June 22, 2008
June 22, 2008
June 25, 2008
Women in Engineering
13.713.1 - 13.713.12
Improving Campus Climate for Faculty from Underrepresented Groups
A continuing challenge in engineering in higher education is that of professional equity regarding opportunity for advancement and job satisfaction due to differences in gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, ability and other factors. Because there are more women and persons of color visible within engineering faculties and administrations than ever before, casual observers might conclude that significant progress has been made in creating an equitable climate in academia. A preponderance of recent studies, however, demonstrate that while women and individuals from other underrepresented groups have gained access to some faculty and administrative positions, this has not necessarily translated into consistent patterns of success through all levels of academic hierarchies and leadership positions. For example, some universities do a good job of recruiting and hiring women faculty and faculty of color, yet beyond this, both groups are consistently underrepresented at certain levels of faculty administration, such as department chair, dean, and endowed chairs.1-7
In 2005, Boise State University, a mid-sized, metropolitan university, administered a Campus Climate Survey to gain an understanding of how these national trends presented themselves on a particular campus, with the long-term goal of transforming campus climate and culture to enhance opportunities for underrepresented groups. In general, between two-thirds and three- quarters of the faculty who responded to the survey reported that they have been treated fairly and equitably while at the university. The following analysis sheds light on the approximately one-quarter to one-third of faculty members who did not feel that they had been equitably treated while also focusing on responses from the science and engineering faculty in particular. Additionally, this paper explores ways in which engineering and science departments and universities can use climate data to inform strategic plans of action.
Campus Climate Survey
Equity in academia involves a variety of factors: in addition to hiring and promotion rates, equity includes more subtle issues such as access to leadership opportunities and key committee assignments, allocation of resources, the public valuation of research agendas, recognition and awards, policies and procedures that take into account the needs of the majority as well as underrepresented groups, and, perhaps most importantly, university, college and departmental culture that promotes perceptions of fair and equal treatment.8 The current institutional culture at most colleges and universities values a traditional type of leadership that often does not recognize the distinctive talents and achievements of women, ethnic and racial minorities, those with disabilities and those of a variety of sexual orientations. Faculty drawn from these underrepresented groups are often advised how to “work the system” already in place.9 Such faculty struggle to reconcile their gender identities, family priorities, cultural norms, and personal values with a conflicting university culture and institutional imperatives that make little real accommodation for diverse needs. In many cases, job dissatisfaction results, leading to low retention rates for faculty from underrepresented groups.10-13 Ironically, these are often the faculty members that universities are working hardest to recruit and retain.
McClain, L., & Schrader, C., & Callahan, J. (2008, June), Improving Campus Climate For Faculty From Underrepresented Groups Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4185
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