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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal


Emerald Publishing Limited

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Purpose: Women remain underrepresented in academic STEM, especially at the highest ranks. While much attention has focused on early-career attrition, mid-career advancement is still largely understudied and undocumented. This paper analyzes gender differences in advancement to full professor within academic STEM at a mid-size public doctoral university in the western US, before and after the NSF-ADVANCE Program (2003-2007).

Methodology: Using faculty demographics and promotion data between 2008 and 2014, combined with faculty responses to two waves of a climate survey, the magnitude and longevity of the impact of ADVANCE on mid-career faculty advancement across gender is evaluated.

Findings: This study documents increased representation of women in all ranks within the STEM colleges, including that of full professor due to ADVANCE efforts. It also demonstrates the role of greater gender awareness and formalization of procedures in reducing the variability in the time as associate professor until promotion to full professor for all faculty, while also shrinking gender disparities in career attainment. As a result of the codification of the post-tenure review timeline towards promotion, more recently hired faculty are promoted more swiftly and consistently, irrespective of gender. Post-ADVANCE, both male and female faculty express greater understanding of and confidence in the promotion process and no longer see it as either a hurdle or source of gender inequality in upward career mobility.

Research limitations / Implications: While data were collected at a single university, demographics and career experiences by women mirror those at other research universities. This study shows that within a given institution-specific governance structure, long-lasting effects on faculty career trajectories can be achieved, by focusing efforts on creating greater transparency in expectations and necessary steps towards promotion, by reducing barriers to information flown, and by standardizing and codifying the promotion process.

Originality / Value: This study addresses mid-career dynamics and potential mechanisms that explain gender gaps in the promotion to full professor, a largely understudied aspect gender disparities in career attainment within STEM. It shows how institutional policy changes, intended to alleviate gender disparities, can benefit the career trajectories all faculty. Specifically, this study highlights the crucial role of codifying procedures and responsibilities in neutralizing subjectivity and inconsistencies in promotion outcomes due to varying departmental climates.