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Advancing Women Faculty In Engineering Through Institutional Transformation: The Iowa State University Advance Program In The College Of Engineering

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

The Academic Environment

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.161.1 - 13.161.10

Permanent URL

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Paper Authors


Kristen Constant Iowa State University

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Kristen Constant is an Associate Professor in Materials Science and Engineering.

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Sharon Bird Iowa State University

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Sharon Bird is an Associate Professor in Sociology at Iowa State University

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Florence Hamrick Iowa State University

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Flo Hamrick is an Associate Professor in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at Iowa State University.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


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.

Introduction and Background:

As a means to introduce the context in which the ADVANCE program at ISU is being implemented, a brief description of ISU is useful. Iowa State University of Science and Technology is a land grant institution with a 150 year history of strength in science and engineering. The university, with over 25,000 students and 1,700 faculty, has 8 colleges, the second largest of which is the college of engineering with a faculty of 190 and a student population of 5,300. Iowa State’s undergraduate student population is 43% women and the faculty is 29% women in tenured or tenure eligible positions.1 However, within the college of engineering, only 14.7% of the students are women, a fraction that has been decreasing since 1996. Compared to national data, while the trends are somewhat similar, ISU has a lower percentage of women students than the national average of 19.3%.2 National faculty data show that the fraction of women in engineering faculty positions has increased in the last 6 years from 9 to over 11%, though remains dominated by assistant professors (almost 20%), and associate professors (13%), rather than full professors (6%).3 However, in the College of Engineering at ISU, there is a smaller fraction (8.6%) of women faculty, recovering slightly this year after a 5 year decline. Additionally, the attrition rate for ISU women faculty in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is significantly higher for women as compared to men (especially in the first three years).4 A 2005 report from a study by the University

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