Tag Archives: STEM

Reprinted from the Cornell Chronicle, May 22, 2017.

By Stephen D'Angelo

For decades, higher ed administrators have talked about the need for more female professors in science, technology, engineering and mathematics departments.

But what is the best way to recruit and retain those professors?

On that point, men and women sometimes disagree, according to new Cornell research.

A national study of college and university administrators has found that female department chairs, deans and provosts have different attitudes and beliefs than their male counterparts about how to retain women professors in STEM fields. It also supports the assertion that placing women in administrative roles creates greater emphasis on the importance of enacting policies to attract and retain women in STEM.

Female administrators gave higher ratings to many policies and strategies designed to improve the lives of women in science, the study found. And they disagreed with men about the value of some policies and strategies designed to retain female STEM professors and enhance their work lives.

Wendy Williams

“Most typical strategies for retaining women professors in STEM are seen as higher quality by women administrators than male counterparts,” said Wendy M. Williams, professor of human development at Cornell’s College of Human Ecology and lead author on the study. “Topics of disagreement between female and male administrators are important focuses of future policy and planning, because female administrators may have insights into how to retain women professors that male administrators do not share.”

The study, “Does Gender of Administrator Matter? National Study Explores U.S. University Administrators’ Attitudes About Retaining Women Professors in STEM,” was published May 22 in Frontiers in Psychology.

“Women further endorsed greater flexibility with federal grant funding to accommodate mothers with young children, and they placed more emphasis on devoting university resources to conduct and disseminate gender-equity research than did their male peers,” the study said.

And women were more supportive of requests from partners for shared tenure lines that enable couples to better balance work and personal/caretaking roles, and saw it as more feasible than men did for men to stop the “tenure clock” for one year due to childrearing demands, the study found.

Over the past two decades, women have made substantial progress in most STEM fields, though inclusion in the senior ranks of all fields and in professorships in mathematically intensive fields is lagging. This has motivated administrators and gender-equity advocates to lobby for policies to increase female representation.

Stephen Ceci

For the study, the authors, which included two other human development professors, Stephen Ceci and Felix Thoemmes, reviewed research on female administrators in STEM and designed a database of 44 potentially effective policies to recruit, retain and promote female administrators in STEM. They asked provosts, deans, associate deans and department chairs of STEM fields at 96 U.S. research-intensive universities to rate the quality and feasibility of each policy.

Felix Thoemmes

According to Williams: “When people lobby for women and people of color in high-level administration, they often state that diversity will bring new priorities for attracting professors from underrepresented groups and advancing their careers. Our data support this assertion, although male administrators did endorse many of the same priorities to a lesser extent.”

Other notable data from the survey showed female administrators believed it was not feasible for female faculty to be called upon to chair search committees to the same extent that male administrators did – reflecting women’s belief that female professors are overburdened by service demands.

In addition to favoring potential remedies, female faculty also rated strategies for retaining women as higher in quality overall, while male administrators saw these strategies as lower in quality.

But the administrators did find some common ground, according to the study. Men and women agreed most of the time on the relative ranking of strategies, with both genders basically agreeing on what constituted the best or worst strategies among the 44 they evaluated. Top-rated strategies were to provide on-campus child care centers, offer equal opportunity for women and men to lead committees and research groups, develop mentoring programs to reduce isolation of female faculty, and stop the tenure clock for raising children for up to one year. Also highly rated were strategies to provide one semester of fully paid leave for giving birth and to train department chairs on helping faculty manage work-life issues. The two lowest-rated strategies were setting gender quotas for hiring and promotion.

“This is heartening news,” the researchers wrote, “since agreement about what constitutes a good strategy generally makes it simpler to get the strategy actually introduced as a policy.”

Stephen D'Angelo is assistant director of communications for the College of Human Ecology.

HD-Today e-Newsletter, Summer 2016 Issue

By Allison M. Hermann, Ph.D.

LRDM lab members and 4-H Career Explorations students

LRDM lab members and 4-H Career Explorations students

The Laboratory for Rational Decision Making (LRDM), led by Dr. Valerie Reyna in Human Development, welcomed 24 high school students from 18 different counties throughout New York State as part of a 3-day course in decision making research called, “Getting the Gist.” The high school students journeyed to Cornell University as part of the 4-H Career Explorations Conference that offers secondary school students the opportunity to attend courses and workshops and learn about STEM research.

get-the-gist-add

James Jones-Rounds, Lab Manager of the HEP Lab

The high school students became guest LRDM lab members and learned how to turn their questions about risky decision making into experiments. They created an experiment, collected and analyzed the data, and discussed the results. The student career explorers also toured the Center for Magnetic Resonance Imaging Facility and the EEG and Psychophysics Laboratory and saw how decision research uses brain imaging technologies to examine what brain areas are activated when making risky decisions.

Dr. Reyna’s graduate students' David Garavito, Alisha Meschkow and Rebecca Helm, and research staff member, Bertrand Reyna-Brainerd, presented lectures on Dr. Reyna’s fuzzy trace theory and research design and led interactive discussions with the visiting students about the paths that led the graduate students to the LRDM at Cornell. In addition, three undergraduate members of the lab, Tristan Ponzo (’18), Elana Molotsky (’17) and Joe DeTello (’19) delivered poster presentations of current lab research projects. Feedback from one of the career explorers expressed the gist of the program, “Yes, I definitely feel like I have a better understanding of why I make the decisions I do.”