Advancing USC STEM Faculty
National Science Foundation Award 1008336
This project will develop an institutional transformation plan to increase the representation and advancement of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines at the University of South Carolina’s flagship campus in Columbia and the regional campuses of Lancaster, Salkehatchie, Sumter and Union. Currently, women comprise 84 of the 390 tenured and tenure-track STEM faculty in at these campuses. Eighty percent of these women are in Columbia; 20% are unequally distributed across the regional campuses. In Columbia, approximately one-half of the social science faculty is female. Women make up 12% and 8%, respectively, of the faculty in the Natural Sciences and in Engineering and Computing.
Proposed activities include establishing baseline data on the demographic distribution of STEM faculty members and academic leadership, identifying institutional obstacles to the successful recruitment and advancement of women, identifying best practices that promote gender equity with the potential to work both across the university system and at each campus, and examining causes and effects of varying gender representation in different STEM fields and subfields. Activities to build institutional buy-in by involving faculty and administrator groups during the development of our institutional transformation plan are also planned.
Programs addressing gender inequity often take a uniform approach. We believe that the differential successes of such programs are due to differences between institutions and among STEM fields. In this project, we propose a quantitative and qualitative study on what women working at different kinds of institutions experience in pursuit of career advancement. The resulting data will be used to design effective programs to address obstacles associated with specific environments. In a system like USC, faculty have widely varying experiences; institutional change requires not only awareness of, but the ability to leverage this fundamental diversity. This study will contribute to our understanding of the similarities and differences in the obstacles to, and the opportunities for, the advancement of women faculty at different types of institutions.
Through the composition of the project team and the involvement of Participant Advisory Boards, this project will foster interactions, mentoring, and networking among women faculty in the STEM disciplines. The project activities and the development of an institutional transformation plan are the first steps towards increasing the diversity of STEM faculty at USC. More broadly, the results of this project could serve as a basis for other two-year academic institutions such as community and technical colleges to develop plans that lead to the advancement of women.