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Dialogues Toward Gender Equity: Engaging Engineering Faculty to Promote an Inclusive Department Climate

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

Women in Engineering Division Technical Session - Understanding and Improving Female Faculty Experiences in STEM

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Tagged Topics

Diversity, ASEE Diversity Committee, and Engineering Deans Council

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Paper Authors


J. Kasi Jackson West Virginia University

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Dr. J. Kasi Jackson is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at West Virginia University. Her research covers supporting women faculty in STEM, STEM education, gendered impacts on animal behavior research, and the representation of science in popular culture. She completed her PhD in biology, with a focus on animal behavior, and graduate certificate in women’s studies at the University of Kentucky. She is a Co-Investigator on a National Science Foundation ADVANCE award (1007978) to recruit, retain and promote women faculty in science and engineering.

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Joel Alejandro Mejia Angelo State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Joel Alejandro Mejia is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Angelo State University. He is interested in research regarding underrepresentation of minority groups in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), especially the use of culturally responsive practices in engineering education. He is particularly interested in the use of comprehension strategy instruction in linguistically and culturally diverse classrooms; funds of knowledge; physical and digital manipulatives and their application in engineering courses; engineering identity; cultures of engineering; retention, recruitment, and outreach for underrepresented minorities in STEM; and engineering discursive practices.

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Maja Husar Holmes West Virginia University

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Maja Husar Holmes is an Associate Professor in the Department of Public Administration at West Virginia University. Her research examines how public managers engage with citizens, other governmental organizations, non-governmental organizations and private sector partners to implement public value in a multi-sector environment. She has studied the implementation of public participation practices and public leadership within and across sectors, and management in a multi-sector environment. Her research has been published in Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, International Journal of Public Administration, and Energy Policy.

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Rachel R. Stoiko West Virginia University

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Dr. Rachel Stoiko is a postdoctoral fellow at West Virginia University. She is interested in the intersections of gender, work, and family. Specifically, she works on projects related to career decision-making and development, institutional diversity and inclusivity, and student success in STEM.

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Departmental climate is a critical variable for the success of women and other underrepresented engineers. Recruitment, retention, and promotion strategies have generally focused on individuals, instead of group-level processes. We designed a process called Dialogues to emphasize inclusive and participatory departmental interactions by intentionally structuring iterative conversations and activities. Our approach builds on the strengths of engineering culture, such as teamwork and problem solving, to transform group dynamics and mobilize departments toward gender equity.

The Dialogues process used trained faculty facilitators to guide academic departments through eight hours of strategic planning over multiple sessions. We completed this process with 16 academic departments, including engineering, science/math, and social-behavioral sciences. Based on pre- and post-Dialogues surveys, the engineering faculty experienced more consistent positive shifts in perceptions of their department’s climate. These shifts in perception included increased belief in their ability to work together toward gender equity, decreased conflict, and decreased dependence on their department leadership to solve problems. By engaging engineering faculty members to define their departments’ visions, goals, and strategic plans, the structure of Dialogues promoted more inclusive departmental dynamics.

After each session, faculty provided responses to two questions: “What worked about the session?” and “What could be done to make things work better?” We used these responses to explore why Dialogues was particularly successful for engineering departments. Responses reflected the following aspects of group dynamics (DICCe), indicating how the Dialogues design integrated with departmental and disciplinary contexts to produce the above effects: • Dependence (D): How we rely on others to shape our future • Interdependence (I): How we engage with each other • Conflict (C): How we deal with disagreement or move toward agreement • Collective Efficacy (Ce): How confident we feel that we can achieve our goals

We used a template analysis approach (King, 2004) to produce a list of codes representing key reoccurring themes related to DICCe constructs. We used an iterative coding process (Gioia et al., 2012) to identify first-order and second-order themes within the above categories. All responses were coded by two researchers who compared reliability and achieved consensus through discussion in the case of disagreement. The faculty responses indicated that engineering faculty appreciated the chance to generate ideas and brainstorm. Although at times they found the process confusing, it allowed them to prioritize ideas, to hear and listen to colleagues, and to engage in (open and honest) discussions. Distinct from other groups, engineers wished to engage with upper level administrators as participants in the process. We believe that Dialogues was successful with engineering faculty because the process mirrored the engineering design process (Dym et al., 2005) and was similar to providing solutions to “ill-structured problems” (Jonassen, 2014; Simon, 1977). These “challenge-based” environments motivate people to solve problems, because they are embedded in familiar and meaningful activities. Dialogues was more successful in engineering contexts, indicating that designing change processes that reflect the approach of “ill-structured problems” has enormous potential to improve gender equity in engineering.

Jackson, J. K., & Mejia, J. A., & Holmes, M. H., & Stoiko, R. R. (2016, June), Dialogues Toward Gender Equity: Engaging Engineering Faculty to Promote an Inclusive Department Climate Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26835

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