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Strategies to Support (Female) STEM Faculty as Voiced by Female STEM Faculty at a Major Research University

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Institutional Transformations

Tagged Division

Women in Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1088.1 - 23.1088.38



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Paper Authors


Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue Ph.D. Towson University

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Pamela S. Lottero-Perdue, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Science Education in the Department of Physics, Astronomy & Geosciences at Towson University. She has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, worked briefly as a process engineer, has taught high school physics and pre-engineering, and has taught engineering and science to children in multiple informal settings. She prepares future early childhood, elementary and middle school teachers to teach science and engineering, and has provided numerous professional development experiences in science and engineering for practicing teachers in Northeastern Maryland. She is also a partner and collaborator with the Engineering is Elementary project. Dr. Lottero-Perdue has investigated a range of topics within elementary engineering education, and has also studied faculty-to-faculty mentoring.

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Strategies to Support (Female) STEM Faculty as Voiced by Female STEM Faculty at a Major Research UniversityThis paper shares the results of completed qualitative research on the experiences andperspectives of 19 female STEM faculty at East Coast University (ECU), a major researchuniversity. Emphasized in the paper is the wide range of strategies that participants suggest tobetter support female STEM faculty.The participants in this study represent 45% of the female faculty in STEM departments (i.e.,science, computer science, engineering, and mathematics departments) at ECU. They aredistributed relatively evenly across ranks and science/engineering colleges. Two participants areno longer at ECU.ECU has an institutional objective to support and retain female STEM faculty. Although theresearch literature has addressed challenges of and support systems for female (STEM) faculty(Bailey et al., 2011; Valain, 1999), this study aimed to document the particular voices of femaleSTEM faculty at ECU, which had not yet been formally captured. An additional impetus for thisresearch was that, especially in recent years, a significant number of female STEM faculty atassociate and full ranks have left ECU. This is a troubling and somewhat unusual phenomenon(Xu, 2008; Zurn-Birkhimer et al., 2011).Research Questions1. What strategies do participants suggest to better support female STEM faculty?2. How are these strategies informed by participants’ experiences and perspectives?MethodologyFemale STEM faculty who were or had been employed at ECU within the last five years wereasked to participate in the study. Ultimately, the 19 participants were interviewed via: email (1participant); and audio-recorded face-to-face (13) and phone interviews (5) lasting, on average, 1hour 20 minutes each. Participants were assured that they would not be easily identified in studyreports, and participant and university names were pseudonymed.Interviews were transcribed and analyzed. Analysis involved an iterative search for themeswithin a representative sample of interviews (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). In all, 5 major codes andover 75 sub-codes were identified to describe the data. HyperResearch™ software was then usedto apply these codes and sub-codes to the entire set of interviews.FindingsParticipants offered a range of strategies to support female STEM faculty, e.g.: clarifyingpolicies like stop-the-clock; emphasizing data-driven decision-making and providing therequisite time to make such decisions; re-evaluating what counts as highly-valued service;changing cultures of subtle negativity; continuing effective mentoring and workshop programs;encouraging informal networking among female STEM faculty (e.g., walks and lunches, notboardroom meetings); improving university childcare services for faculty; hiring support staff forfaculty after the birth or adoption of a child; and doing nothing. In the full paper, these and otherstrategies, as well as reasons for those strategies based upon participants’ experiences andperspectives, will be elucidated and supported by quotes from the interviews.ImpactGiven the relatively high percentage of female STEM faculty who participated in this study,leaders at ECU may feel confident in employing some of the participants’ suggested strategies.The study – while reflective of the broader research literature on issues related to female STEMfaculty – also contributes unique insights to add to the scholarly conversation.ReferencesBailey, M.B., Marchetti, C.E., DeBartolo, E.A., Mozrall, J.R., Williams, G.A., Mason, S.P., Valentine, M.S., Baum, S., LaLonde, S. (2011). Establishing the foundation for future organizational reform and transformation at a large private university to expand the representation of women faculty. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada.Glaser, B., & Strauss, A. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory. Hawthorne, NY: Aldine.Valian. V. (1999). Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Xu, Y.J. (2008). Gender disparity in STEM disciplines: A study of faculty attrition and turnover intentions. Research in Higher Education, 49, 607-624.Zurn-Birkhimer, S., Geier, S.R., & Sahley, C. (2011). ADVANCE-Purdue: Retention, success and leadership for senior female STEM faculty. Paper presented at the American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Lottero-Perdue, P. S. (2013, June), Strategies to Support (Female) STEM Faculty as Voiced by Female STEM Faculty at a Major Research University Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22473

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