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Faculty Gender Balance: Best Practices for Undergraduate Institutions

Tom Eppes, Ivana Milanovic, Jennifer Sanborn


Recruiting and retaining women in the STEM faculty ranks has been a US national priority for many years. Recent research, sponsored by the NSF ADVANCE program, was performed mostly by doctoral institutions. However, for small undergraduate universities, the resulting challenges and decision frameworks are likely to be different. The prevalent recommendations need to be re-evaluated and re-interpreted for relevance and applicability.

Multiple change agents have been identified; however, the primary success factors are a set of formalized processes in: (1) teaching, scholarship and service; (2) mentoring; and, (3) leadership. There is also a strong connection between gender progress on the faculty side and improving the pipeline of female students. To effectively intervene on the supply side, it is important to have networking, mentoring and role modeling processes that match student demographics and global sociological conditions.

This paper describes our best practices in the context of an undergraduate institution. We have demonstrated that even with limited resources and no external funding, it is possible to improve the community culture and climate. Tangible strategies and initiatives aimed at enhancing the climate are presented: (1) administrative leadership commitment; (2) grants and endowments; (3) faculty development resources; (4) workshops that mirror industry successes; (5) early and mid-career planning; and, (6) recruiting and retention of female faculty.


gender balance, female faculty, recruiting, student retention

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