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From Barriers to Bridges: An ADVANCE Dialogue on Women of Color in the Academy. Gretal Leibnitz, Ph.D. ADVANCE at Washington State University Ming Shi Trammel, Ph.D., ADVANCE at North Carolina State University. Overview. Setting the Stage: The Foundation for the Conversation

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From Barriers to Bridges: An ADVANCE Dialogue on Women of Color in the Academy

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From barriers to bridges an advance dialogue on women of color in the academy

From Barriers to Bridges: An ADVANCE Dialogue on Women of Color in the Academy

Gretal Leibnitz, Ph.D.

ADVANCE at Washington State University

Ming Shi Trammel, Ph.D.,

ADVANCE at North Carolina State University



  • Setting the Stage: The Foundation for the Conversation

    • Why Talk about Race?

    • Higher Education Context for Women of Color

    • ADVANCE Context for Women of Color

      • Advance Implementation Mentors (AIM) Network: Women of Color Survey Results

      • Interview Results

      • Example ADVANCE Programs for STEM women

  • Preparing for the Dialogue: Change Agents and Allies

  • Practice and Next Steps: Think-Pair-Share Exercise

Talking about race

Talking About Race


Why should we care

Why should we care?

  • Changing demographics

  • Future generation of scientists

  • Better product development

  • Different experiences

  • Zero-sum gain

  • Stronger together

An engineering example why race matters

An Engineering Example: Why Race Matters


Part 1 foundation for the conversation

Part 1: Foundation for the Conversation

Defining women of color

Defining Women of Color

  • Historically Disadvantaged

    • African American, Hispanic American, and Native American

  • Asian American

    • Issues related to defining them as Women of Color

  • International

Higher education context student diversity pipeline

Higher Education Context: Student Diversity Pipeline

  • “Women and minority students are particularly well-represented at elite institutions” (p. 33)

Trower, C. and Chait, R. (2002) Faculty Diversity: Too little for too long.

Student success related to faculty diversity

Student Success Related to Faculty Diversity

  • “The most accurate predictor of subsequent success for female undergraduates is the percentage of women among faculty members at their college.” (p. 34)

Trower, C. and Chait, R. (2002) Faculty Diversity: Too little for too long.

Faculty race diversity

Faculty Race Diversity


    • Minority faculty growth is primarily a function of participation by Asian Americans

    • Only 5% of Full Professors in the US are Black, Hispanic, or Native American

Faculty gender diversity

Faculty Gender Diversity


    • Note: Women have made substantial gains, however represent only 36% of full-time faculty (and 25% at research institutions)

Stem faculty diversity

STEM Faculty Diversity


Higher education stagnant territory for diversity

Higher Education: Stagnant Territory for Diversity

  • Ultimately, the pipeline is only part of the problem; the other part is the reality that Higher Education is perceived as “uninviting, unaccommodating, and unappealing” for non-white, non-male individuals—this may be particularly true in STEM disciplines.

  • Further “…academe has a strong culture—a set of beliefs and assumptions, often unspoken and unwritten, that guides individual and collective behavior and shapes the way institutions do business.” (p. 36)

    • As the data bear out, % of minority faculty has not changed in 30+ years –academic cultures do not easily change

Trower, C. and Chait, R. (2002) Faculty Diversity: Too little for too long.



  • Who do you take to lunch from the office?

  • Who are your friends?

  • Who are your neighbors?

  • Who teaches your children, addresses your health and/or legal needs?

Part 2 advance context for women of color

Part 2: ADVANCE Context for Women of Color

Advance institutions

ADVANCE Institutions


“To develop systemic approaches to increase the representation and advancement of women in academic science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, thereby contributing to the development of a more diverse science and engineering workforce. ADVANCE focuses on ensuring that women faculty with earned STEM degrees consider academia as a viable and attractive career option.”

Advance history


  • ADVANCE was initiated at the National Science Foundation in 2001

  • Over $130 Million invested to support various projects

  • >100 ADVANCE projects have been funded at institutions of Higher Education and STEM related not-for-profit organizations in over 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico

Advance implantation mentors aim network

ADVANCE Implantation Mentors (AIM) Network

  • Initiated: ADVANCE PI meeting (Nov. 7-9th, 2010) Alexandria, VA

  • Target Audience: ADVANCE Program Coordinators/Directors (currently 50 members representing 38 ADVANCE institutions)

  • Goal: To establish a common mentoring network for ADVANCE Program Coordinators/Directors (at all developmental stages of ADVANCE grants) with the purpose of answering questions and providing support, sharing promising practices, and establishing a common resource base.

  • Objectives:

    • Establish a listserv (accomplished Dec. 2010)

    • Establish a monthly meeting (accomplished Jan 2011: 2nd Tuesday of the month; 8:30 am PST-9:30 am PST—ongoing)

      • Identify common topics of interest—ongoing

    • Establish and utilize a common means of sharing documents (accomplished Jan 2011: WEPAN Knowledge Center)

    • Establish benchmarks (ongoing—e.g. women of color project)

Example advance it institutions

Example ADVANCE IT Institutions

Aim women of color survey

AIM Women of Color: Survey

  • Launched the 9 question survey March 20, 2012 ( survey open until June 8, 2012)

  • Predominately ADVANCE IT institutions represented

  • Objectives of the survey

    • Do ADVANCE Program Coordinators/Directors have the tools to be Allies/Advocates for WOC STEM faculty

      • (i.e. WOC data, knowledge of barriers and factors for success for WOC, do they have access to knowledgeable collaborators)

    • What are ADVANCE programs offering for WOC?

    • What ADVANCE activities do Program Coordinators/Directors perceive are doing well (or not so well) re: WOC?

Aim women of color survey results

AIM Women of Color: Survey Results

  • Data collection precipitated good discussions and provided the focus for 2 AIM meetings

  • Survey completion rate 15/38 institutions (~40%)

  • Challenges re: data on WOC (i.e., numbers not collected, difficult to find data etc; cohort related)

  • Respondents may be biased towards institutions with data and/or programming for WOC

Survey data

Survey Data

Survey data continued

Survey Data (Continued)

Survey rate advance activities for woc

Survey: Rate ADVANCE Activities for WOC

Note: Boxed items indicate average

Survey barriers

Survey: Barriers

Survey success factors

Survey: Success Factors

Survey barriers facing asian american women

Survey: Barriers Facing Asian American Women

Survey Comments:

  • Isolation and implicit cultural biases

  • Some have had difficulty in the classroom; timid and some language issues

  • Stereotypes and language

  • Having enough women with the same issues

  • I can conceptually respond to this but cannot make a response based upon our work here

  • None that I am aware of

  • Cross-cultural issues (i.e., language), “model minority stigma,” classroom challenges

  • Majority ignorance of barriers faced unintentional biases (e.g., advancement ceiling)

Survey barriers for international women

Survey: Barriers for International Women

Survey Comments:

  • Isolation

  • Having enough women with the same cultural issues

  • I can conceptually respond to this but cannot make a response based on our work here

  • None here, unless these are visa issues

  • Cross-cultural issues (i.e., language), visa issues

  • Lack of women like them in upper levels of the academy

  • Dual-culture gender biases; work-life balance extended outside of the US

  • Cultural issues from their own country

Additional comments

Additional Comments

Our numbers are so small it’s hard to make any comments that are of statistical significance.

Data collection is challenging. How do we provide the few WOC we have with a voice, while at the same time providing confidentiality?

“Until majority faculty are educated about barriers experienced by women of color, it makes little sense to recruit more WOC. And until we create a climate where WOC are successful (retained, mentored, are less isolated) by active support from the majority, I am somewhat ambivalent about how much benefit specific programs focusing on women of color will be (unless those programs are embedded in context where education for the majority is also available.)”

Interviews with woc

Interviews with WOC

  • “My experience has revealed that my own belief that I am just as capable and competent as males, particularly white males has determined my career success.  When I doubted my capabilities then I was treated as if my capabilities were inferior.  However, when I valued my capabilities and believed that I brought to the table valuable assets then I was treated as if I had something of value.   My experience also reveals that there is a culture of disrespect for those who are different.”

  • “I believe the barriers to success for minority women in science is the feeling of being disconnected and the lack of appropriate role models and mentors. For me, I still feel like I am an outsider among fellow scientists, like I still have to prove myself before I will be taken seriously or be considered for opportunities for career advancement. In science there is no clear map to success, but for minority scientists, particularly women, we are less likely to even be aware of opportunities that are available. “

  • “I believed that if I work hard my superior will see that and make fair decisions about my position.  The truth is I need to sell myself as competent and as an asset. ”

Interviews with woc1

Interviews with WOC

  • “The leadership is made up primarily of males and I think this implicitly sends the message that females are unwanted, not valued, or not perceived as not being as capable as males. ”

  •  ”Very favorable for women at the higher administration end as this is an HBCU. Within the department of chemistry it is still the impression that it is male dominated and certain underlying currents occasionally come up (i.e when decisions are made, directions for department, etc.) that suggest the  male faculty on board still think this is a male dominated field.”

Interviews with woc2

Interviews with WOC

  • “Minority women may have more of a family responsibility.  If our family is relying on our paycheck then we may not want to be considered "trouble makers" by not accepting the disrespect and disregard from the administration and colleagues.”

  • I think the faculty and staff go above and beyond to give their students opportunities towards career development.

  • Mentoring

  • Resources

  • Collaboration

Past and current advance programs specific to woc

Past and Current ADVANCE Programs Specific to WOC

  • Jackson State University

  • North Carolina State University

  • ADVANCE-Purdue (2008):

  • Rutgers University (2008) ADVANCE IT: Women of Color Scholars Program:

  • Syracuse (2010) ADVANCE IT Chancellors Faculty Fellow Program:

  • Texas A & M (2010) ADVANCE IT: Scholar Mentor Program:

  • University of Montana PACE (2003)ADVANCE IT: outreach to American Indian Women Scientists —launched the Indigenous Women in Science Network

  • Other programs?

Part 3 change agents allies

Part 3: Change Agents & Allies

From barriers to bridges an advance dialogue on women of color in the academy

  • “This letter has been delayed because of my grave reluctance to reach out to you, for what I want us to chew upon here is neither easy nor simple…”

    • AudreLorde, Sister Outsider, 1984, p. 66

  • "Your life is of consequence to me. How is my life of consequence to you?"

    • Erica Huggins, Human Rights Activist

Advocates and allies

Advocates and Allies

  • Little “c” change agent; and Big “C” Change agent

  • Who’s invited to the “table” and who isn’t?

  • Opportunities for Alliance Building (Houston, 2007, AACU)

    • Invisibility and Silencing

    • Underestimating

    • Shifting Criteria

  • Influence of Information Source (social evaluations discounted when source is unlike the receiver)

From barriers to bridges an advance dialogue on women of color in the academy

“Whites are taught to think of their lives as morally neutral, normative, and average, and also ideal, so that when we work to benefit others, this is seen as work which will allow ‘them’ to be more like ‘us.’”

Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack

Faculty profiles standing in the way of change

Faculty profiles standing in the way of change…

  • the naïve profile…

  • the gentrified profile…

  • the indifferent profile…

  • the punitive profile…

Part 4 practice and next steps

Part 4: Practice and Next Steps

Think pair share exercise

Think-Pair-Share Exercise

  • What does racism look like in your department (or maybe, more broadly, in the academy?). Discuss with partner [ideally a person of  a different race or ethnicity] and share with the broader group.

  • What stops us from having race/intersectionality conversations? How can we facilitate these conversations?

  • When recruiting faculty we are always seeking “the best.”   How is “best” defined and how is the answer ultimately a manifestation of a privileged majority?

  • What are “action steps” for you as a change agent?

Where there is no vision there is no change

Where there is no VISION,There is no CHANGE…

Recommended readings

Recommended Readings

  • Gallagher, C. (2003). Color-Blind Privilege: The Social and Political Functions of Erasing the Color Line in Post Race America. Race, Gender & Class. 10 (4). Pp. 1-17.

  • Hollinger, D. (2005). The One Drop Rule and the One Hate Rule.

  • Houston, M. (2007). Communicating as a Cross-cultural Ally. AACU.

  • McIntosh, P. (1988). Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege.

  • MIT (2010): A Report on the Initiative for Faculty Race and Diversity.

  • Skrentny, J. (2002/2004). The Minority Rights Revolution. ) 

  • Trower, C. & Chat, R. (March-April 2002) Faculty Diversity: Too little for too long. Harvard Magazine.

  • Turner, C. (2002). Women of Color in Academe: Living with Multiple Marginality. Journal of Higher Education, 73 (1). Pp. 74-93.

Please talk with us

Please Talk with Us! 

Gretal Leibnitz, Ph.D.

ADVANCE at Washington State University

Excellence in Science and Engineering (EXCELinSE) Center

(509) 335-9739

Ming Shi Trammel, Ph.D.

North Carolina State University

(919) 513-3089

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