EFFORT @ RIT 

The ADVANCE IT-Catalyst project, “Establishing the Foundation for Future Organizational Reform and Transformation at Rochester Institute of Technology” Establishing the Foundation for Future Organizational and Reform at RIT or simply EFFORT @ RIT (#0811076, 8/1/08 – 7/31/12, $199,770, http://nsfadvance.rit.edu/).  The EFFORT @ RIT research objective is to identify barriers for current women faculty at RIT in regards to rank, tenure, career advancement, leadership role progression, and resource allocation in order to establish how well the university addresses issues that have been found to be important in the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women faculty.  During the study, the research team sought answers to six primary research questions:  1) What is the distribution of STEM faculty by gender, rank, and department?  2) What are the outcomes of institutional processes of recruitment and advancement for men and women?  3) What is the gender distribution of faculty in leadership positions?  4) What is the allocation of resources for faculty?  5) Are there barriers to the recruitment and advancement of women?  6) How successful are existing structures at addressing these barriers? The study focused on six colleges including computing, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines and where possible and practical, extended the focus to the two remaining colleges (liberal arts and business) and other non-STEM departments due to the integral role each serve within this technologically focused university. 

Climate survey results, in conjunction with the objective data review and benchmarking information, led to the identification of barriers to the recruitment and advancement of women faculty involving career navigation, climate, and flexibility/options for managing the work/life
balance.  Issues related to career navigation could be caused by women’s self-agency and negotiation skills, coupled with a lack of “sponsorship” from more seasoned faculty and/or administration, hinder the success of female faculty in obtaining more advantageous starting packages, assignments, compensation, and promotion.   Climate issues are exacerbated by female’s view of the workplace in personal terms, as opposed to a more male process-oriented view, meaning that issues of connectedness, support, and interpersonal relations, are important to their success.  Overall satisfaction for men and women seems to be tied to faculty perception of value and influence, and to a lesser extent to one’s view of the department climate and work/life balance.  Finally, managing work/life balance through flexible work arrangements, available and convenient child care, and tenure clock adjustments, may lower stress and increase satisfaction, and potentially aid in the retention of female (and male) faculty.

This study sought answers to each research question and the following report summarizes evidence-driven results and conclusions for each.  Based on the findings, a list of detailed recommendations are offered which will afford RIT the opportunity to systematically track and report on data related to the representation, advancement, and recruitment of women faculty at RIT.  To promote the success and advancement of women faculty at RIT, other recommendations are aimed at enhancing or implementing new programs and policies which stem from the study’s findings.  Recommendations that follow seek to address barriers to the recruitment, representation, and advancement of women faculty at RIT by building on existing institutional structures as well as developing and integrating new structures.

Career Life Survey

Over the course of the 2008 academic year, the Survey Group developed a comprehensive career-life survey focusing on gender issues in STEM. The team reviewed climate surveys previously developed and administered at other NSF ADVANCE institutions, primarily the survey developed at the University of Michigan and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

They survey titled the "RIT Faculty Career Life Survey" was administered at RIT in the fall of 2009. Questions from these surveys were composed based on existing RIT culture and background. The survey was structured around four primary areas:

  • Teaching, Resources, and Service
  • Career Satisfaction, Work Load, Recognition
  • Climate, Mentoring, Tenure, Promotion
  • Balancing Personal and Professional Life

Four individuals with experience in assessment and evaluation, but not involved in this study as investigators or survey participants, tested the final survey instrument in a paper format for clarity of questions and categories, formatting and time requirements. Minor updates were made based on their feedback. 

Climate Survey

Climate Survey Data Review

Human Resources Objective Data Review

Using data from the Human Resources Information System, counts of STEM tenured and tenure track faculty were developed for the periods of October 2004 through October 2010 to examine trends. Where more in-depth data was readily available, it was used to study areas including leadership, applicants, hires, attrition, promotion and tenure.

In addition to the objective data review and analysis of HR data, a salary study was conducted using a statistical analysis methodology.  A modeling effort was undertaken to evaluate the following research question, Is there pay inequity related to gender? A series of linear regression models were developed using male faculty data then fitted to all faculty. Chi Square comparisons were run to see if female faculty tended to have more below the predicted salary than male faculty. Comparisons were generated for the entire population, by rank, by college, and by rank within college. Salary equity analysis was generated using available variables such as time in rank, college, terminal degree, gender, ethnicity, and length of service.

Policies Review

The policy benchmarking activity was one of the earliest activities in the grant, providing a starting point for identifying areas that should be investigated further in the survey activity.

Methodology: A literature review identified several policy areas that are typically associated with cultural and gender diversity. These include:

  • Diversity statement
  • Tenure policies
  • Mentoring
  • Faculty awards
  • Leave policies
  • Grievance policies
  • Procedures/Benefits considered relevant to women seeking an academic position
  • Tuition support for family
  • RIT’s policies and procedures were researched to determine whether or not these policies were in place. RIT’s thirteen benchmark schools, as defined on the Human Resources website, were then investigated to identify if they had the policies in place. Four of the benchmark schools are also ADVANCE schools, which provided another comparison.