ADVANCE 2016: Researching STEM Participation

There are so many interesting research projects going on focused around broadening participation in STEM.
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By Roberta Rincon
Manager of Research
Society of Women Engineers

There are so many interesting research projects going on focused around broadening participation in STEM.

The ADVANCE/GSE Program Workshop, hosted by the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), took place last month. This event brought together leaders of both the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE Program, which aims to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science and engineering careers, and the NSF Research on Gender in Science and Engineering (GSE), which supports efforts to address gender-based differences in STEM education and workforce participation. The workshop included presentations and poster sessions on various projects, many of which were funded by NSF through these programs.

Some highlights of the projects discussed during this workshop:


Montana State University researchers provided information on gender bias studies they were conducting in STEM:

  • Now Hiring! Empirically Testing a Three-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEM was published in the November 2015. The researchers conducted a randomized and controlled faculty search intervention aimed at increasing the number of women faculty in STEM at a selected U.S. university. They found that faculty searches that included the intervention were 6.3 times more likely to make an offer to a woman candidate, and women were 5.8 times more likely to accept the offer from an intervention search.
  • Quality of evidence revealing subtle gender biases in science is in the eye of the beholder was published in October 2015. The researchers tested whether men and women are equally receptive to gender bias research in a STEM context. Study participants from the general public and STEM and non-STEM faculty were asked to read an actual journal abstract reporting gender bias in a STEM context and evaluate the overall quality of the research. Results showed that men evaluate the gender bias research less favorably than women, particularly STEM faculty participants. The researchers concluded that there is a relative reluctance among men, especially those within STEM, to accept evidence of gender bias in STEM.


  • Ramón Barthelemy, an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) policy fellow, presented findings from a recent study by the American Physical Society on the LGBT Climate in Physics. Results of their work indicate that over one-third of respondents considered leaving their workplace or school in the past year, and this strongly correlated with experiencing or observing harassment or discrimination. The researchers also found that LGBT physicists with additional marginalized identities faced greater levels of discrimination. For example, women experienced exclusionary behavior at three times the rate of men.


  • Martha Bottia of the University of North Carolina Charlotte shared a study that tracked female college students that persist in STEM in North Carolina to identify what background and/or institutional characteristics influence persistence. This study is part of the Roots of STEM research UNCC is conducting on women and underrepresented minorities in STEM. Preliminary findings found that STEM is more meritocratic for men than for women, meaning that men that have higher math performance and higher high school class rank are more likely to persist. However, female persistence in STEM is higher for women who attend colleges with higher levels of spending on student services and those who participate in STEM-related extracurricular activities.


  • The University of Washington will issue a call for pilot sites on June 15, 2016 to fund faculty diversity workshops for higher education institutions. LEAD-it-Yourself! (LiY!) disseminates planning and educational materials to enable the access and sharing of resources and workshop planning tools to enable institutions to plan, organize, and run faculty leadership workshops with a focus on STEM faculty diversity and inclusion. Those interested should check out the LiY! website for more information.
  • Margaret Bailey and Dr. Carol Marchetti of Rochester Institute of Technology highlighted efforts at the university to address faculty salary inequities. The presenters shared the successes and pitfalls of taking on a salary equity study and implementing change efforts. The university hired the Center for Higher Education at Ohio University to conduct the pay equity study. An article by Donald Deere of Welch Consulting was shared to show the benefits of conducting salary equity studies.

There was so much more presented during this workshop, but so little time to take it all in! SWE will continue to provide important research highlights to its members for projects and programs that can help close gender gaps in engineering and related STEM fields.

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