2011 Women in STEM Taskforce

Broadening the Participation of Women and underrepresented females in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Education and Research:

To attain the global leadership and competiveness in STEM fields that are critical to achieving regional and national goals, Kent State University must explore the role of diversity and its impact on future success in these areas.  Woman, African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans are underrepresented among graduate programs, specifically master and doctoral recipients in the STEM fields. This trend continues to plague the STEM disciplines throughout the pipeline – from high school to undergraduate, to graduate programs, to starting assistant professors, and advancement to senior academic administrations. 

The Division of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion has begun collaborative efforts with the Division of the Academic Affairs and the Division of Student Affairs with goals to increase the diversity of higher education in STEM fields through a variety of initiatives, supporting the education and professional advancement of highly talented scholars from underrepresented groups. Implementation of recommendations from a yearlong Task Force on Women in STEM and Education are underway and shared below. 

On Sept. 22, 2011, in the annual State of the University address, the formation of a Taskforce on Women in STEM Education and Research was announced. The formation of the Taskforce was in response to the need to promote the participation and success of underrepresented groups, including women and underrepresented (African American, Latino American and Native American) women at all levels of STEM education and research.

The purpose of the Taskforce is to recommend actions to promote the participation and success of women in STEM research and education, from undergraduate and graduate students to faculty members. The Taskforce is directed to make recommendations to increase the participation and interest of women in STEM and related disciplines, to provide support for faculty members to successfully navigate career pathways through the ranks to full professorship, to broaden the participation of underrepresented women in STEM, and to facilitate professional development and leadership roles for women at Kent State University. 

The Taskforce first met on Feb. 10, 2012, to discuss recommendations, and then on March 6, 2012, to clarify and prioritize the recommendations. The Kent State NSF-IDEAL (Institutions Developing Excellence in Academic Leadership) team, working with VP Alfreda Brown, DEI, and Co-Chair of the Taskforce, synthesized and sharpened these recommendations for 2013 Fall Implementation.

Recommendations Regarding Faculty

Potential action items have been identified to improve representation, equity, and advancement of KSU women, including underrepresented faculty members, in STEM disciplines.  There is duality of challenge for underrepresented women, one challenge is based on gender, which is inclusive of all women in STEM disciplines, and another is based on race, which is directly related to underrepresented women. Task Force Recommendations are consistent with a number of Kent State’s strategic goals including creating an inclusive environment, helping our region, state, and nation remain competitive and secure, and ensuring student success. The Taskforce base these recommendations on an understanding that gender and diversity barriers in higher education are impediments recognized nationally, while some may be more unique to KSU. The following recommended action items address gender and diversity barriers and promote equity for STEM faculty: 

  1. Create and implement best practices and policies that are family-friendly including dual hires, paid parental leave around childbirth/adoption, dependent care opportunities (e.g., “back up care”, on campus infant care, extended hours care), research “bridge” support for longterm leaves, and enhanced flexibility (going from FT to PT, automatic tolling, child-friendly class scheduling, etc.). 
  2. Implement a comprehensive and structured institutional mentoring program that will increase the professional success of women and underrepresented faculty members through professional development of mentors, and coordination of mentor-mentee opportunities and relationships. This should be a long-term, sustainable program that includes a mentor coordinator position, professional development of expert faculty mentors, and certification of KSU coaches. 
  3. Create a set of programs and strategies centered on post-tenure, mid-career faculty development. These include clear expectations for research, teaching, and service, and involve mentoring of post-tenure faculty, provision or enhancement of existing ‘seed’ funding leading to continued external funding after tenure, organization of faculty retreats and workshops for newly appointed Associate women faculty to address post-tenure advancement, monitoring of service workload allocation to ensure that women do not carry excessive ‘undervalued’ service responsibilities, and recognition of, as well as rewarding of, ‘valued’ service contributions. 
  4. Articulate, support, and recognize formal and informal leadership opportunities for faculty women at departmental, college, and administrative levels, including support for leadership development for cohorts of women faculty (e.g., conferences, retreats, programming, HERS Institute).
  5. Foster an improved climate for women and underrepresented faculty including creating mechanisms to increase access to networking and to decrease isolation, developing and implementing workshops for evaluation committees to eliminate gender and ethnicity bias in promotion, and rewarding of faculty, and ensuring equitable distribution of resources (space, start-up, graduate assistants) and work assignments (collect and analyze resources and workload distribution data). 
  6. Increase the participation of women and underrepresented faculty members in STEM by developing strategies for targeted recruitment of women and underrepresented faculty members by broadening applicant pools, providing comprehensive training for search committees to eliminate gender and ethnicity bias in hiring, and further identifying institutional barriers to the retention of women and underrepresented faculty members (e.g. through the use of exit surveys), developing and implementing strategies to eliminate such impediments.

Recommendations Regarding Students

Taskforce members share the President's view on the importance of encouraging women to select STEM undergraduate majors and graduate degree programs, and on the importance of enhancing and supporting the learning experience of women in achieving their educational and career goals. The following action items are designed to increase representation, persistence, and sustainability of women including underrepresented students  (noting the duality of challenges for underrepresented women) in STEM at all levels of education and professional development: 

  1. Establish a STEM Student Academy to Recruit and Educate Prospective and Current Students in STEM Disciplines.  The newly established STEM Research and Education Center (within the Colleges of Arts & Sciences and Education, Health, and Human Services) is aligned with this recommendation. We envision the STEM Student Center increasing awareness of opportunities in STEM (internships, study/work abroad, career, conferences, and research) and providing advice on STEM curriculum requirements, plans of study, graduate program preparation, and ongoing support including leadership development opportunities. 
  2. Establish comprehensive and structured mentoring programs and opportunities for women and underrepresented undergraduate and graduate students in STEM.  Structured and informal mentoring could be provided through the STEM Academy Program. 
  3. Establish policies that are family-friendly for STEM graduate students in order to better recruit and retain women and underrepresented students in STEM.
  4. Develop focused and specific recruiting and sustaining procedures and materials for women including underrepresented STEM students.
  5. Establish a comprehensive program to fund women including underrepresented STEM students to engage in research, participate in workshops, and attend conferences.  The Taskforce is pleased that the Dean of Graduate Studies, Dr. Mary Ann Stephens, has created the new Graduate Dean’s Award to assist graduate programs in promoting diversity. We recommend a similar funding program that encourages the success of women including underrepresented STEM students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. 
  6. Expand and Enhance the Science Learning Community Initiative to include discipline-related communities (e.g. Life Sciences, Earth Sciences, etc.).