Faculty Share Effective Changes in Department Hiring Practices to Increase Diversity Among STEM Faculty
What are the barriers facing women who enter STEM fields? How can they effectively progress in their careers? These are questions SfN sought to answer in its three-year series of workshops called Department Chair Training to Increase Women in Neuroscience (IWiN). Now concluded, the workshops amassed a wealth of information and launched a set of new resources designed to help the field improve the way institutions hire and promote women in STEM fields.
Jill Becker, who is senior research scientist at the Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience Institute at the University of Michigan, was co-principal investigator on the National Science Foundation grant that funded IWiN along with Anne Etgen of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Becker said in a video featured in the online IWiN material that Society for Neuroscience’s commitment to increasing women in neuroscience will continue.
SfN is excited to leverage the program’s resources “to continue professional development activities to make sure people know about implicit bias, how to recruit diverse faculty, and how to make the climate welcoming for diverse faculty,” Becker said in the video available at SfN.org.
Throughout the workshops, held in five locations across the United States, participants expressed surprise at how implicit bias, even from women themselves, contributes to a culture that discourages women faculty from pursuing tenure. Participants brainstormed ways to correct this bias and create best practices for recruitment, promotion, tenure, and climate.
The IWiN workshops were developed in 2010 as part of NSF’s ADVANCE program, aimed at “increasing the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers.” The program funded five workshops, held in Washington, DC; Ann Arbor, Mich.; New York City; Tucson, Ariz.; and Irvine, Calif. Representatives of 43 institutions attended the workshops. They learned that 40-50 percent of women leave universities before making the transition to tenure-track faculty, and that women faculty who do make it to full professorship earn significantly less than their male peers.
Marci Levine, the ADVANCE grant manager at Lehigh University, leads a project to improve the number of women in STEM departments and address climate issues. When the project began, Lehigh had 40 STEM women faculty members out of 246 STEM tenured or tenure track faculty. After four years, the university has made modest gains and now has 44 STEM women faculty.
In 2011, Lehigh sent several faculty members to an IWiN workshop, and they came back inspired. Using an idea from the workshop, the Lehigh faculty brought in the Cornell Interactive Theatre Ensemble (CITE) to explain implicit bias to their colleagues in a way that takes the blame out of the equation.
“With IWiN you get insight into what works and what doesn’t work, and the resources to explain it to other department chairs,” Levine said. “This coming year, we are bringing (CITE) back (to Lehigh) to do a performance, because the feedback we got was, ‘This is not just for the search committee members, but all faculty need to see this.’”
The Lehigh program also instituted a lunch group where women faculty members discuss scholarship and careers. Based on feedback from the group, it will be expanded to include men. “They all know a few colleagues who are the good guys, and the question is, how can you get that to spread?” Levine said. “The collegiality, the comradery issues are important for men and for women, and we’re going to be moving forward with resources and guidance for department chairs.”
SfN members can start a conversation on this topic by signing in to the Women in Neuroscience community on NeurOnLine