Transforming Climates for the Academic Woman of Color: Facilitating Greater Understanding in the Workplace Climate and in Social Structures
Twelfth LACCEI Latin American and Caribbean Conference for Engineering and Technology (LACCEI’2014) ”Excellence in Engineering To Enhance a Country’s Productivity” July 22 - 24, 2014 Guayaquil, Ecuador
This article explores the findings of a workshop designed to determine impediments for academic success of women of color in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), as well as Social and Behavioral Science (SBS), disciplines at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Funded by a National Science Foundation (NSF) five-year ADVANCE Institutional Transformation (IT) grant, three concurrent cohorts – single women, women with partners, and the partners of the women – explored various factors that hinder academic women’s progression. Utilizing mixed methods, including focus groups, pre- and post-surveys and recorded interviews, it was found that women of color at HBCUs not only lack informal mentoring and support male colleagues find at work, but also face climates at home where spouses, partners, or family find their work demands unfamiliar. Discussions of the impact of marital status and family life on work success were previously lacking. A clear disconnect of perceptions between partnered and single women were addressed in a joint session. All three cohorts repeatedly noted a definite benefit of the workshop was development of community across the university, and across families. After the workshop, many women noted feeling less isolated and realizing their difficulties were similar to other women at the institution.