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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2016014785
pages 23-47

INCREASING THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN FACULTY IN STEM DEPARTMENTS: WHAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE?

Abigail J. Stewart
Psychology and Women's Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Janet E. Malley
ADVANCE Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
Keith A. Herzog
ADVANCE Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

ABSTRACT

Our focus in this paper is on the process of increasing the representation of women in STEM as it occurred in academic departments within a research university explicitly committed to diversifying the faculty in science and engineering fields. We used thematic analysis of interviews with 59 senior faculty drawn from 20 departments to identify forces that enabled or constrained demographic change over 13 years. The accounts by faculty from departments that most increased the representation of women included references to four enabling forces (open recognition of a serious problem coupled with shame about past circumstances; strong leadership on diversity from one or more department chairs; change-enabling features of the departmental and disciplinary context; and proactivity in pursuing diversity). The accounts by faculty from departments that did not increase diversity at all included reference to three constraining forces (viewing other priorities as more important than diversity; external factors that constrain or limit the possibility of change; and unfavorable features of the departmental context). Departments that increased faculty diversity somewhat expressed some enabling and some constraining forces, and omitted some. We discuss the implications of these findings for successful departmental change, particularly in the context of larger institutional change efforts.