The recruitment and advancement of women faculty within the STEM fields still proves to be a challenge at universities across the country. While most of the obvious institutional barriers to the advancement of women in academia have been eliminated, several factors, including an increased share of family obligations and fewer opportunities for mentorship and networking contribute to women not pursuing the tenure track or senior research and administrative positions in greater numbers.
In 2003, UMBC ADVANCE was awarded a $3.2 million Institutional Transformation grant from the National Science Foundation. Since then, the primary mission of UMBC’s ADVANCE Program has been to develop and implement policies which promote the recruitment and advancement of women faculty in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
UMBC ADVANCE has successfully implemented a series of initiatives designed to encourage the advancement of current female faculty members, increase the numbers of women hired as faculty within the STEM departments, and educate women post-docs and graduate students on how to successfully navigate the faculty career pathway. While the ADVANCE program primarily focuses on the needs of women faculty in the STEM fields, its benefits have been felt university-wide.
The small numbers of women faculty in STEM is a long-standing national problem. A 2005 study shows that women faculty in the top 50 research universities are underrepresented at all ranks, especially as full professors. The study also reveals that underrepresented minority women “ are almost non-existent in science and engineering departments at research universities” and are less likely than Caucasian women, or men, of any race, to be awarded tenure or reach full professor status” (Nelson & Rogers, 2005). The UMBC ADVANCE Program uses a comprehensive approach to meet the challenge of overcoming specific institutional and cultural barriers that limit the participation of women faculty in science and engineering. Our framework includes:
Tenured and Tenure Track Women in STEM at UMBC
Since the inception of the ADVANCE Program at UMBC, the number of female tenure-track faculty in STEM has increased 40% from fall 2003 (N=30) to fall 2011 (N=42) compared to a 5% increase in male tenure track faculty (fall 2003 N=133, fall 2012 N=140). Additionally, with the support offered through ADVANCE, the number of STEM women at the assistant, associate, and full professor ranks have increased substantially -- assistant professors by 23% (fall 2003 N=13, fall 2012 N=16); associate professors by 25% (fall 2003 N=12, fall 2021 N=15 ); full professors by 120% (fall 2003 N=5, fall 2012 N=11). As of 2012, 38% of all UMBC STEM assistant professors are women.
Recruiting and Hiring Women STEM Faculty at UMBC
Since 1999, the UMBC Faculty Diversity Recruitment Initiative promoted racial and ethnic diversity in faculty hiring. The Initiative, which was implemented under the auspices of the Office of the Provost, included an annual workshop for department chairs and search committees. The workshop emphasized techniques for diversifying the candidate pool, provided guidance and assistance in development of inclusive recruitment strategies, and required submission of a Department Diversity Recruitment Plan for each authorized faculty search. When the ADVANCE Program was established at UMBC in 2003, gender diversity in STEM departments became an explicitly identified goal of the Initiative. Informal observation suggested that since 1999, the UMBC Faculty Diversity Recruitment Initiative had increased diversity among the candidates brought to campus for interviews, even if the resulting hire might be Caucasian and/or male.
In order to obtain more objective data about the impact of ADVANCE in promoting gender, ethnic, and racial diversity in faculty recruitment, the ADVANCE internal evaluation team reviewed personnel requisitions for all full-time faculty hires for the period 1999-2008. The team analyzed the results of tenured and tenure-track appointments in the ten STEM departments included in UMBC’s ADVANCE program with regard to gender diversity in the candidate interview pool.
Family Friendly Policies at UMBC
All female and male candidates meet with the Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs, who discusses support for balancing work and family issues, including information about the UMBC Family Support Policy and flexible tenure timelines for family and medical leave which was revised, implemented, and widely promoted under the ADVANCE Program. Unlike the national data where 42% (women) and 50% (men) of the nation’s STEM faculty have children, 73% of UMBC female faculty and 74% of UMBC male faculty have children. New hires identified the family support policy as a factor in their decision to come to UMBC and, whereas no women faculty took family leave for childbirth in the 5 years prior to the ADVANCE grant, nearly 25% of all female STEM faculty have used family leave under the revised policy.
In addition, female candidates in STEM meet with representatives of the ADVANCE Program to make them aware of the resources and support available at UMBC, and the campus leadership (including the President, in his role as ADVANCE PI) is available to candidates to discuss these issues. Finally, all female candidates for STEM faculty positions meet with faculty from the UMBC WISE group (our community-based network of Women in Science and Engineering).
UMBC Faculty Horizons Program: A Workshop for Aspiring Faculty in STEM
Demonstrating a clear and successful path from recruitment to successful promotion and tenure is central to the work of our ADVANCE Program. The Faculty Horizons Program was created with support from ADVANCE to help participants become successful faculty members in STEM, with particular attention focused on attracting women from underrepresented groups. This intensive two-and-a-half workshop focuses on mentoring across critical junctures in STEM faculty careers. The program targets new hires, post-doctoral fellows, and senior-level graduate students – particularly women and minorities interested faculty careers in STEM. The workshop has been held annually since 2003 and has attracted 322 participants, including 301 women. 45% of participants were from underrepresented minority groups.