NSF ADVANCE has been instrumental in supporting institutional practices leading to the increased representation of women in STEM. However, research suggests institutional culture and practices have not evolved to create a collaborative and supportive work environment where women scientists, mathematicians, and engineers can thrive, particularly those in the intersectionalities of women of color and women with caregiving responsibilities. To address this issue, a midwestern partnership of four research-intensive institutions, three of which have received previous ADVANCE funding, has been created. Programs developed through ADVANCE funding at each partner university will be integrated into a coordinated and portable package, the Integrated Equity Support (IES) system, focusing on cross-institutional participation aimed at creating tangible support networks and positive climates for women and underrepresented STEM faculty. This package includes cross-institutional mentoring communities, male advocates and allies, and department chair professional development as well as an integrated caucus. In the first year, three of the partner universities will adjust existing programs for IES cross-institutional collaborations; in the second and third years they will implement the IES as a pilot program at Western Michigan University; in the third year, the partner institutions will disseminate the program at the annual AAAS meeting and by engaging with other midwestern institutions and four national organizations (Association for Women in Science (AWIS), Association for Women Geoscientists (AWG), Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN), and National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity.
The proposed approach focuses on two key intersectionalities: a) gender and ethnicity, and b) gender and family responsibilities. The merit of the cross-institutional IES lies in its goal of elevating women’s professional success within their departments, institutions, and professional networks. The IES programs, enhanced through cross-institutional collaborations, will empower and counter the isolation of women who have family responsibilities and/or are underrepresented, with particular attention to issues specific to the Midwest. The programs will also empower chairs, colleagues, and mentors to recognize the issues encumbering the advancement of these women and advocate for systemic changes to redress those obstacles. Thus, we will contribute to the scholarly and practical gender equity change literature on the different types of programming that can remove career barriers through awareness, support and advocacy.
The main long-term outcome of this project is increased retention and career advancement at midwestern universities of underrepresented women and women with family responsibilities in STEM departments, pursued through a Caucus of midwestern research institutions where best practices and IES adaptations can be shared. A major contributor to this long-term outcome, and a long-term outcome in itself, is the increased and sustained responsiveness and change advocacy among those participating in the IES programs due to their greater awareness of impediments faced by these women. Assessment of the outcomes of this project will describe the ways in which this institutional synergy reduces isolation for women in these intersectionalities, causes women to be more optimistic about their futures in academia, and transforms faculty cultures and practices to encourage awareness, advocacy, and systemic change. An exportable IES package, informed by assessment, will be disseminated through partnerships with AWIS, AWG, WEPAN, and the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity as well as through presentations at regional conferences and associations.