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Building Gender Equity in the Academy

Institutional Strategies for Change

Despite decades of effort by federal science funders to increase the numbers of women holding advanced degrees and faculty jobs in science and engineering, they are persistently underrepresented in academic STEM disciplines, especially in positions of seniority, leadership, and prestige. Women filled 47% of all US jobs in 2015, but held only 24% of STEM jobs. Barriers to women are built into academic workplaces: biased selection and promotion systems, inadequate structures to support those with family and personal responsibilities, and old-boy networks that can exclude even very successful women from advancing into top leadership roles. But this situation can—and must—change.

In Building Gender Equity in the Academy, Sandra Laursen and Ann E. Austin offer a concrete, data-driven approach to creating institutions that foster gender equity. Focusing on STEM fields, where gender equity is most lacking, Laursen and Austin begin by outlining the need for a systemic approach to gender equity. Looking at the successful work being done by specific colleges and universities around the country, they analyze twelve strategies these institutions have used to create more inclusive working environments, including

• implementing inclusive recruitment and hiring practices
• addressing biased evaluation methods
• establishing equitable tenure and promotion processes
• strengthening accountability structures, particularly among senior leadership
• improving unwelcoming department climates and cultures
• supporting dual-career couples
• offering flexible work arrangements that accommodate personal lives
• promoting faculty professional development and advancement

Laursen and Austin also discuss how to bring these strategies together to create systemic change initiatives appropriate for specific institutional contexts. Drawing on three illustrative case studies—at Case Western Reserve University, the University of Texas at El Paso, and the University of Wisconsin–Madison—they explain how real institutions can strategically combine several equity-driven approaches, thereby leveraging their individual strengths to make change efforts comprehensive. Grounded in scholarship but written for busy institutional leaders, Building Gender Equity in the Academy is a handbook of actionable strategies for faculty and administrators working to improve the inclusion and visibility of women and others who are marginalized in the sciences and in academe more broadly.

About the Authors

Sandra Laursen is the director and senior research associate of Ethnography & Evaluation Research at the University of Colorado Boulder. She is the coauthor of Undergraduate Research in the Sciences: Engaging Students in Real Science. Ann E. Austin is a University Distinguished Professor in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education and the associate dean for research in the College of Education at Michigan State University. She is the coauthor of Rethinking Faculty Work: Higher Education's Strategic Imperative.

Endorsements

"A remarkable analysis of the largest experiments to date to remedy persistent gender inequity in the academy. This volume distills the elements of both successful and failed strategies of awarded projects at major research universities and is a must-read for anyone leading, facilitating, researching, or seeking gender changes and advances in the workplace."

- Lynn T. Singer, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University

"This important contribution to the literature on institutional change provides well-organized information and insights about a variety of tools while illuminating how to consider local context in developing a plan for change. It will be useful for those pursuing the diversification of an institution's faculty or equity-related goals."

- Laura Kramer, Professor Emerita, Montclair State University

"This book synthesizes Laursen and Austin's prior work and moves it to a new level."

- Susan Carlson, Vice Provost of Academic Personnel and Programs, Office of the President, University of California

"Particularly useful are the coauthors' strategies for improving institutional environments by addressing the exercise of power and dominance over people and groups."

- Mary Frank Fox, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology

"The COVID-19 pandemic and demands resulting from the killing of George Floyd increase the relevance of this volume. The three case studies and lessons learned from the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program provide insightful guidance to institutions seeking to address gender inequities and the inherent structural racism impacting faculty within academia."

- Sue V. Rosser, Professor Emerita, Georgia Tech / Provost Emerita, San Francisco State University

"Building Gender Equity in the Academy is the right book for our time. Responding to multiple crises of COVID-19 and systemic racism, many institutions are ready for inclusion-attentive change. Laursen and Austin offer vision, theory, and practical knowledge from NSF ADVANCE institutions to advise an emerging movement."

- Shirley M. Malcom, Senior Advisor / Director, SEA Change, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Johns Hopkins University Press
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