ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Roadmap to measuring overlooked dimensions of diversity so improvements can be implemented

Recently the White House released a roadmap that will expand the federal collection of data about sexual orientation and gender identity in order to advance equity for LGTBQI+ Americans. However, advances in measurement will be needed at all levels, including at universities.

The management adage that you can’t improve what you don’t measure applies to achieving equity within organizations–without adequate measures, problems are ill-defined and rarely solved. However, human resource management, developed in response to equal employment opportunity legislation, can be limited in focus. This Inside Higher Ed article discusses the importance of measuring faculty diversity on dimensions not normally assessed, such as sexual orientation and gender identity.  This is justified because of the need not only to have viewpoints represented but also to put in needed support structures and monitor whether faculty of different identities have equal opportunities for success.

We welcome these changes from the White House roadmap. Michigan Tech has allowed students, faculty, and staff to use preferred names since 2015, and a group of dedicated individuals is currently working on implementing a personal pronouns policy. Having these two policies and processes in place will facilitate the process of collecting non-binary genders once it becomes allowable for reporting by the federal government and available in the software (Banner). These changes will assist with equity and inclusion efforts because the AFEQT tool that allows department chairs and deans to analyze equity data relies on Banner data.

Today’s feature was shared with us by the ADVANCE PI team with input from Beth Lunde-Stockero and Mike Blanco. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Biases in NSF Funding Create Surprising Disparities

Systemic biases, including biases in funding, are detrimental not only to individual careers but also to the quality of scholarship, the academic research endeavor, and shared commitments to integrity, meritocracy, and fairness.  This week’s article from the New York Times [https://www.nytimes.com/2023/01/04/science/asian-scientists-nsf-funding.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share&referringSource=articleShare] reports that white PIs are more likely to be successful at NSF than any other racial group. An unexpected finding was that Asian-identifying PIs were the least likely of all racial groups to be funded by NSF and this trend has been persistent, even as Black and Hispanic PIs have made gains in research awards. The study’s authors [https://elifesciences.org/articles/83071] note that these patterns extended across all disciplinary directorates, external review scores, and were even more pronounced for unsolicited proposals.

In a rebuttal to these findings, another article available in preprint [https://osf.io/ykzvx/] argues that career stage and rate of proposal submissions partially explain the rates of disparity among racial groups. However, the original study’s authors maintain that disparities are engrained in the academic funding model and offer a number of process-oriented suggestions for change at funding agencies such as making funding data transparent and revising the reliance on merit-based reward systems that tend to perpetuate the very biases they are supposed to mitigate. Thus, this article illustrates that a commitment to sustained action that eliminates disparities is needed at all levels of academia. 

Today’s feature was shared with us by the ADVANCE PI Team. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Documenting and Countering Biases Against Researchers in Systematically Marginalized Groups

This week we feature resources that discuss how to mitigate the impact of bias within our systems, policies, and practices. Individuals from systematically marginalized groups (SMGs) experience frequent and compounded undermining of their credibility, contributions, and inclusion that reduce persistence and success in academia. First, in terms of teaching, this valuable resource guide discusses how to foster inclusive classrooms..

Second, this article in AAAS cautions that most tenure and promotion reviews have not been updated to include proficiency in inclusive teaching and SMG service and largely ignore the biases that occur in publishing research (e.g., see Bias in Funding and Women Held to a Higher Publishing Standard).

The AAAS article recommends that the scientific community work together to level the playing field by engaging everyone in learning about bias, developing skills to acknowledge and interrupt biased thinking, intentionally providing constructive and fair feedback on proposals and papers, inviting collaborations with SMGs, intentionally citing and endorsing SMG publications, assisting with DEIS work, and rating service in this area as essential, valued, and impactful. At Michigan Tech, the best place to start is to attend the Allies and Advocates workshops.


Today’s feature was shared with us by Aurenice Oliveira and the ADVANCE PI team. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Supporting Pregnant Faculty, Staff, and Students

As summarized in the recent Harvard Business Review article, 5 Ways Managers Can Support Pregnant Employees, there are ways to reduce detrimental experiences that affect health and well-being outcomes for pregnant faculty, staff, students, and their babies. The article links to two studies that examined workplace experiences related to pregnancy discrimination specifically and to health-related outcomes. The researchers found that an uptick in work-related stress raised the risks for postpartum depression, increased the number of doctor’s visits for the mother, and lowered birth weights and gestational ages for the baby. The authors provide actionable strategies to assist those who are pregnant, including creating a more positive inclusive work environment and offering supportive practices such as flexible work scheduling and parental leave.

Michigan Tech faculty, staff, and students have rights and protections under University policies. Parental Leave policies and procedures for faculty/staff and graduate students were recently updated and the undergraduate student procedures are under revision. Supervisors should become familiar with these updated policies and follow them in a supportive manner that minimizes stress for pregnant faculty, staff, and students. The purpose of these policies is to give parents flexibility and quality time with their new child, adjust to their new family situation, provide adequate time for physical recovery, and dynamically shift back and forth between professional and home obligations. Additionally, anyone at Michigan Tech facing pregnancy discrimination or unnecessary stress navigating these policies should consult the Pregnancy and Parenting Discrimination section of the Title IX webpage (https://www.mtu.edu/title-ix/resources/pregnant-parenting-students/). The “Report a Concern” resource (https://www.mtu.edu/deanofstudents/students/concern/) is always available. Further, everyday actions from each member of our community can convey support and appreciation for the past, current, and future contributions of our pregnant colleagues.

For additional information, Michigan Tech’s Pregnant and Parenting Resources webpage has information and resources available. The Pregnant Scholar https://thepregnantscholar.org/title-ix-basics/ is also an excellent resource.

Today’s feature was shared with us by the Title IX office. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Faculty Caregiver Support: We Need More Data

In the corporate world, employers are finding ways to support employees who are caregivers because they realize it provides a competitive advantage to attract and retain employees. The need for robust resources, benefits, and policies is apparent: a Harvard Business School study found that “73% of all employees have some type of current caregiving responsibility.”

Similarly, during the COVID-19 shutdown, faculty’s family responsibilities became literally visible as they carried out their academic work online. Since then, caregiving has remained a critical issue in the academy’s “new normal,” including at Michigan Tech. Last year, a Childcare Committee was formed and drafted recommendations for expanding support for caregivers (internal report not yet publicly available).  

Because the majority of employers don’t track caregiving status, supportive measures are often insufficient, leading to poor retention of caregivers. This Harvard Business Review article offers four strategies for “closing the data gap” on caregiving, including working with employees to identify and measure caregiver needs. The key takeaway is that there is a need to expand caregiver support beyond daycares and flextime to acknowledge the value of such responsibilities to work-life health and professional advancement.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Realizing a Diverse Faculty

Several recent reports warn that despite promising announcements about increasing faculty diversity, the actual increase has been sluggish. As summarized by Inside Higher Ed writer Colleen Flaherty, realizing racial parity between the professoriate and the general U.S. population within the next thirty years requires a rate of change that is 3.5 times the current pace. One study, published in Nature Human Behavior, discusses the mythology of racial progress and admonishes blaming “pipeline” shortages and being over-reliant on individualistic solutions like cluster hiring. As one of the authors observed, “People often believe that while inequality was bad in the past, recent developments are solving the problem, even when that’s not empirically true. That’s why it’s important to build our understanding of the data and develop realistic, evidence-based plans for change.”

Another recent report by the Education Trust graded U.S. universities on the amount of change they had achieved over the past fifteen years with ratio parity of Black and Latino faculty to Black and Latino students. A surprising number of prestigious universities received an “F” grade on a number of dimensions. There is little to celebrate and more work to be done, including at Michigan Tech. See the grades for Michigan Tech here.

Further, COACHE (the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education) at Harvard found a wide gap in the perceptions of campus inclusion and equity among faculty of differing racial and ethnic backgrounds. Notably, under-represented faculty deemed most efforts to be performative rather than substantive changes in university structures and operations.

These sources indicate that a more collective, systemic, and longitudinal approach to faculty diversification can be effective.  Specific strategies include changing the higher education institution itself, addressing long-standing exclusionary practices and policies, and making investments in faculty work life and advancement opportunities.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: In Support of Trans Colleagues: We Need More Research, More Active Allyship

The recent terrifying shooting in a Colorado nightclub underscores the vulnerability of transgender and LGBTQIA-diverse peoples and the urgent need for better measures to ensure inclusion and safety. According to the Equity and Inclusion Vocabulary [https://www.mtu.edu/diversity-center/resources/vocabulary/] resource from the Michigan Tech Center for Diversity and Inclusion, “Identifying as transgender, or trans, means that one’s internal sense of gender is different from […] the sex that person was assigned at birth.” Trans includes genders “other than woman or man, such as nonbinary, genderqueer, genderfluid, no gender or multiple genders, or some other gender identity.” Life on campus for those who live these definitions is fraught, now more than ever.

A focused review of research in education, transgender and queer studies, and psychology examined three themes related to the microclimates for trans individuals on campus: (a) disclosing trans identities, (b) trans communities, and (c) resources and career-level support (Seigel, 2019) [DOI: 10.1111/soc4.12734]. Conclusions suggest the experiences of trans faculty impact their well-being, safety, access to resources, and career trajectories. The article advocates context-specific interventions on campus.

These findings are consistent with the poignant autobiographical account of a trans STEM academic, “Local Minima and Maxima in Trans-STEM Affirmations,” a chapter in the 2022 book, Queering STEM Culture in US Higher Education: Navigating Experiences of Exclusion in the Academy. K. Trenshaw succinctly and lucidly describes marginalization, disparagement, and closeting but also support and encouragement from mentors and often unexpected allies. The book is available in the Van Pelt Library collection.

At Michigan Tech, the Office of the Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion has initiated activities to create more hospitable and career-supportive environments for diverse faculty, such as encouraging all campus units to create a DEIS Strategic Plan. [https://www.mtu.edu/diversity/strategic-plan/] In addition, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion offers resources and training that are useful to those committed to allyship and who identify as trans. [https://www.mtu.edu/diversity-center/resources/]

Today’s feature was shared with us by the ADVANCE PI Team. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Faculty Service: The Value of Data-Driven Measures

Research is showing that data-driven insights are critical to recognizing and rectifying inequities in faculty workloads, particularly service tasks that are expected but don’t count for promotion, such as standing committee membership or mentoring a colleague. Too often, such tasks are expected or requested of women and BIPOC faculty. Rather than “fixing the women/underrepresented” with strategies for “saying no,” this Chronicle of Higher Education opinion essay advises collecting data on who is asked and assigned to do non-promotable tasks (NPTs).

At Harvard’s Kennedy School, for example, administrative tasks are assigned points and faculty have flexibility in meeting a target number of points to fulfill their service obligations. At Michigan Tech, the ADVANCE Faculty Equity Query Tool (AFEQT) has been developed to provide chairs and deans with real-time comparisons of multiple measures to enable data-based insights and decision-making that impact diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are currently exploring ways to enhance the tool with data related to faculty service. Please provide us with your ideas using this Google form.

Today’s feature was shared with us by the ADVANCE PI Team. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup: Respect and representation: Indigenous scientists seek inclusion for their knowledge and for themselves

November is Native American Heritage Month, and this week’s Roundup is focused on Indigenous researchers in academia, who remain poorly represented, particularly in STEM fields. In the Second Nature article, “Respect and Representation,” four Indigenous scientists speak about the challenges early-career researchers face, and how scientists can respectfully and effectively bring together traditional knowledge and Western science. 

The article offers guidance for equitable and respectful collaborations with indigenous researchers and community partners. It takes time, often years, to build such relationships. Indigenous partners should be involved early and significantly in the research process rather than simply treated as a diversity checkbox. This includes delineating the research, determining how the research will matter to Indigenous communities, and ensuring tribal data sovereignty. The goal is not merely to incorporate but to “uplift and center” indigenous communities, their strengths, struggles, and knowledge. 

Recruitment and retention of Indigenous scientists is another issue in academia. As one of the four scholars noted, “Being an Indigenous scholar is often a series of firsts,” such as the first in their family to pursue higher education and the first Indigenous graduate from their university. Also, being one of few (if any) Indigenous scholars in an organization “can be difficult, exhausting, and dangerous, culturally and spiritually.” 

The article ends by emphasizing that Indigenous people are not the ones who have work to do. Those with power need to change how they think and what they do to ensure that mechanisms are in place to retain and support Indigenous early-career researchers. As one researcher stated, “There is a fine line between creating spaces in institutions for Indigenous people and taking up those spaces.”

https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-00022-1

Today’s feature was shared with us by the Advocates and Allies Advisory Board. If you have an article you think we should feature, please email it to advance-mtu@mtu.edu and we will consider adding it to the ADVANCE Weekly Roundup.

The ADVANCE Weekly Roundup is brought to you by ADVANCE at Michigan Tech, which is an NSF-funded initiative dedicated to improving faculty career success, retention, diversity, equity, and inclusion. These articles are available on the ADVANCE Newsblog (https://blogs.mtu.edu/advance/). To learn more about this week’s topic, our mission, programming efforts, and to check out our growing collection of resources, contact us at (advance-mtu@mtu.edu) or visit our website: www.mtu.edu/advance.

ADVANCE Weekly Roundup featuring two new studies: Still finding gender biases and ageism in student teaching evaluations; implications on promotion & performance assessments.

Students, especially STEMM students, prefer male professors, according to research. Two recent studies highlighted in Inside Higher Ed show that this bias increases both during a course and as the professor ages. In one study, student evaluations of men and women instructors were similar at the beginning of the course. Still, when students received their grades after the first exam, their evaluations for women instructors were lower than for men instructors on supposedly gender-neutral items. According to the researchers, “We found that bias widened after receiving grades, making this the first study to our knowledge that confirms that gender bias is fueled by feedback.”

The other study found that teaching evaluations for women faculty declined from their early tenure, young adulthood years to middle age, and rebounded during later middle age. The trend was reversed for men, who received higher evaluations as they aged. The researchers observed, “Our findings show that women are rated significantly lower as they age from younger to middle age, with their lowest teaching ratings emerging at age 47. Men do not experience this drop in ratings.”

These studies add to the ongoing concerns about the role of student evaluations in various administrative decisions. Although non-numerical assessments may supplement course evaluations (as at Michigan Tech), these numbers are often used to distinguish among faculty. As the researchers of the first study noted, “Due to the tight distribution of course evaluation scores among faculty, any differences, though commonly small and often not statistically significant, are used to make consequential decisions.” Instituting more holistic teaching assessment measures and utilizing student course evaluations primarily for teaching development rather than evaluation are among the steps these researchers recommend.