In September 2018, The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded a $1 million ADVANCE Adaptation grant to a team of Michigan Tech faculty: Principle Investigator (PI) Adrienne Minerick (SoT) and Co-PIs Sonia Goltz (SBE), Audrey Mayer (SFRES), Patty Sotirin (HU), and Andrew Storer (SFRES). Thegrant focus was on adapting programs from other ADVANCE institutions to fit the Michigan Tech culture in order to promote faculty success, promotion, and retention. Michigan Tech has been a participant in the NSF ADVANCE vision of STEM equity and campus-wide faculty advancement since 2006.
When we hire, we invest resources at multiple levels into our newly hired faculty. Those resources include human, community, departmental, college, and university-level investments in their future. When these faculty choose to leave Michigan Tech, it costs us all. It is a highly competitive world and thus there are constant pressures to recruit our best and brightest. We must dedicate efforts to provide the best climate and the best ongoing support to illustrate how important each member of the Michigan Tech family is to our mission to create a sustainable and just world through research, scholarship, education, and outreach.
A renewed focus on retention has occurred via our ADVANCE-related efforts. The National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE program focused on systemic change for gender equity in STEM academic careers.
Background Data from Michigan Tech
Michigan Tech’s National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE PAID award (2008-2012) was focused on hiring a more diverse faculty. Those efforts were successful as the percentage of STEM women faculty rose from 2006 to 2015 from 17% to 23%. However, most of this increase was at the assistant professor level, with only 2% increases at both the associate professor and full professor ranks, despite nearly identical men/women tenure rates.
Like many academic institutions, Michigan Tech must put effort into increasing diversity among faculty and students, particularly in STEM disciplines. Nationwide, the numbers of women earning degrees in the STEM fields have increased dramatically, yet women are still underrepresented at all ranks of the academic hierarchy, particularly as professors. In 2013, women comprised 22.4% of the faculty in science, engineering and health fields at research institutions and 24.3% at all institutions. Similarly, 24% of Michigan Tech STEM faculty in 2014 were women. In the College of Engineering (COE) alone in 2015, 19% were women; 1% of STEM faculty were women.
To begin to understand this and in preparation for the ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) proposal submitted in January 2016 (and declined in Sept. 2016), faculty data was compiled to examine gender differences in the retention of tenure-tenure track faculty who were hired since 1994 (Institutional Data Task Force Report, 2015). All faculty were looked at as a single group and were broken up into broad disciplinary areas: engineering and technology, the sciences, and the arts. Smaller groups were not practical due to statistics.
There are only two measures that had statistically significant gender differences. One was the percent of all tenured faculty (both retained and departed) who were tenured early. The gender differences in the sciences was statistically significant where 31% of the men and 12% of the womens were tenured early. More womens than men were tenured early in engineering and technology (26% versus 16%) and the arts (11% versus 7%) but the differences were not significant. Overall as an institution 19% of the mens were tenured early and 15% of the womens. Again, this difference was not statistically significant.
The second measure with a statistically significant difference was the percent of tenured faculty who received early tenure but who left Michigan Tech. Sixty percent of the women who received early tenure in engineering and technology left while 18% of the men left. More men than women left after receiving early tenure in the sciences (29% versus 25%) and in the arts (29% versus 20%). As an institution, more women (35%) than men (22%) left after receiving early tenure, which was not statistically significant.
Some of the other interesting findings included that a higher percentage of women tenured and tenure-track faculty have left the institution than men, with the difference being largest in the sciences (44% versus 35%).
Retention Study of STEM Women Who Departed Tech
To better understand the unique factors that affect the retention of women, Michigan Tech engaged the University of Washington Center for Workforce Development (UW CWD) to conduct a small qualitative study of the reasons women faculty left Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech and UW CWD iterated on a series of interview questions to probe the overarching research question: For women faculty members in STEM fields, what factors are related to the decision to leave Michigan Tech? All questions and procedures were Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved by both Michigan Tech and UW. One Michigan Tech individual compiled a list of relatively recent, yet former women faculty members representing all fields and all ranks using HR records. These former faculty members were then contacted and invited to participate. UW CWD conducted ~30-minute phone interviews with 8 former women faculty members split between the sciences and forestry, engineering and technology. Due to the small numbers of participants, confidentiality was carefully protected by UW CWD and via additional edits of the report by Michigan Tech. Due to this, it was not possible to report results by field, nor by rank. All participants who were interviewed were given the opportunity to read the report and approve it.
The goals of this pilot study were to help Michigan Tech create or modify programs, policies, procedures, or other offerings designed to improve experiences for women faculty and improve retention. The results also provide baseline information for a larger research study conducted as part of ADVANCE and AMP-UP processes. The UW CWD final report summarizes 8 factors that influenced women’s decisions to leave Michigan Tech. The executive summary briefly discusses each factor, contextualizes it within the larger body of literature on the subject and then identifies recommended action items.
2017 ADVANCE IT Pre-proposal [not funded]
The Michigan Tech Principal Investigator team (Adrienne Minerick, lead PI; Jackie Huntoon, Sonia Goltz, and Patty Sotirin) submitted a pre-proposal for consideration in the 2017 NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation cycle: “Continuous Improvement AMP-UP Processes to Transform Leadership and Climate in STEM.” The ADVANCE Matrix Process for University Programs (AMP-UP) was posed as an innovative approach to engage and continuously improve university climate while simultaneously serving as a venue that enables leadership growth opportunities for women, traditionally underrepresented individuals, and equity for all faculty throughout their career trajectories.
The pre-proposal was submitted April 19, 2017. The ADVANCE program was not invited for full proposal in June 2017.
2016 NSF ADVANCE IT proposal [not funded]
A proposal for a National Science Foundation (NSF) ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) grant, “Continuous Improvement AMP-UP Processes to Transform Climate in STEM,” was submitted in January 2016. The proposal was not funded but preparatory activities included the development of what became the Advance Matrix Process for University Programs (AMP-UP).
AMP-UP was a campus transforming process that was developed in accord with the call for proposals for an NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) grant. According to the NSF ADVANCE website, an Institutional Transformation (IT) grant “is meant to produce large-scale comprehensive change and serve as a locus for research on gender equity and institutional transformation for academic STEM.” The Michigan Tech IT proposal detailed a research process affecting data-driven transformational climate change toward equity and inclusiveness in faculty career development.
The proposal was multi-faceted and included AMP-UP initiatives to address the faculty career process through Lean assessment teams, the development of a psychosocial measure of bias literacy, and coordination and maintenance of faculty metrics, support, and resources. The goal was to ensure faculty success and retention through data-driven programs tailored to departmental and university needs. The effects of these efforts were intended to benefit faculty more generally by impacting the campus climate, quality of worklife, and attention to partner/familial responsibilities.The lead Principal Investigator (PI) was Adrienne Minnerick; Co-PIs included Sonia Goltz, Jacquelyn Huntoon, Anita Quinn, and Patricia Sotirin.
The proposal had broad support and participation. Along with 70+ faculty, staff, and administrators involved in preparatory activities (see 2014-2015 Preparatory Lean Activities), the proposal included letters of commitment from STEM Chairs and Deans as well as from University executives.