Montana State Program Has Eliminated the Gender Gap in Faculty Hiring in STEM Fields

montana-state2According to a new research paper, Montana State University used a $3.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation to launch a program to increase the diversity of its faculty in STEM fields. Faculty administrators at the university developed a three-step program that sought to increase recruitment efforts targeting women, an effort to eliminate implicit gender bias during evaluations, and programs to make the university work environment more family friendly.

On the recruitment front, Alexander Zale, a professor of ecology said that “it is similar to football recruiting. Whereas in the past we relied on walk-ons, we’re now seeking out the best talent and convincing them to apply.” Search committees received instruction from trained human resources personnel on how to eliminate gender bias in interviews and the selection process. Finally, all finalists for faculty positions met with a family advocate of the university to discuss programs relating to family issues. Professor Zale said that “although the focus here was on increasing women faculty within STEM, the intervention can be adapted to other scientific and academic communities to advance diversity along any dimension.”

The results showed significant improvement in the hiring of women faculty. Over the past three years, 53 percent of new faculty hires in STEM fields at the university have been women compared with 24 percent over the previous three years. Women who received job offers were 5.8 times more likely to accept the offer than was the case before the three-step process was implemented.

Jessi L. Smith, a professor of psychology at Montana State and lead author of the study, said that “it isn’t just about getting more people through the door. We must be sure that all these people we hire continue to feel supported once they get here.”

The study, “Now Hiring! Empirically Testing a Three-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEM,” was published on the website of the journal BioScience, a publication of the American Institute of Biological Sciences. It may be downloaded by clicking here.

Filed Under: FacultyGender GapResearch/StudySTEM Fields


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply