A new paper provides a glimpse of what administrators in the sciences think about increasing gender diversity among those who teach and do research in those fields. Most of the leaders see that goal as the responsibility of someone else—often, female professors.
The paper is based on interviews with department chairs and deans in science and other STEM fields at an unnamed large, public research university. It reveals that some administrators see building the ranks of women in science departments as largely their responsibility but that more leaders have a passive attitude toward achieving gender equity, often seeing it as something that would happen over time if women behaved differently. Nearly all of the 31 people whose interviews were detailed in the paper, “You, Me, or Her: Leaders’ Perceptions of Responsibility for Increasing Gender Diversity in STEM Departments,” were male.
“Through examining the leaders’ language, I think the study gets at the ways that people try to explain the absence of women in STEM and what they think they can do about it,” said Sara I. McClelland, an assistant professor of women’s studies and of psychology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and the lead author of the paper, which was published online this month, ahead of its publication in a coming issue of Psychology of Women Quarterly. “It’s important to learn how we describe our own roles in university efforts.”
Efforts to increase the number of female professors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics have been under way for decades. But recent research published in Science magazine revealed that the share of women who are being hired is so low that it would take nearly 100 years before half of all professors in those two fields are female. <Read more.>