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Building Gender Equity in the Academy. Institutional Strategies for Change

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Last modified on 17 December 2020

Building Gender Equity in the Academy. Institutional Strategies for Change. Sandra Laursen and Ann E. Austin. Johns Hopkins University Press. November 2020.

An evidence-based, action-oriented response to the persistent, everyday inequity of academic workplaces.

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.

Table of contents


Part I. The Problem, the Solution, and the Study

  • Chapter 1. What's the Problem?
    • Underrepresented, Out of Sight
    • Barriers for Women on STEM Faculties
    • The Importance of Representation
  • Chapter 2. Fix the System, Not the Women
    • Studying Systemic Change to Advance Gender Equity
    • The Content and Structure of the Book
    • Audiences for This Book
    • Limitations of the Book

Part II. Strategies for Change

  • Overview
  • Chapter 3. Interrupt Biased Processes
    • Strategy 1. Inclusive Recruitment and Hiring
    • Strategy 2. Equitable Processes of Tenure and Promotion
    • Strategy 3. Strengthened Accountability Structures
  • Chapter 4. Reboot Workplaces
    • Strategy 4. Development of Institutional Leaders
    • Strategy 5. Approaches to Improving Departmental Climate
    • Strategy 6. Enhanced Visibility for Women and Gender Issues
  • Chapter 5. Support the Whole Person
    • Strategy 7. Support for Dual-Career Couples
    • Strategy 8. Flexible Work Arrangements
    • Strategy 9. Practical, Family-Friendly Accommodations
  • Chapter 6. Foster Individual Success
    • Strategy 10. Faculty Professional Development Programs
    • Strategy 11. Grants to Individual Faculty
    • Strategy 12. Mentoring and Networking Activities
  • Chapter 7. New Frontiers of Research and Practice
    • Addressing Other Arenas of Bias
    • Approaching Equity through Analysis of Power and Privilege
    • Equalizing Workloads and Their Impact on Advancement
    • Combating Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment
    • Honoring Intersectional Identities
    • Including Contingent Faculty
    • Summary

Part III. Building and Enacting a Change Portfolio

  • Chapter 8. Put It All Together
    • Case Study 1. Case Western Reserve University
    • Case Study 2. University of Texas at El Paso
    • Case Study 3. University of Wisconsin–Madison
    • Lessons from the Case Studies
  • Chapter 9. Design a Change Portfolio to Advance Equity
    • Taking a Systemic and Strategic Approach to Transformation
    • Implementing the Strategic Change Plan
    • Reflections and Next Steps
    • Concluding Thoughts

Appendix A. ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Awards by Cohort through 2019
Appendix B. Research Methods


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