Systemic policy change is needed across South Dakota institutions of higher learning in order to pursue gender equity for faculty in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Influenced in part by the rurality of our institutions, women account for only 32% of the STEM faculty in the six-university South Dakota Board of Regents (SD BOR) system and only 29% of the faculty in STEM disciplines outside of the social and behavioral sciences. Thus, there is an unmet need to establish policy that creates a climate to more effectively recruit, support and retain women in STEM. One element of change has proven the most recalcitrant across past programs: the urgent need to effectively and demonstrably change the institutional academic climate for women in the STEM sciences (Howe, Juhas and Herbers, 2014; Rankins, Rankins and Inniss, 2014). We propose that the reason for the lack of long-term success in sustained institutional change for gender equity is due to the fact, as noted by Gill, Sharp, Mills and Franzway (2008), that: “Gender equity should be seen as a systemic rather than an individual issue” (p. 401).
In order to address equity in higher education across a state system, we propose a “top-down” approach. We use the “topdown” terminology to indicate that, although this proposed work builds directly upon past ADVANCE successes, our emphasis is in the breadth of change through work with a central authority, rather than individual institutional initiatives or “bottom-up” approaches which predominate in past ADVANCE work. Past research (see, for example, Blackmore, 2011; Castilla, 2008; Fletcher, et al. 2007; and Kalev, Kelly and Dobbin, 2006) indicates that the central establishment of equity policy and indicators at the system level is required, not only to demonstrate improvement in diversity but to actualize it. Therefore, the rationale for this proposal is that because current policies may not adequately serve women faculty in STEM in our state, we need to engage top administration not only in institutions but also at the state system level in order to develop and implement effective policy.
Goals and Objectives
We propose three primary goals to increase gender equity in STEM across all participating institutions in the state of South Dakota. We will pursue our goals through the following specific objectives:
- Goal #1: To establish and sustain system-wide priorities for gender equity in the STEM sciences.
- For year 1, determine baseline by collecting and analyzing data related to Professional Development Plans (PDPs), individual Faculty Annual Review documents (FARs), climate surveys and system-level faculty demographics.
- Complete initial and periodic outside policy review for models of best practices.
- By the end of year 1, PLAN working group, BOR representatives and institutional leaders identify policy targets with the guidance of our Policy Consultant Dr. KerryAnn O’Meara, drawing on baseline data reports.
- By the end of year 3, PLAN working group, BOR representatives and institutional leaders identify common “best practice” policies for STEM women faculty retention with the guidance of our Policy Consultant, drawing on baseline data reports.
- By the end of year 5, PLAN working group, BOR representatives and institutional leaders identify common “best practice” policies for career development with the guidance of our Policy Consultant, drawing on baseline data reports.
- Goal #2: To document and evaluate incremental change from data-driven policies for gender equity at the South Dakota State system level and in each of the six institutions.
- Institutionalize “best practice” and common implementation of policy innovations in years 2, 4 and 5.
- By the end of year 3, individual FARs indicate improved equity practices in assessment.
- By the end of year 4, STEM women faculty PDPs reflect higher individual aspirations and gender-equitable career planning.
- By the end of year 5, campus climate surveys indicate integration of gender equity principles at all institutions.
- Goal #3: To disseminate innovative systemic procedures for gender equity policy effectiveness and to contribute to the knowledge of gender equity in higher education.
- Assess evidence of system change from a top-down impetus across all three levels.
- Disseminate results pertaining to policy innovation at the state system level.
- Establish a public website for the duration of the project which will be used as a centralized way to report on project impact at all institutions.