Bilimoria, D., & Liang, X. (2011). Gender Equity in Science and Engineering: Advancing Change in Higher Education. New York: Routledge.
- The study’s objective was to evaluate the effectiveness of the ADVANCE institutional transformation program (ADVANCE-IT) sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in advancing women’s representation among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty in U.S. colleges and universities.
- The authors used program implementation and outcome data obtained from 19 participating colleges and universities to examine program initiatives, actions, and outcomes of ADVANCE-IT institutions. The analysis of interest in this review compared the changes in proportions of female STEM faculty in institutions that were implementing ADVANCE-IT programs to national reference groups over the course of the program period, by faculty rank and by type of institution.
- The study found that the ADVANCE-IT program was effective in increasing the number of female STEM faculty at all ranks in four-year colleges and research universities.
- The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ADVANCE-IT program. Other factors are likely to have contributed.
The ADVANCE Program
Features of the Intervention
Since 2001, NSF has invested more than $130 million in support of ADVANCE programs nationwide. ADVANCE programs aim to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers. The ADVANCE-IT program, in particular, consists of five-year, institution-wide programs that aim to transform practices, policies, climate, and culture of colleges and universities to advance women in STEM positions.
Features of the Study
The authors compared the growth in the proportion of female STEM faculty in institutions implementing ADVANCE-IT programs to that of a national reference group. Separate analyses were conducted by rank (assistant, associate, or full professor) and by type of institution (four-year college or research university). The study evaluated 19 first- and second-round recipients of ADVANCE-IT grants that had either completed or were close to completing their projects at the time of the evaluation. Cohort 1 included 7 institutions that began their projects in the 2001–2002 academic year and completed them by 2007. Cohort 2 included 10 institutions that began their projects in the 2003–2004 academic year and completed them by 2008. The sample contained 17 public and two private universities, including 11 very high research activity universities, 6 high research activity universities, one master’s college, and one baccalaureate college. Although the proportion of female STEM faculty varied across institutions, most institutions had no more than 21 percent during the period studied.
The national reference groups to which the authors compared ADVANCE-IT institutions were created using national survey data. Specifically, the authors compiled summary data from the 2001, 2003, and 2006 Survey of Doctorate Recipients (SDR). The SDR is a longitudinal survey conducted every two years on recipients of doctorates from U.S. institutions, with new recipients of doctorates added with each wave. For the purposes of this study, the reference group sample was limited to those who met the following criteria: their principal employer was an educational institution; they worked at a four-year college or university; their faculty rank was assistant, associate, or full professor; and their doctorate degree was in a STEM field.
- The study found that the ADVANCE-IT programs increased female representation among STEM faculty, but gains were generally equal to, or only marginally greater than, those experienced by the national reference group.
Considerations for Interpreting the Findings
The authors compared the annual percentage of STEM faculty who were female in institutions implementing ADVANCE-IT programs with similar percentages observed in a national reference group. They did not perform a statistical analysis or provide information suggesting that the groups being compared were experiencing similar levels or trends in the percentage of STEM faculty who were female before the institutions implemented ADVANCE-IT. Therefore, differences between women’s STEM representation in ADVANCE-IT institutions and the reference group might represent underlying differences between these groups, and not the effect of the ADVANCE-IT program.
Causal Evidence Rating
The quality of causal evidence presented in this study is low. This means we are not confident that the estimated effects are attributable to the ADVANCE-IT program. Other factors are likely to have contributed.