self-maintenance once set in motion), then change can be initiated by individuals, but the problem is not individuals' fault. It is worth noting that the system operates at many levels (particular institutions, higher education as an institution, disciplines themselves, funding agencies, etc.). Given that fact, it is important that actions be considered that would address these issues at multiple levels. Most of the interventions discussed in this volume aim at particular institutions; one (Croson and McGoldrick's chapter) aims at a discipline (economics), but it is possible to imagine interventions (including, for example, the use of Title IX advocated by Senator Wyden; Mervis 2002) that would aim at other, broader levels, and that might be equally or more important. Indeed, the ADVANCE program itself is a national-level "intervention."
Many of the institutional transformation efforts described in this volume are based on analyses that rely on the concepts outlined above. Four key elements of their efforts are directly aimed at many of the obstacles already outlined. These include (1) identifying norms or practices in science and engineering generally, in a particular field, or in their institution that tend to exclude women; (2) educating individual faculty (women and/or men) or raising their awareness of the nature of the problems facing women in STEM fields; (3) altering the representation of women in STEM fields by increasing their numbers; (4) taking deliberate actions to counter gender schemas and evaluation bias.
In creating interventions that have these goals, projects rely on a range of different kinds of approaches or strategies. For example, many programs-implicitly recognizing women scientists' and engineers' isolation from one another, small numbers in many locations, and exposure to unwelcoming environments-aim to create and support the development of women scientists and engineers' positive collective identity. These efforts draw on what is known about the creation of groups or movements that can advocate on their own behalf and provide positive support for one another (Apfelbaum 1979).
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