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Unclogging the pipeline: advancement to full professor in academic STEM

Helga Van Miegroet (Department of Wildland Resources, S.J. and Jessie E. Quinney College of Natural Resources, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Christy Glass (Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Ronda Roberts Callister (Department of Management, Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)
Kimberly Sullivan (Department of Biology, College of Science, Utah State University, Logan, Utah, USA)

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

ISSN: 2040-7149

Article publication date: 10 January 2019

Issue publication date: 26 February 2019




Women remain underrepresented in academic STEM, especially at the highest ranks. While much attention has focused on early-career attrition, mid-career advancement is still largely understudied and undocumented. The purpose of this paper is to analyze gender differences in advancement to full professor within academic STEM at a mid-size public doctoral university in the western USA, before and after the National Science Foundation (NSF)-ADVANCE Program (2003–2008).


Using faculty demographics and promotion data between 2008 and 2014, combined with faculty responses to two waves of a climate survey, the magnitude and longevity of the impact of ADVANCE on mid-career faculty advancement across gender is evaluated.


This study documents increased representation of women in all ranks within the STEM colleges, including that of full professor due to ADVANCE efforts. It also demonstrates the role of greater gender awareness and formalization of procedures in reducing the variability in the time as associate professor until promotion to full professor for all faculty members, while also shrinking gender disparities in career attainment. As a result of the codification of the post-tenure review timeline toward promotion, more recently hired faculty are promoted more swiftly and consistently, irrespective of gender. Post-ADVANCE, both male and female faculty members express a greater understanding of and confidence in the promotion process and no longer see it as either a hurdle or source of gender inequality in upward career mobility.

Research limitations/implications

While data were collected at a single university, demographics and career experiences by women mirror those at other research universities. This study shows that within a given institution-specific governance structure, long-lasting effects on faculty career trajectories can be achieved, by focusing efforts on creating greater transparency in expectations and necessary steps toward promotion, by reducing barriers to information flown, by standardizing and codifying the promotion process, and by actively engaging administrators as collaborators and change agents in the transformation process.


This study addresses mid-career dynamics and potential mechanisms that explain gender gaps in the promotion to full professor, a largely understudied aspect of gender disparities in career attainment within STEM. It shows how institutional policy changes, intended to alleviate gender disparities, can benefit the career trajectories of all faculty members. Specifically, this study highlights the crucial role of codifying procedures and responsibilities in neutralizing subjectivity and inconsistencies in promotion outcomes due to varying departmental climates.



The initial data collection was funded through the NSF-ADVANCE program (NSF No. SBE-0244922). Funding for the 2016 faculty survey was provided by the USU Center for Women and Gender, the College of Science and the Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology at Utah State University. The authors give many thanks to Paul Jacobs and Ace Beorchia for their assistance with the administration and analysis of the survey.


Van Miegroet, H., Glass, C., Callister, R.R. and Sullivan, K. (2019), "Unclogging the pipeline: advancement to full professor in academic STEM", Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Vol. 38 No. 2, pp. 246-264.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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