Women, diversity in STEM focus of $3.4 million grant to ClemsonWith a $3.4 million NSF ADVANCE grant, Clemson will increase the number of women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and math, and create a more inclusive environment for faculty in all disciplines.Photo courtesy of Clemson UniversityCLEMSON – Clemson University has launched an initiative to create an inclusive academic culture so women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to enter and remain in academia.

The initiative is funded with a $3.4 million grant from a National Science Foundation (NSF) program called ADVANCE: Increasing Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers. Along with the initiative, nicknamed Tigers ADVANCE, is a greater goal: to build a culture that encourages diversity, inclusiveness and acceptance.

See a video on the Tigers ADVANCE initiative.

“The impact these STEM fields have on our society is immeasurable,” said Robert Jones, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs at Clemson and co-principal investigator of the grant. “We need diverse ideas and perspectives in the academy and in our workforce to tackle the greatest challenges we, and future generations, will face.”

Related Article: Number of Women a Problem in STEM? Not So in Forensics

The grant application process, spearheaded by Sez Atamturktur, the distinguished professor of intelligent infrastructure in the Glenn Department of Civil Engineering, took more than two years and countless hours from more than 40 faculty, staff, and students. The group identified five major challenges to women in STEM faculty positions at Clemson and established these corresponding goals for Tigers ADVANCE:

  • Transform the culture and improve the campus climate to reduce bias and implicit bias against women and minority faculty;
  • Increase the representation of women in STEM fields;
  • Ensure equitable workload distributions so appointments to committees, special projects, and other non-academic activities are assigned equally across the faculty;
  • Enhance faculty mentoring and leadership development to support all faculty and increase retention; and
  • Implement family-friendly policies to help improve recruitment and retention of world-class faculty.

Ellen Granberg, associate provost for academic affairs at Clemson and a co-principal investigator of the ADVANCE grant, said the grant will help Clemson take big steps forward.

Women in STEM dataGraphic courtesy of Clemson University“With the support of NSF ADVANCE, we will be able to accelerate the recruitment and retention of underrepresented scholars across the university and to improve the work environment for all faculty no matter their background or discipline,” Granberg said.

Currently, Clemson’s faculty profile, like that of many universities, lacks sufficient representation of women. Across the campus, 35 percent of full-time faculty are women. In STEM departments, the percentage is 19.

“The statistics for racial diversity within the Clemson STEM faculty are even grimmer,” Atamturktur and colleagues wrote in their ADVANCE grant application. “Out of 509 STEM faculty members, only one (0.2 percent) is an African-American woman, and two (0.4 percent) are Hispanic women faculty.”

With Tigers ADVANCE, Clemson will increase the number of women being considered for faculty positions and put measures in place to retain female members of the faculty.

“We will strive to match the representation of women in faculty positions to the number of candidates available for those positions in the national pool,” Atamturktur said.

Related Article: The Key to Getting More Women into Leadership Positions

Of the 14,499 faculty applicants to Clemson between 2010 and 2014, 23 percent were women, 10.7 percent were minority women, and 0.7 percent were African-American women.

Of all eligible doctoral degree graduates in the country, 53 percent were women, 15 percent were minority women, and 7 percent were African-American women.

“Our search committees absolutely are doing a good job of identifying talented women and bringing them to campus,” Atamturktur said. “The problem is the number of women in our applicant pools is very, very low. We’re starting with fewer options.”

Likewise, although women receive tenure and promotions at rates equal to men, women leave Clemson at rates higher than men. Between 2011 and 2014, 56 percent of assistant professors (pre-tenure faculty) who left were women. Among STEM faculty, 28 percent of tenured or tenure-track faculty members who left were women, although women made up only 19 percent of the faculty.

“There are clear economic and societal benefits for engaging the talents of people from every demographic,” Atamturktur said. “They bring a diversity of ideas and excellence with them.” And because talent is distributed equally across demographics, “You’re getting the best of the best of every category” with a more diverse talent pool.

Some details for Tigers ADVANCE are:

  • Creating a program called “Tiger Allies” to train faculty to recognize biases and empower them with skills to intervene when they witness biases taking place;
  • Creating diverse search committees, using inclusivity and diversity language in position advertisements and appointing neutral advocates to discuss quality-of-life choices with candidates;
  • Creating networking, coaching, and mentoring opportunities to build relationships and facilitate communications;
  • Increasing opportunities for joint-hires of spouses or partners;
  • Establishing modified-duty family support policies for faculty going through life transitions to reduce work hours without a reduction in pay; and
  • Establishing a pipeline for women into institutional leadership roles, developing leaders committed to improving the status of women scholars and providing more opportunities for faculty development through mentorship and coaching.

While the NSF grant specifically supports women in STEM fields, Clemson will make its own investment to extend Tigers ADVANCE to non-STEM departments.

“We believe this is the only way to achieve institution-wide impact and sustainable transformation,” Atamturktur said.

“Five years from now our campus should be a lot more diverse with a more inclusive culture and more openness to new ideas,” she said.

Related Article: Promoting Diversity in STEM

“As an institution, we will carefully track the number of underrepresented faculty hired, promoted, and advanced into leadership roles. We will support efforts to increase diversity in our applicant pools. We will regularly conduct climate surveys, mobilize the faculty, and engage the administration. At the end of the day, the best determinants of whether the institution has transformed or not will be the Clemson faculty, the diversity of the Clemson faculty and their responses to the climate surveys.”

To create a multifaceted program, Atamturktur was able to tap into expertise across Clemson’s faculty. Granberg studies the mental health effects of racial discrimination; Sarah Winslow, an associate professor of sociology, studies time-use, work-family issues, and gender inequality among academic faculty; Cynthia Sims, an assistant professor of education  is a specialist in leadership development for women in higher education; Patrick Rosopa, an associate professor of psychology, studies stereotypes based on gender, ethnicity, and sexual orientation and their effects in the workplace; and Tom Zagenczyk, an associate professor of management, specializes in employer-employee relationships, leadership, and social networks in the workplace.

To read the grant narrative, click here.

For a full list of participants in the ADVANCE grant, click here.