California State University, Fullerton

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Advancement of Female STEM Faculty

Grant Funds Effort to Improve Hiring, Retention and Promotion

Nov. 1, 2012

Cal State Fullerton will soon begin an exploration into the inclusion, status and opportunities that the campus provides to female faculty members in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics-related field.

The self-assessment will launch a campuswide effort designed to increase female STEM faculty recruitment, hiring, promotion and retention.

"We view this as a really positive thing," said Jennifer Faust, associate vice president for academic affairs and the lead on a two-year effort funded by the National Science Foundation. "It is very exciting to be able to focus on this effort.

"Every campus is struggling with the problem of increasing not only women in the STEM fields but underrepresented minorities in all fields," she explained. "We know too that campuses are competing for the same talent pool.

"Knowing that, we wanted to find out what we're currently doing and how we can improve our chances of attracting and retaining those candidates."

The effort, "Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers" or ADVANCE, has received $95,740 in first-year funding. It is expected to receive a total of $159,511. Working with Faust are Susamma Barua, associate dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science, and Dorota Huizinga, associate vice president, graduate programs and research.

"I'm excited about the opportunity to look at where we are, what is we can improve upon to get more female faculty to apply to the university, and what they need to stay," said Barua, who along with Huizinga is a professor of computer science although they now serve as administrators. "I got interested in this grant research because I know that our college has challenges. We currently have 45 full-time faculty, six female."

Huizinga agreed. "I have been interested in doing this type of project for a number of years," she said, noting that she has experienced some of the issues that she hopes the grant funding will help them address. "What I would ike to see are some long-term goals, changes in the climate to help female faculty in these fields. We need to develop proactive actions that reach out and bring more females in these disciplines and the same with retention.

"What kind of support are we offering, is there an implied bias, and how do we make it better for everyone?" she explained. "This grant may allow us to lay a foundation towards a permanent transformation."

To assess campus climate and culture with respect to hiring, promoting and retaining female STEM faculty 10 to 15 former STEM faculty members who left the university will be interviewed and the interviews analyzed to determine the underlying cultural, procedural and possible other issues precipitating their departure from the campus.

"We also want to interview three to five current university faculty, chairs or other administrators to identify perceived issues regarding recruitment, retention and promotion of female STEM faculty," said Huizinga. "And then survey current faculty in these fields to determine alignment or persistence of issues as identified through interview analysis.

Secondly, the trio will identify policies and practices that hinder the hiring and promotion of female faculty in the sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. "We are going to look at the search process and see if it can be improved to make it more conducive to female applications," said Barua. "Once they are here, are we giving them the support and providing incentives to stay?"

"We will analyze hiring pools and practices, faculty salaries and promotions during the last seven years, as well as conduct department self-assessments," Huizinga added. "Only by doing that can we begin the process of revising such policies and practices."

To generate campuswide support in the effort to increase the number and promotion of female faculty in STEM, "we will convene leadership retreats with related deans and department chairs for conversations and strategy sessions about equity issues in STEM faculty hiring, retention and promotion," said Huizinga. "Our findings will be shared at a universitywide forum, along with successful strategies that have been implemented at other institutions."

"This initiative will, in the long term, assure equity for female faculty in these fields," said Faust. "It will ensure CSUF access to top talent, establish a transparency in recruitment, hiring and promotion, and will lead to a transformation in the university's culture to one that highlights our diversity as a strength, thereby improving the recruitment and retention of a more diverse faculty."

By: Pamela McLaren, 657-278-4852

Tags:  Academics & Research