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Article
Publication date: 10 January 2019

Helga Van Miegroet, Christy Glass, Ronda Roberts Callister and Kimberly Sullivan

Women remain underrepresented in academic STEM, especially at the highest ranks. While much attention has focused on early-career attrition, mid-career advancement is…

Abstract

Purpose

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).

Design/methodology/approach

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.

Findings

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.

Originality/value

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.

Details

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, vol. 38 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2040-7149

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