American Society of Engineering Education
Christine S. Grant25
Underrepresented Minority (URM) women faculty have emerged as successful leaders in engineering academia at a myriad of universities across the United States. Increased exposure of this important group raises the conversation in academia to a new level and creates partnerships based on scholarship with diversity as an added benefit. There are, however, still unique challenges and opportunities. The representation of URM women faculty at the Top 50 institutions (based on research expenditures) is not reflective of demographics due to a combination of selection/self selection processes and hidden biases in academia (Nelson, 2007). As they progress in their faculty careers, Underrepresented Minority Women (URM) women are very familiar with unique issues at the intersection of race and gender (DeCuir-Gunby, Long-Mitchell, & Grant, 2009). This familiarity results from their own personal experiences in the Academy and provides a myriad set of responses ranging from leaving the professoriate to a single-minded pursuit of success no matter what obstacles are presented (National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, 2007; National Research Council, 2006). One must recognize that there is a common denominator between the URM women engineering faculty and all other engineering faculty; to train students, conduct transforming research, create products and services to impact society and to be successful (and recognized) for their progress.
The changing demographics of the U.S. mandate that we engage a diverse pool of talent in STEM; this includes the pipeline of students into engineering and the current leaders (e.g., current engineers and engineering academics) in the field. In the academy, there are myriad types of institutions that have varying levels of URM women at the undergraduate, graduate and faculty levels. In the past 5 years, there have been initiatives to empower URM women engineering faculty that have arisen from support from the NSF ADVANCE program. The comments in this testimonial are based on: (i) a three-year NSF ADVANCE Leadership Award entitled initiative to bring together a group of women engineering faculty that were diverse in their race, ethnicity, discipline and institution type to conduct targeted peer mentoring, and (ii) an NSF ADVANCE PAID Award to NCSU to Develop Diverse Departments across disciplines (see Notes for details). During a summit for URM women engineering faculty, the participants were asked about their perspectives on why women faculty of color are not working at 'top 50 institutions.’ This information was captured through various sources including a demographics survey and discipline-specific discussions. Several themes emerged when examining these data
25 Christine S. Grant, Ph.D., Associate Dean of Faculty Development and Special Initiatives, College of Engineering, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, North Carolina State University; and Member, American Society of Engineering Education. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 919-515-7950; Box 7905, 911 Partners Way, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7905
sources. The women of color engineering faculty asserted the following reasons as to why women faculty of color are not at 'top 50 institutions' (as defined by the Nelson study):
1. Job searches sometimes want to check the box saying that they included women of color but based on the climate may not intend to actually hire the demographic
2. Women of color prefer to go where we are supported
3. Women of color often choose otherwise due to 'perception' of less pressure at non-top 50
4. Life goals of women of color often includes more than just the discipline of specific research community and education
5. The current faculty don't know what to do with women of color, how to treat us; how to mentor; how to extend normal collegiality; how to bring us into the 'male club'
6. Inadequate or incomplete mentoring experiences (women of color have to 'see themselves' there to pursue a career there)
7. Location (do we want to be there?; culture)
8. Reputation of institution with regards to women of color
We recognize that the “Nifty Top Fifty” based on research expenditures is just one place where women of color are in STEM academia; there is a dearth of women of color at all ranks and all institution types in the professoriate. We also suspect that the above comments may also represent the perspectives of women of color in other STEM fields. The next section presents our perspectives on several approaches that can be taken to empower, engage, and exchange with this group of engineering faculty to address the important questions in the realm of Maximizing American Talent by Advancing Women of Color in Academia.
Self empowerment is a powerful concept that when presented in the right context can be a very forward moving vehicle for women of color. This concept has actively taken the form of conferences, summits and workshops to enable women faculty to address the unique aspects at the intersection of race and gender, with the goal of upward movement in the academy. There have also been initiatives that speak to the critically important role of mentoring of faculty at all stages in their careers. Mentoring is not an issue unique to women of color; there has been increased dialog on the dynamics of “faculty mentoring faculty” as a way to create an academic environment that utilizes and celebrates talent in research, teaching and engagement. Targeted workshops, summits and events for women of color in the academy are one aspect of the recruitment, retention and promotion process. However, it is critically important to fully connect this same group of women into existing networks in the professional academic network. This includes: membership on committees (e.g., National Research Council), leadership in national professional organizations, “serious consideration” for national awards and leadership roles and respectful collaborations/partnerships in the educational and research arenas.
ENGAGEMENT and EXCHANGE:
Full and serious engagement is a critical next step to address the full exchange of important perspectives and talent of women of color in the Engineering Academy. As was stated in our opening remarks, at the core of women of color in the academy is the desire to be excellent in scholarship with a commitment to educating students, serving the profession, and connecting/collaborating with colleagues at the local and global level. This is a point that needs to be recognized in any discussion of this group who are located at the interesting intersection of
race and gender. Often, however, due to the low numbers in STEM, women of color in the Academy are often studied as data points (or missing data points) and treated as such in national discussions of the demographics of the field. Sometimes this group is not easily identifiable at large national and international conferences in a particular arena…but they do exist. Women have reported being in meetings addressing the subject of diversifying the professoriate that range from departmental faculty meetings to large conferences on women in STEM and not being asked to engage in the dialog. This is an interesting phenomenon, especially since they are already dashes (due to the small amount of data) on graphs, charts and tables. In an attempt to not put her on the spot and ask one woman of color to represent (via comments on the subject) her entire race/gender in all STEM fields, the pendulum often swings the other way, and she can become invisible in a room in which she is the topic of discussion. Or even worse, she can be the subject of a research experiment that has certain preconceived notions on this group and asks questions that support the outcome of the research. This is exacerbated when the leaders of the study are not fully engaged with or understanding of the women they are “studying.”
The full engagement of women of color STEM faculty requires an enlightened set of leaders that come from a range of positions in the academy (e.g., department, college, upper administration) and national organizations (e.g., funding agencies, National Academies, and professional organizations). There needs to be a robust and real dialog between faculty of color who are already leaders in the faculty and administrative ranks. This group understands the unique challenges of leading at the university level, while balancing a number of other priorities in the fiscal, academic, and “political” arena. It is the further engagement of women of color leaders (both past and present) who have actively served colleges and universities in capacities similar to current decision-makers who will enable us to collectively get to the heart of the matter. These initiatives should include, but are not limited to:
• A mini-summit of women of color at core meetings of the National Academies, with the opportunity to interact in a focused/targeted manner with the key constituencies in the Academies. These targeted women of color faculty groups “in the trenches” should include current and former: dept. heads, and all ranks (e.g., assistant, associate, vice, etc.) of deans, provosts and chancellors.
• An active working group within a national organization focused on faculty success; this group would work towards synergistic goals that support women of color faculty and faculty overall.
• A “requirement” that NSF ADVANCE programs and other federally funded initiatives connect with women of color faculty/leader/administrators in an honest, meaningful dialog using mechanisms that are respectful of the time and discretion of this group of women.
• Sustained financial support of grassroots career development/mentoring/community building programs “in the trenches” that have successfully worked with women of color faculty. Full engagement of groups of “women of color working with women of color” will insure that their initiatives are not just perceived as short-term fixes to a long-term academy development opportunity.
Women of color faculty are unique in their demographic aspects and should be celebrated and promoted. But the element of surprise at their successes should not override the discussion as they continue to move up the ladder in the pursuit of the same success as their colleagues. That
expectation will become accepted as the norm as honest engagement and exchange becomes the honest mechanism of empowerment for women of color faculty in the academy.
1. ASEE Mission: The American Society for Engineering Education is committed to furthering education in engineering and engineering technology. This mission is accomplished by promoting excellence in instruction, research, public service, and practice; exercising worldwide leadership; fostering the technological education of society; and providing quality products and services to members. The Society seeks to encourage local, national, and international communication and collaboration; influence corporate and government policies and involvement; promote professional interaction and lifelong learning; utilize effectively the Society's human and other resources; recognize outstanding contributions of individuals and organizations; encourage youth to pursue studies and careers in engineering and engineering technology; and influence the recruitment and retention of young faculty and underrepresented groups. (Source: www.asee.org/about-us/the-organization/our-mission)
2. Diversity Excerpt from ASEE Annual Report (October 2010 – September 2011)
ASEE created a Diversity Committee in fiscal 2011 which has a strategic plan to position the Society in partnership with appropriate organizations to increase diversity in the profession. The committee encourages each member division to hold at least one activity per year that features inclusiveness and engages ASEE leaders and members 1) to articulate the importance to the profession of advancing diversity and 2) to promote individual and organizational opportunities and responsibilities in developing an engineering community that “looks like” America. In 2011-12, the committee is focusing its efforts on developing tools and processes to support ASEE members in promoting diversity. Specific activities include devising methods for reaching out to diverse groups and collaborating with diversity organizations, as well as developing tools for diversity education and training. The root causes of diversity will be used to educate ASEE members on the history of exclusion, enabling them to better understand why we must be proactive in addressing this issue. The overall goal is to help ASEE members, particularly elected officers, learn about and promote diversity.
3. An Aspect of the Data
The following table summarizes the updated data found in the aforementioned Nelson reports in 2005 and 2007:
Table E-14-1 Female URM faculty at “top 50” science and engineering departments. (FY 2002/FY 2007)
|Native American females||Hispanic females||Black females|
|Math ('07 includes statistics)||0/0||73/96||2/43|
Notes: The few “full” professors (in Table E-14-1) in each discipline are designated by superscript after the corresponding number.
Before we present the core aspects of the initiative, we will put the potential impact of a national effort into context by reviewing the statistics on URM Women Engineering Faculty. In doing so, we will refer to a recent (2002), well-cited report by Nelson on research faculties of the top 50 universities (based on NSF expenditures) with science and engineering departments. Underrepresented Minority Women Faculty are all but invisible: “In some disciplines, there is no representation of URM (Black, Hispanic, or Native American) women on the faculty at all. In the “top 50” computer science departments, there are no women in tenured or tenure-track positions. With the exception of one Black “full” professor in astronomy, there are no female Black or Native American “full” professors in the physical science or engineering disciplines surveyed. Similarly, in physics there are no Black female professors, and in eight of the nine physical science and engineering disciplines surveyed, Native American female professors are nonexistent.” (Nelson, 2005) “The data show URM women are less likely than either White women or men of any racial group to be “full” professors and to be awarded tenure. Other studies have also concluded that URM minority females are less likely to get tenure than White women or men of any racial group (Trower and Chait, 2002; Leggon, 2001).
4. NSF ADVANCE Awards referenced in document:
(i) ADVANCE LEADERSHIP AWARD: Peer Mentoring Summits for Women Engineering Faculty of Color; Christine S. Grant and Jessica Decuir-Gunby (Principal Investigators)
This award addresses the persistent underrepresentation of women of color (African-American, Hispanic, Native American) on engineering faculties in the US This proposal presents an initiative to bring together a group of women that are diverse in their race, ethnicity, discipline, and institution type to conduct targeted peer mentoring and set in motion an infrastructure for discipline-specific career enhancement networks. The primary activity (over a three-year period)
will be a series of professional development summits that are both discipline-specific and multidisciplinary. The broader impact of this effort will be seen in enhanced understanding of the factors contributing to the retention and advancement of women engineering faculty and in improved research and professional networks among a highly trained group of faculty who are often isolated in their professional settings in academic departments.
(ii) ADVANCE Partnerships for Adaption, Implementation, and Dissemination (PAID) Award: Developing Diverse Department (3-D) at NC State; Marcia Gumpertz (Principal Investigator)
“Developing Diverse Departments (3-D) at NC State” is designed to adopt/adapt a companion set of ADVANCE initiatives in order to address implicit biases and rarely articulated cultural stereotypes held within the university. Project goals are: (1) to increase the number of women and faculty of color in the professoriate, (2) to create a climate that promotes the success of all faculty, and (3) to eliminate factors that elevate women's and ethnic minorities' risk of leaving NCSU faculty positions.
DeCuir-Gunby, J. T., Long-Mitchell, L., & Grant, C. (2009). The emotionality of being women professors of color in engineering: A critical race theory and critical race feminism perspective. In P. A. Schutz & M. Zembylas (Eds), Advances in teacher emotion research: The impact on teachers’ lives. New York, NY: Springer Publishing.
Leggon, C. (2001). African American and Hispanic Women in Science and Engineering, Making Strides, 3 (3), 7.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, & Institute of Medicine. (2006). Biological, social, and organizational components of success for women in academic science and engineering: Report of a workshop. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine. (2007). Beyond bias and barriers: Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
National Research Council. (2006). To recruit and advance: Women students and faculty in science and engineering. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.
National Science Board (2004). Broadening participation in science and engineering faculty. Arlington, VA: National Science Foundation (NSB-0441). Retrieved from the World Wide Web: www.nsf.gov/pubs/2004/nsb0441/nsb0441.pdf
Nelson, D. (2007). A national analysis of minorities in science and engineering faculties at research universities. Retrieved December 8, 2008 from http://cheminfo.ou.edu/~djn/diversity/Faculty_Tables_FY07/07Report.pdf
Nelson, D. J., & Rogers, D. C. (2005). A national analysis of diversity in science and engineering faculties at research universities. Norman, OK. January, 2005. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://cheminfo.chem.ou.edu/~djn/diversity/briefings/Diversitypercent20Reportpercent20Final.pdf
Trower, C. A. , Chait, R. P. , “Faculty Diversity.” Harvard Magazine, (March-April 2002)