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Changing The Continuing Chilly Campus Climate For Faculty Women: Recommendations Based On A Case Study

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

The Climate for Women In Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.292.1 - 8.292.15



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Paper Authors

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Mara Wasburn

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

Changing the Continuing Chilly Campus Climate for Faculty Women: Recommendations Based on a Case Study

Mara H. Wasburn Purdue University


A vast body of research conducted in the 1970’s and 1980’s documented a host of problems confronted by women faculty at colleges and universities nationwide: their small number, a “chilly campus climate,” low salaries, slow progress toward promotion and tenure, little power or influence, and a number of worklife issues. Subsequently, many institutions established policies to address these inequities. This qualitative case study compares the concerns expressed in 1988 by women faculty at “Sycamore State University,” a Midwestern Research I University, with those women faculty discussed in 1997, when policies apparently intended to correct discriminatory conditions and practices had been in place for almost a decade. The research, foregrounding the voices of women faculty, confronts the question of why, despite the implementation of these policies, many of their concerns remain. It also suggests strategies for meeting some of the challenges women faculty, especially those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, still confront.


Women have made great strides in academe. There are more women assistant professors than ever. Yet, despite these gains, few of them become full professors. At issue is whether or not women faculty, especially those in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continue to face impediments as they seek to advance within the system that do not appear to face their male counterparts, impediments well-documented by research in the 1970s and 1980s.

In 1988, at “Sycamore State University,” (SSU) a Midwestern Research I University, a task force of faculty women under the auspices of the Faculty Affairs Committee of the University Senate, conducted a Needs Assessment to determine the support for an expanded Women’s Resource Office on campus. They invited all women faculty to submit a letter outlining concerns relevant to women at SSU. In their responses, words such as chilly … nonsupportive … unsympathetic … hostile … isolating … deplorable … disrespectful … sexually harassing … were used to describe the campus climate.

Subsequent to the publication of a Needs Assessment Report, a number of policies were created and implemented by the university’s upper administration to address the problems that the assessment had identified. Nine years after the publication of that report, a 1997 University Task Force on Women’s Issue’s report revealed that women faculty still experienced many of the same problems that initially were identified. However, the 1997 study was not a replication of the 1988 Needs Assessment, nor did it capture any voices of the sort that made the original study so powerful. The research reported below partially replicates the 1988 Needs Assessment,

Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Wasburn, M. (2003, June), Changing The Continuing Chilly Campus Climate For Faculty Women: Recommendations Based On A Case Study Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--12357

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