The Eastern Washington University (EWU) NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) Catalyst will investigate reasons associated with institutional gender inequities and plan effective remedies. Specifically, planned activities include: 1) Identification and review of policies relevant to the recruitment, retention, and promotion of faculty along with consideration of areas in which policy is silent; 2) Administration of a climate survey to faculty in all ranks and positions at EWU; 3) Interview of female faculty currently in STEM disciplines using Sense-Making Methodology (SMM) to better understand the unspoken challenges facing female faculty; 4) Survey of all individuals who applied for faculty positions at EWU within the previous three years to evaluate the inclusiveness and attractiveness of recruitment strategies and processes; 5) Analysis of the distribution, timing, and marketing practices associated with faculty position advertisements as well as the application screening process before and after the initiation of the new recruitment practice; 6) Comparison of the representativeness of gender, diversity, and disability in final applicant selection pools; 7) Focused interviews with department chairs in CSHE and CSBS regarding tangible and intangible incentives, practices, and expectations; 8) Orchestration of town hall meetings with faculty to solicit ideas as well as energize individuals for institutional evolution.

Intellectual Merit: This project utilizes sense-making methodologies as a means of extracting qualitative data regarding institutional culture. This reflects an important step for having an in-depth understanding of the factors that attract and support women faculty in the STEM fields. Collected data will complement that already available by giving a more complete picture of issues faced by women faculty. Furthermore, it will allow other universities in Washington and elsewhere with a similar mission and make-up to have a baseline understanding of the core factors impacting women and stimulate transformative endeavors.

Broader Impact: EWU will be the first regional comprehensive, primarily undergraduate, teaching-focused university to receive ADVANCE support in Washington. As such, this institution will serve as a model for the Higher Education Coordinating Board and other institutions in Washington and the country as whole. It is anticipated that from this there will be an indirect impact on women students in the STEM fields as they pursue graduate programs and the workforce. Strategies utilized for data gathering have the potential to impact other research processes and continue to strengthen pursuits for equity.

Project Report

Eastern Washington University (EWU) developed a five-step process to examine experiences and practices, and specific concerns in recruiting, promoting, and retaining female faculty members in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) disciplines as part of a National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Catalyst grant. A campus climate survey, interviews evaluating qualitative experiences of women faculty in the STEM departments using Sense-Making Methodology, a faculty applicant survey and review of faculty applicant pools over three years, chair/director interviews, and policy review were conducted. A total of 292 of the 643 climate surveys distributed to faculty were completed in part or whole, an overall response rate of 45%. The gender breakdown was as follows: 130 males (44.5%), 132 females (45.2%), 1 transgendered (0.3%), and 29 not reporting (9.9%). There was good representation in all four colleges, with the highest response rate in the College of Science, Health, and Engineering, where the majority of STEM faculty identify. Reponses regarding the hiring and promotion process were generally positive, but female professors and associate professors report less satisfaction than male faculty and faculty in other ranks. Additionally, female faculty report more struggles at balancing personal and professional life, more stress, and more fatigue than male faculty. The in-depth Sense-Making Methodology interviews revealed several core themes for female faculty in STEM disciplines. In terms of personal life experiences, life and work balance and concerns about family are tied to both positive and negative experiences for women. Relationships are integral to job satisfaction and professional growth. Feeling prepared in research and teaching was correlated with job satisfaction and access to resources was often tied for women with feelings of belongingness, pride, and job satisfaction. Colleagues and other women are considered major supporters of female STEM faculty at EWU. Findings suggest that women often do not attribute stresses to their gender, do not want to be singled out for their gender, are hesitant to talk in terms of gender equality, and have a need for supportive work environment to feel acknowledged and fulfilled. Review of applicant experiences and process revealed that EWU has already made significant changes in this area with substantial benefit. Interviews with chairs and directors showed knowledge and use of University policies, but also need for further education. EWU has clear policies in the areas of recruitment and hiring, retention, and promotion and tenure. Policies are less clear when it comes to unpaid versus paid leave, start-up, and part-time positions. No policies at EWU specifically address paid maternity/paternity leave or dual career hires. As one of the first regional comprehensive, primarily undergraduate, teaching-focused universities to receive ADVANCE support in the state of Washington, this project reflected an important initial step for having an in-depth understanding of the factors that attract and support female faculty in the STEM fields for such institutions and within the region so that change can occur. Scientific merit was further established in that the strategies for evaluation were broad and comprehensive. Specific next steps for EWU include policy revision, education of faculty, chairs, and directors, and creating support and resource networks for faculty.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Human Resource Development (HRD)
Standard Grant (Standard)
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Beth Mitchneck
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Eastern Washington University
United States
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