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Factoring Family Considerations into Female Faculty Choices for International Engagement in Engineering, IT, and Computer Science

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Abstract

In the 21th century, participation in the global economy is a necessity for a successful science or engineering career. Advances in cyberinfrastructure and telecommunication have enhanced the ability of faculty and students to engage in transnational scholarship. However, as international collaborations in research continue to increase, it is important to consider how such changes may influence the diversity of the STEM workforce. The globalization of research activity coupled with the understanding of the importance of a diverse STEM workforce promotes the need to support diverse groups of researchers engaging in international collaborations. In this paper, we describe the results of a National Science Foundation project focused on exploring international engagement through the experiences of 15 women faculty and graduate students from underrepresented, minority backgrounds. The analysis utilizes a constructivist, hybrid study that paired focus group responses with those generated in an online community during an international engineering conference. Participants from the online community provided 188 qualitative responses to a series of questions such as “Is there a research benefit to meeting someone in person versus using technology to connect?,” and “How did this international engagement experience influence your career strategies?” Responses included concerns that are common among women: missing family, finding the time to travel, and balancing family concerns during the travel (e.g., child-care), course loads, research responsibilities, and financial barriers. However, the discussion included additional challenges such as acceptance in an environment where their skin color is completely different from that of the people in the region, and concerns about language or overall communication barriers. Responses from the participants suggest that inspiring a culture of international engagement among women faculty of color should start early, as undergraduate or graduate students. Early training can tackle potential fears of the unknown, increase language skills, and address other intercultural competencies. We analyze the concerns, challenges, and barriers to international engagement based upon four areas: personal, institutional, external, and sociocultural. The transtheoretical model of change (Prochaska and Velicer, 1997) identifies six stages that we further examine in the effort to make international engagement more attractive and accessible for women of color faculty in engineering, computer science, and IT. We adopt this model because it includes constructs for producing progress within the context of decision-making, self-efficacy, and temptations. Given that promising practices from the research include interactive intervention, our approach to introducing women of color to international engagement was to involve them in an international engineering conference that included sessions relevant to their disciplines, a special forum on “Women in STEM,” and cultural activities within the host country. Providing a funded and guided opportunity for global research and collaboration was important for women of color. The participants agreed that this experience was a good introduction to, as well as preparation for, international collaborations that can lead to academic advancement. We propose this model as a potential, replicable solution for addressing the current lack of participation of women of color in STEM international activities.
Paper ID #12765
Factoring Family Considerations into Female Faculty Choices for Interna-
tional Engagement in Engineering, IT, and Computer Science
Dr. Quincy Brown, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Dr. Quincy Brown is AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow and an Assistant Professor in the
Computer Department at Bowie State University. She is a 2009 recipient of the National Science Foun-
dation/Computing Community Consortium CI Fellows Postdoctoral Research Fellowship award. She
completed her doctoral work at Drexel University where she was a National Science Foundation GK-12
and Bridges To the Doctorate Fellow. As a GK-12 Fellow she taught and developed STEM curricula for
middle school students. Through her research she seeks to identify methods of facilitating human interac-
tion with advanced technologies, including mobile devices, to support learning. Specifically, her ongoing
projects examine the design of intelligent tutoring systems, delivered on mobile devices, to support mid-
dle school mathematics learning and exploring the design and usability aspects of mobile device use by
children.
Dr. Renetta G. Tull, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Renetta Garrison Tull is Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Student Professional Development & Post-
doctoral Affairs at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC: An Honors University in Mary-
land), where she is the Co-PI and Founding Director for the National Science Foundation’s PROMISE:
Maryland’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (AGEP) for the 12 institutions in the
University System of Maryland, and Co-PI Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP)
Bridge to the Doctorate at UMBC. Dr. Tull has worked with thousands of students from Alaska to Puerto
Rico, and in Latin America through graduate school preparation workshops that have been sponsored by
The National GEM Consortium, National Society of Black Engineers, Society for Hispanic Professional
Engineers, Society for the Advancement of Chicano, and Native American Scientists, American Indian
Science and Engineering Society, and the Alliance/Merck Ciencia Hispanic Scholars Program. She has
presented workshops on graduate school admissions, ”The Success Equation,” STEM initiatives, and PhD
Completion in Panama, Mexico, Ecuador, Colombia, Puerto Rico, and schools across the United States.
Tull is on the board of advisors for the PNW-COSMOS Alliance to increase the number of American
Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) students who complete STEM graduate programs, and is a speaker on
”GRADLab” tour with the National GEM Consortium, giving talks across the US each Saturday morning
during the Fall. Tull researched speech technology as former member of the faculty at the University of
Wisconsin-Madison. She has co-authored several publications on achievement in STEM fields, and is a
mentoring consultant for Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, and MIT. She co-leads the ”ADVANCE His-
panic Women in STEM” project in Puerto Rico, and the Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering
Institutions’ (LACCEI) ”Women in STEM” forum. Tull is a Tau Beta Pi ”Eminent Engineer.
Dr. Lourdes A. Medina, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez
Dr. Lourdes A. Medina earned her B.S. in Industrial Engineering in 2006 from the University of Puerto
Rico at Mayag
¨
uez, where she graduated Summa Cum Laude and obtained the highest recognitions in the
graduation commencements: Luis Stefani Rafucci Award, College of Engineering Award and Frederick
M. Taylor Industrial Engineering Award. In 2007, she was admitted at The Harold and Inge Marcus De-
partment of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at The Pennsylvania State University, where she
received her M.S. degree in Industrial Engineering in 2009 and Ph.D. degree in Industrial Engineering in
2012. While at The Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Medina is currently an Assistant Professor at the
University of Puerto Rico at Mayag
¨
uez in the Department of Industrial Engineering. She teaches courses
in Automation Processes, Project Management and Linear Programming; and is conducting research in the
areas of Systems and Product Design Methods, Medical Devices, Regulations, Complexity Assessment,
Decision Support Systems, Manufacturing, Automation, Real-Time Process Control and Engineering Ed-
ucation. Dr. Medina is the IDEAS (Improving Design Decisions in Engineering and Applied Systems)
Research Group Leader. This group is dedicated to innovating the development process of products and
c
American Society for Engineering Education, 2015
Paper ID #12765
processes. Dr. Medina has been the recipient of several fellowships such as the GEM Ph.D. Engineer-
ing Fellowship, NASA Harriet Jenkins Pre-doctoral Fellowship, Alfred P. Sloan Dissertation Fellowship,
Graham Endowed Fellowship, Marie Underhill Noll Graduate Fellowship, and General Electric Fellow-
ship, while also becoming a scholar of the Center for Integrated Health Delivery Systems at Penn State.
She is member of Alpha Pi Mu Industrial Engineering honor society, Tau Beta Pi Engineering honor soci-
ety, and Institute of Industrial Engineers (IIE). Currently, she holds the position of Media Director of the
Manufacturing and Design Division of IIE and track co-chair of the education track for 2015 Industrial
and Systems Engineering Research Conference (ISERC).
Michelle Beadle Holder, University of Maryland, College Park
Michelle Beadle Holder is a Ph.D. Candidate in the sociology department at the University of Maryland,
College Park. Her research uses intersectionality as an analytical framework to examine the role that
African American women and African American men play in addressing health disparities in their church
and community.
Mrs. Yarazeth Medina, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Yarazeth Medina is a USM PROMISE AGEP Program Assistant for Graduate Student Development and
Postdoctoral Affairs. She earned her BA in Accounting from the Universidad Aut
´
onoma de Baja Cali-
fornia (UABC) in Mexico. She has over 5 years of experience as a Financial Auditor for the Mexican
Congress. She has had the opportunity to participate as part of the PROMISE community to enhance
the preparation of graduate and postdoctoral fellows in STEM. Her research interests focus on bridging
the disparity of availability of information that improves programs that enforce participation in STEM
careers.
c
American Society for Engineering Education, 2015
Factoring Family Considerations into Female Faculty Choices for
International Engagement in Engineering, IT, and Computer Science
Introduction
Advances in cyberinfrastructure and telecommunication have enhanced the ability of faculty and
students to engage in transnational scholarship. In “New Developments in International Research
Collaboration,” Hatakenaka
8
notes that twenty percent of the world's scientific papers are
coauthored internationally due to globalized communication channels. Hatakenaka’s
8
work
implies that engaging in international collaboration is a necessity if one wants to fully participate
in the competitive environment of science, research and innovation.
As international collaborations in research continue to increase, it is important to consider how
such changes may affect the gender, ethnic, and economic diversity of the Science, Technology,
Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce. Furthermore, the globalization of research activity,
coupled with the understanding of the importance of a diverse STEM workforce, promotes the
need to support diverse groups of researchers who will engage in international collaborations.
This paper considers the inclusion of U.S. citizen women STEM faculty from underrepresented
minority groups and the barriers or challenges that might prohibit their participation in global
activities, which can threaten acceptance, respect, and achievement within the broader
international community.
This paper is organized in five sections. In the first section, we provide a brief review of the
literature pertaining to women faculty in STEM and issues related to leadership. In the second
section, we present an overview of the literature related to the significance of building a critical
mass of female faculty in STEM. The third section includes a description of the methodology
that utilizes a constructivist, hybrid approach that paired responses gathered during group
discussions with recollected responses generated in an online community of U.S. graduate
students, faculty and staff of color during the 2014 Latin and Caribbean Consortium of
Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) Conference. In the fourth and fifth sections, we include the
results from our analysis, discussion and recommendations for supporting female faculty’s
engagement in international collaborations. The results provide insights about the factors that
both limit and facilitate the engagement of women of color in STEM international collaboration.
Female Faculty in STEM and Issues of Leadership
Workforce diversification is a fundamental component for the successful development of any
organization. Leadership development of underrepresented groups who pursue careers in STEM
is an important step for an organization. Yet the issue may prove to be cyclical: the limited
number of role models and mentors from underrepresented groups also inhibits this progress. For
women in particular, this dilemma is what Sandberg calls the “ultimate chicken-and-egg
situation”
15
. While we need women in leadership positions to drive change, there are many
factors that do not allow women to advance into these positions. For example, research suggests
that women and minorities switch out of science as a result of the strength of their career
orientation. This orientation is in part initially influenced by parents, and then compounded by
teachers.
17
Despite the lack of career orientation toward the STEM fields, reports from the
National Center for Education Statistics
13
show an increase in the number of females pursuing
doctoral degrees in general. Even with this increase in female PhDs, there is still a significant
disparity between the number of females who obtain doctoral degrees, and those who have
faculty careers and transition to becoming assistant professors.
20
Consequently, these studies
reinforce the need to recruit, retain and develop female faculty in STEM.
The Importance of Building a Critical Mass of Women Faculty in STEM
Studies have identified three issues that are significant to the building of a critical mass of
women faculty in STEM. The first includes concerns related to recruitment. A second includes
the issue of retention. Finally, studies have examined the factors that may impede or support the
advancement of women faculty in STEM. These three factors are important to consider in
international collaboration, research and engagement in the field.
Recruitment
The recruitment of females in STEM has been investigated so that we can understand the factors
that influence career choices and career awareness. If we start with the selection of an
undergraduate education in a STEM field, studies show that females are influenced by family,
mentors and role models.
2, 18
Family’s influence becomes a decisive factor, as the level of their
approval and support can either encourage or discourage a young woman’s selection of a
particular career path. As an example, awareness about particular professional career paths often
stems from family members who are already involved in higher education, or from close
relatives who work in a given field. In addition to family influence, the opinions of extended
community members can exert pressure or power on a woman’s choice to pursue a career in
STEM.
2
For example, in a large scale quantitative and qualitative examination of women in
engineering in Turkey with over 800 participants, Smith and Dengiz
18
found that a significant
number of females were discouraged from pursuing a career in engineering by their high school
teachers.
If one examines the influence of role models and mentors, research suggests that the gender
composition of institutions contributes to the number of females who enter the field.
20
However,
Canes and Rosen
4
found no statistical evidence to support the view that an increase in the
number of female faculty in sciences and engineering leads to an increase in the number of
females pursuing those majors. Conversely, Harris et al.
7
note that the number of females
students majoring in Industrial Engineering at the University of Oklahoma could be in part
explained by the high proportion of female faculty, the level of faculty-student interactions, and
advising/mentoring practices.
The road to the professoriate isn’t always easy. Female faculty in particular find that having few
women colleagues, unwelcoming search processes, and lack of development opportunities, to be
inhibiting factors that influence the desire to pursue and enter tenure-track positions. Addressing
these issues calls for institutional transformation which requires senior administrative support,
collaborative leadership, flexible vision, and visible action.
3
External agencies, such as the
National Science Foundation (NSF), and a network of peer institutions can also influence
institutional transformation.
3
Research suggests that females make career choices based upon
their internal particular circumstances, the expected benefits, and personal perceptions. The
internal particular circumstances or “internal factors” refer to circumstances that remain within
the control of the individuals. These factors include geographic mobility,
2
self-perceptions, and
self-confidence.
6
Women also evaluate the expected benefits through the lens of their gender
role,
6
income, credibility and perceived levels of prestige.
18
This evaluation is coupled with the
effort that women need to put forth to gain credibility and respect.
3
Finally, personal perceptions
impact career choices based upon the female's perception of the tasks involved,
6
and the
perception that there are fewer opportunities for females in comparison to males.
18
Retention & Advancement
Recruitment of women into faculty positions is difficult. Likewise, the retention of women
faculty poses a unique set of challenges. Investigations in issues related to retention reveal that
female faculty in STEM either take career breaks or change career paths voluntarily or
involuntarily.
11
The investigation of career breaks reveals that family matters. Results from
empirical studies reveal that family considerations affect female faculty retention rates in
STEM.
11, 22
While this revelation would seem to be common sense, females take career breaks as
a result of their fatigue from managing “two full-time jobs” - work and family.
15
On one side of
the equation, we have the career which requires “maximum time investment”. While on the other
side is the "biological clock" that imposes genuine constraints when women bear children. As an
example, Assimaki et al.’s
1
study of issues that affect the retention and professional
development of female faculty in Electrical and Computer Engineering in universities in Greece
noted that there are difficulties related to “the demands of an academic career due to the parallel
demands of the role of the woman as wife and mother.” Similarly, women’s perceptions and
professional issues in Civil Engineering include concerns with the level of commitment that an
academic career requires in comparison to their family obligations.
10
Females also take career
breaks due to their partner’s relocation or to take care of an elder family member.
11
Research
suggests that some females who take career breaks report feeling satisfied with their decision
while others report feelings of disappointment especially if they felt the break was their only
alternative. Moreover, feelings of disappointment may persist if upon return to work women
experience isolation and a disconnect from their careers, and face issues of self-confidence and
fear when returning to the workplace.
11
Gendered divisions of labor also play a role in female faculty members’ career decisions and
corresponding levels of satisfaction. Female faculty dedicate a greater portion of their time to
undergraduate education in comparison to their male counterparts who invest more time in
graduate education, research, and other activities.
5
Female faculty are more likely to be assigned
to do “the more caring and less valued duties of the faculty job.”
5
Moreover, female faculty
members’ experience higher dissatisfaction due to lower research support, advancement
opportunities, and free expression of ideas.
22
Research reveals that while the average number of
yearly publications and presentations has increased for males faculty in STEM, the number has
decreased for females.
5
Valian
21
concludes that women are slow in their advancement in
academic science and engineering careers, due to lack of collegiality, discriminatory practices,
less money, slower promotions and lower tenure rates as compared to men.
As we investigate career breaks and impediments to career advancement, we theorize that
opportunities for advancement can also be developed via international activities. However,
women of color in particular may not be participants in such endeavors. The paper presented
here suggests that international engagement can be a medium for advancement and that women
of color must be active participants in order to reap the benefits of collaboration, recognition, and
opportunities for leadership.
Traditionally, international engagement involves collaboration between researchers from
different countries working in sectors such as academia, industry or public institutions.
16
We
broaden the definition and consider collaboration to include consultation, advice, research lab or
site visits, conferences, and exchange of information and research results. Such collaboration
often facilitates student mobility and curriculum improvement. It is well documented that
international collaboration is important for the development of knowledge, exchange of ideas,
and solution for complex problems for both, students and faculty.
9
While the benefits of
international engagement seem evident, family considerations should be factored in the planning
of these activities, otherwise, career breaks will continue.
Using the experiences of female faculty in engineering and computer science, and a combination
of male and female STEM graduate students who attended an international conference, we seek
to uncover answers to questions such as: How do we expose female faculty to these opportunities
and help them balance work with the responsibilities at home? and How do we make these
collaborations sustainable? We present data collected from participants who blogged during an
international conference and draw conclusions using qualitative analysis methods.
Methodology
To learn more about female faculty members’ choices and thought processes regarding
international engagement, we accompanied a group of 12 participants to an international
conference. We asked them to participate in an online daily blog to record their perceptions of
their ability to engage in international collaborations using the experiences during the
conference, past experiences, and their perceptions of how the experience can facilitate
opportunities to engage globally in the future. The group of 12 consisted of four female faculty
of color, five male and female graduate students of color who were in training to become
professors, a university administrator who served as the program’s leader, and two staff
members. The participants were individuals from three programs sponsored by the National
Science Foundation (NSF): ADVANCE: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of
Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers, AGEP: Alliances for Graduate
Education and the Professoriate, and LSAMP BD: Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority
Participation Bridge to the Doctorate Fellows Program.
The analysis utilizes a constructivist, hybrid approach that examined responses that were
generated during group conversations, and recorded in an online community format during the
2014 Latin and Caribbean Consortium of Engineering Institutions (LACCEI) Conference.
LACCEI is an international non-profit organization that provides academic and professional
development programs in Engineering and Technology to universities, colleges, industry and
private organizations. In 2010, LACCEI and the Organization of American States (OAS) started
a Women in Engineering initiative in response to the OAS Ministers of Science and
Technology’s Vision 20/25, which seeks to increase graduates in STEM. LACCEI’s 2014
conference was held in Guayaquil, Ecuador, with attendees from countries in Latin America, the
Caribbean, and the United States. The participants in the study were asked to attend sessions
during the LACCEI conference, blog about their experiences and observations during the
conference, and answer a series of guiding questions that were developed during the course of
the trip in response to observed phenomena within the context of the international experience.
Participants were also asked to give particular attention to the “Mujeres en STEM y Diversidad”
(Women in STEM and Diversity) session which featured topics that could stimulate discussion
on the blog. Table 1 showcases sessions and topics that were used as guide points for the blog
conversation.
Table 1: Topics presented during the “Mujeres en STEM y Diversidad” (Women in STEM and
Diversity) session at LACCEI 2014, Guayaquil, Ecuador, and resulting themes from which
bloggers could develop online conversations.
General Topic
Themes
Women in STEM: Conversations
in the Caribbean and Latin
America
19
“Male Champions” in positions of power
Work-Life balance (maternity leave, health, understanding
from male counterparts, and job security)
Opportunities to be considered for prestigious prizes
(nominations, networks, and collaborations)
Visibility and role models, opportunities for women in
positions of power to be recognized (universities and
corporations)
Transforming Climates for the
Academic Women of Color:
Facilitating Greater Understanding
in the Workplace Climate and in
Social Structures
12
Writing workshops for women faculty (proposals, articles)
Women faculty perceptions of feeling overwhelmed by
their university responsibilities because of multiple roles
and expectations
Women faculty’s family members’ perceptions of the
women’s world load, e.g., family members who don’t
understand faculty time requirements, leaving family
events to return to the lab, staying at work late at work
even though there aren’t class sessions
Factors that impede the academic success of women faculty
in engineering
Historical positioning of majority men as academics and
the perception of impacts on present-day biases against
women faculty, e.g., academic community dominated by
men in positions of power, perceptions of lack of support
for women, and biases
People of color are discouraged from pursuing a PhD, or a
graduate degree
Solutions: Workshops and support structures for family
members of the women to explain what is expected from
their family member, the female academic; discussions
with single women group about the relationship between
the marital status and their career choice
Results: The study showed that the groups who participated
were able to create strategies with family, such as
understanding the academic calendar, plans for help with
work at home, and recognition from partners for all of the
hard work
Desires: More opportunities to mentor and progress toward
improving isolation felt due to the perceived need to
separate personal life from work life
Promotion and Prizes: Pursuit of
Excellence and Recognition in
Honorific Organizations (Christine
Grant, North Carolina State
University, Speaker)
Pursuit of prizes enables women to feel empowered, and
celebrate success
Awards beget other awards; awards are morale boosters
Awards provide avenues for networking within the field
Strategies: Let your colleagues know who you are and what
you do, connect with previous awardees, identify specific
awards for which you would like to be considered and that
are relevant to your career path, cultivate relationships with
professionals in that area or group, join professional
organizations, develop a portfolio of current promotions
and prizes, learn from award evaluators, be actively
engaged in your career trajectory, and request consideration
for awards or promotions
Be resilient, solicit feedback, develop professional
friendships, promote your work, and take an active stance
Assistive Technology Research as
a Mechanism to Broaden the
Participation of Women,
Underrepresented Minorities, and
Persons with Disabilities
(Patricia Ordóñez, University of
Puerto Rico, Río Piedras, Speaker)
A female computer science (CS) professor at a university
in Puerto Rico worked with a female CS graduate student
in the continental U.S. who had disabilities to develop a
program that expanded research for disability solutions
The Assistive Technology Research area was developed at
a university to specifically broaden the STEM participation
of people from underrepresented backgrounds, especially
persons with disabilities
Using the premise of sharing knowledge, the projects
include providing open source assistive technology
research
Technologies focused on researchers with disabilities such
as spinal muscular atrophy, and hearing impairments
International collaborations have been formed as a result of
the project
Opportunities for Students
(A. James Hicks, National Science
Foundation, Speaker)
The Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
Bridge to the Doctorate (LSAMP-BD) is a key program
that provides full fellowships so that fellows can be full-
time students
Engineering is strongly represented in LSAMP-BD
Opportunities for International
Partnership
(Clare Muhoro, US Agency for
International Development,
Speaker)
International partnerships enhance careers
Be involved with international projects that include
networking, writing proposals, and academic activities
Go to international meetings and network
Collaborate with a lab in another country
The Prometeo Program of Ecuador
and opportunities in Latin America
( Nohelia Zambrano - Prometeo,
and Julia Nieto Wigby - Escuela
Superior Politécnica del Litoral
(ESPOL), Speakers)
It is a challenge to keep women in STEM programs
Mentors and role models for women are needed
Prometeo provides partnerships: academic and researcher
The international experience allows for academic activities,
e.g., teaching, workshops, and curricular design
There were 15 project participants, but only 12 participated traveled to Ecuador for the
international experience. Two participants were not able to travel to the conference, but
contributed to the blog. One participant did not contribute to the blog, but participated in oral
conversations during the conference, and those responses were captured and posted to the blog
by other participants. These conference attendees and participants are summarized in Table 2.
There was purposeful variety in the backgrounds of the participants, because the researchers
wanted to create an interdisciplinary environment with people from different ranks to stimulate
conversation. There was also a purposeful plan to include a few participants outside of traditional
engineering fields so that they could be fully immersed into an engineering context. The blog,
titled: the “International Engagement and Broadening Participation in STEM from a Family-
Friendly Perspective for Women of Color” project, invited graduate students and faculty from
the ADVANCE, AGEP, and LSAMP BD communities from two regions in Maryland and Puerto
Rico to contribute to an online discussions about international engagement and work-life
balance. Participants were informed that their responses would be used for research on
international collaborations and that we were interested in challenges and strategies that either
affect or facilitate career-life-balance. All who visited the blog were invited to participate in the
discussion and they were free to use any format for the blog name or avatar. Responses from
anonymous users were valued equally among those who use identifiable blogger names or those
who use pseudonyms. We welcomed and encouraged participation from the general public and
from an international audience.
Table 2: Distribution of participants’ positions, disciplines, and nature of the engagement
Subject
Position
Discipline
Participant Status
F-NC1
Postdoc/Staff
Biology
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-QB2
Faculty
Computer
Science
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-RT3
Administrator
Electrical
Engineering
Blogger + Conference Participant
M-WE4
Graduate
Student
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-LM5
Faculty
Industrial
Engineering
Blogger + Conference Participant
M-RH6
Graduate
Student
Computer
Science
Blogger + Conference Participant
M-HM7
Graduate
Student
Mechanical
Engineering
Blogger + Conference Participant
M-AA8
Graduate
Student
Information
Systems
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-RB9
Graduate
Student
Information
Systems
Blogger, did not participate in conference
F-MH10
Graduate
Student
Social Sciences
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-PO11
Faculty
Computer
Science
Blogger + Conference Participant
F-FC12
Postdoc
Mechanical
Engineering
Blogger, did not participate in conference
F-DX13
Unknown
Unknown
Blogger, did not participate in conference
F-DW14
Faculty
Social Sciences
Conference Participant. Did not blog. Contributed to
oral conversation, sentiments included in blog by
other bloggers
F-YM15
Staff
Business
Conference Participant. Did not blog. Contributed to
oral conversation; sentiments included in blog by
other bloggers
This research project included a total of 6 questions and sub-questions which asked the delegates
to blog about their experiences at the conference. Participants from the online community
provided 188 qualitative responses. The blog questions included topics related to international
collaboration, preparation for travel, and work/family/life balance (see Table 3).
Table 3: Guiding Questions Provided to the Participants to Stimulate Online Blog Conversation
Topics
Questions
Question 1:
General Experience
(preparation, observation,
expectations etc.)
a. For those participants, who are preparing for the LACCEI
conference in Guayaquil, please share your general thoughts over
the next few days regarding your experiences with international
collaborations, preparing for an international conference,
observations as you travel, challenges, and expectations.
Question 2:
a. What did you learn from the Wednesday plenary and the
Women & STEM
Women in STEM and Diversity panels?
b. Is there a research benefit to meeting someone in person versus
using technology to connect?
Questions 3 & 4:
Demographic composition of
group; Impact of trip on
career goals & work life
balance
a. Please describe the impact of having a mixed group of faculty
(external to your university) and graduate students.
b. Has this trip facilitated any collaborations or research ideas
that move you closer to your academic goals?
c. How can an excursion like this one contribute to career-life
balance?
Question 5
Career building strategies
a. How did this international engagement experience influence
your career strategies? (Please be specific.)
b. How will you encourage and model career-life balance for
your current and future female mentees.
Question 6
Barriers & Recommendations
a. Name 5 things that impede underrepresented graduate students
and faculty in STEM from taking advantage of international
research or collaboration opportunities.
b. Provide 5 suggestions for increasing the numbers of
underrepresented graduate students and faculty who will develop
international collaborations.
c. Name 5 ways that international research and collaboration
travel threatens or challenges the concept of career-life balance.
d. Suggest 5 ways that international research and collaboration
travel can facilitate career-life balance.
Results and Recommendations
The results below are divided into five parts and each section includes recommendations for
consideration as women faculty of color plan their careers. The sections are:
International Collaboration: Barriers & Recommendations
Financial Barriers & Recommendations
Work Demands and Family/Life Balance
Travel and Work/Family Balance
Work Life Balance Advice to Future Female Mentees
Responses included concerns that are common to women: missing family, finding the time to
travel, and balancing family concerns during the travel (e.g., child-care), course loads, research
responsibilities, and financial barriers. However, the responses also included additional
challenges such as acceptance in an environment where their skin color is completely different
from that of the people in the region, and concerns about language or overall communication
barriers. Responses from the participants suggest that inspiring a culture of international
engagement among women faculty of color should start early, as undergraduate or graduate
students. Early training can tackle potential fears of the unknown, increase language skills, and
address other intercultural competencies.
Results - Part 1: International Collaboration: Barriers & Recommendations
As part of their blogging reflections, delegates were asked to list five factors they consider to be
barriers to international collaboration for underrepresented minorities, particularly related to
work/life balance. They were also asked to provide recommendations for dealing with such
barriers. The following sections provide an overview of common factors discussed among the
group both from the general perspective of being underrepresented minorities as well as related
to the issues specific to women.
Both male and female delegates listed lack of knowledge as one barrier to participation in
international collaboration. As one male Latino graduate student explained, “Lack of access to
information: if you do not know about it, you can’t take advantage of it.” Delegates also noted
that there may be a lack of knowledge about the benefits that participation in international
collaboration could have on their careers, or when to pursue those opportunities in their careers.
For example, while an African American female assistant professor was aware of the benefits of
international collaborative research, she noted, “Prior to attending this conference, my thought
was that international activity wasn’t needed to be promoted from assistant to associate
professor. Though the thought was intriguing, it seemed as if this was something I needed to
focus on later.” Limited access to information is considered to be an important barrier to
international collaboration. The delegates provided recommendations to improve information
flow about international collaboration. These recommendations included: using peer networks
and creating educational opportunities through mechanisms such as conferences and university
programs. Table 4 lists these suggestions.
For graduate students who will be future members of the faculty, there was concern of not
having the support of professors and advisors. An African American male graduate student wrote
that [there is a problem with], “Not being encouraged enough by their advisor to take advantage
of these opportunities. Not every advisor is supportive. I have been lucky, but I know many
underrepresented students in with advisors who do not support them.” Another blogger noted
that there may be fear that an international collaboration could extend the time that one takes
earn their graduate degree.
Table 4: Recommendations to Increased Awareness & Support
Themes
Sample Quotes
Utilize Peer
Network;
Conferences;
University
Word of mouth [...] it is more likely for anyone to pursue something if you
hear from it from someone that went through that experience.”
“Allow previous participants to engage potential participants through a
webinar or personal contact.”
“Increase awareness. At conferences it might be helpful to share
information from those who have traveled abroad for research, mechanisms
for funding, and benefits of international collaborations on career
development. I also think that emphasizing the importance of such activities
on one’s career rather than on the research is important. It is possible to
have a research career without international activity; however knowing the
career benefits that extend beyond research puts this in a different light.”
Educate Advisors
Inform the advisors of students about the benefits of international travel
and partnership. If they emphasize the significance of this type of work and
are themselves given opportunity to take students, it may help to remove
some of the barriers.”
“Yes, maybe some advisers didn’t have to make international collaborations
to have their current position at the university, but in this global world of
knowledge, that is not possible anymore.”
Results - Part 2: Financial Barriers & Recommendations
Funding was identified as a main barrier for participating in international collaboration. One
delegate explained that the cost for international travel relative to domestic travel may lead some
people to select the later over the former. “Travel is more expensive than national travel thus
since there is a limited travel [budget], often people rather [prefer] to [make] two trips to U.S.
than one international trip.” With respect to gender and financial barriers, another delegate noted
unequal pay for women could hinder women from participating international collaboration.
“Economic limitations [may be a barrier for women] because fruitful international collaboration
may require some traveling. Note that statistics also show that women earn less money [than
men].” Several delegates identified opportunities that they have used or know of to address
financial barriers such as grants for travel that are available in some universities for students and
faculty (see Table 5).
Table 5: Recommendations for Funding
Themes
Sample Quotes
Graduate
student
fellowships
“Some societies offer grants for graduate students to cover part of the travel, the
academic department has some funding for students […]. Personally I have
taken advantage of those and have reduced the money I have spent when
traveling.”
Mini-grants for
faculty
Provide funding. If it had not been for the funding that Dr. Tull received I
would not have visited Ecuador or begun to think about international
collaborations. Though I have grant funding, none of it would have supported
my travel for this trip. Perhaps seed funding or mini-grants for faculty would be
enable us to start collaborations and develop them enough so that they are
mature enough to be written into a proposal.”
Greater
funding agency
support
“More funding agencies should promote international collaborations by
providing funding for these collaborations.”
Results - Part 3: Work Demands and Career-Life Balance
The decision to pursue or take advantage of opportunities for international collaboration may be
hindered by work demands and lack of support from their academic advisors, mentors, or job.
One female assistant professor discussed the potential impact that the demands of achieving
tenure may have on hindering participation in international collaboration. “As an assistant
professor, there are certain things that I have to do to get tenure and promotion. In addition to the
basic milestones, adding an international collaboration to that list does honestly seem a bit
daunting.” Another female assistant professor noted that time itself is an issue. “Since national
collaborations take less paperwork, then it takes less time to do them and since there is a lack of
time to do all that is required of an Assistant Professor, then less is done on an international
level.” With concerns related to the time of the tenure clock, faculty in the beginning stages of
their careers may not be motivated to pursue an international collaboration opportunity.
Results - Part 4: Travel and Career-Life Balance
The process of preparing for international travel and engagement presented concerns related to
career-life balance. For example, delegates with children mentioned issues related to child care.
An assistant professor with two children explained, “As a graduate student with children, I doubt
that I would have been able to leave home for more than a week. Now that my girls are older, 2,
3 [days] at the most, might be the longest that I feel comfortable leaving them.” Another blogger
noted pressures from family members to give up travel due to parenting responsibilities. “From
personal experience, my mom has always encouraged me to stop traveling. In fact, she did not
think I should work during the summer because I should take care of my baby. I must also say
that I do not have day care in the summer, and she has been helping me since I gave birth.”
Delegates however, noted some ways that travel required for international collaboration could
beneficial for the entire family. They also discussed how the use of technology could offer
families who cannot travel together the ability to communicate and maintain contact. Table 6
shares these responses.
Table: 6: Responses Related to Maintaining Connections to Family
Themes
Sample Quote
Travel with
children
When deciding to attend the conference I was faced with a common
work/life balance issue, childcare. The opportunity [was] not one that I
wanted to pass up. However, arranging childcare was proving to be a
challenge. I reflected on the times when I’d left my girls to attend
conferences and wasn’t comfortable while away. During these times I
know, in hindsight, that I wasn’t fully able to (mentally) participate in the
conference because of this unease. So this time I decided to bring them
along.”
“Can bring family along to conferences and combine career and life so that
children can experience international travel that they may not have
experienced otherwise.”
“Exposes us and family to more cultures to make us more globally
aware”
Communicate with
family though
technology
“[Technology] has worked out pretty well for me from a work/life balance
standpoint. I left my baby (1 year old) for the first time. So, I have been
able to see him through face-time, and receive text updates with pictures.”
“Maybe not having my family here can be a challenge, but I take
advantage of new technologies such as Facetime or Whatsapp and I keep
in touch with them daily. Sometimes I call my parents during dinner and
they leave the camera there so I can “be in the room” with them :) I have
to say I enjoy that. Maybe being single makes it different than if I was
married or had children but still, I try to balance my life and career.”
Results - Part 5: Career-Life Balance Advice to Future Female Mentees
The U.S. delegates included female professors, and male and female graduate students. As such,
the male delegates had the chance to reflect upon and participate in discussions on ways that
career-life balance impacts women in STEM. In response to the question, “How will you
encourage and model career-life balance for your current and future female mentees?,” male
delegates provided a range of answers that included: encouraging mentees to be aware of the
double standards held for women and men as they pursue their careers and not internalize it;
seeking out female mentors; seeking out positive interpersonal and institutional support systems
that might be available for women; being persistent and not quitting too early: and maintaining
clear work and family boundaries by keeping work at work. As a result of the topics that were
discussed in the “Women in STEM” session (see Table 1), the male participants became very
aware of their roles as potential “male champions.” Their positions and recognition of their roles
in society are reflected in their responses.
Results - Summary: Personal, Institutional, External, and Sociocultural Factors
To summarize the results, we use Medina et al.’s conceptual model of critical factors for women
in STEM to analyze the concerns, challenges, and barriers for female faculty engaging in
international collaborations.
23
The model presents the factors that impact recruitment, retention
and development of females in STEM fields in the context of four categories of factors: personal,
institutional, external, and sociocultural. As a result of this analysis we identify personal,
institutional, and sociocultural factors as barriers or challenges to female faculty members’
international engagement. Personal issues are mostly related to career-life balance, i.e., females
are juggling between the work commitments and the family responsibilities. In the case of
graduate students, there is the additional fear of extending the date of their graduation. Further,
financial barriers impact both graduate students and faculty who wish to engage in, and pursue
international travel. Regarding the institutional factors, some primary barriers to entry were
related to the lack of institutional support, lack of role models, and the lack of
knowledge/awareness about these opportunities and their importance to career advancement.
Sociocultural issues also have an impact based on issues of acceptance due to differences in skin
color and language of the country that is being visited. Finally, external factors do not show to be
a challenge but a solution to enhance international engagement. Table 7 includes a summary of
recommendations, based on participants’ blog responses that relate to the Medina et al.
23
model
factors.
Table: 7: Summary of Recommendations for Female Faculty to Pursue International Engagement
Factor
Recommendations
Financial Barriers
Graduate student fellowships
Mini-grants for faculty
Greater funding agency support
Support from mentors to
pursue opportunities
Educate advisors
Encouraging mentees to be aware of the double standards held for
women and men as they pursue their careers and not internalize it
Seek female mentors
Increase knowledge and
awareness of opportunities
Promote awareness through peer networks, conferences and the
university
Personal and Institutional
Seeking out positive interpersonal and institutional support
systems that might be available for women
Discussion of Results: Observing a Transtheoretical Model of Change
To examine issues of recruitment, retention, and advancement of women of color in engineering,
information technology, and computer science, we identified “international engagement” as an
intervention that could stimulate collaborations, improve productivity, and facilitate both
retention and advancement. The decision to engage in international activities was not automatic
for our sample of participants, despite clear evidence that development of an international
reputation for scholarly activity is needed for advancement. Therefore, we look to social science
to inform our findings and future actions as we seek to encourage more women of color to find
and take advantage of global opportunities that can enhance their careers.
This study can draw upon the Transtheoretical Model of Change developed by James O.
Prochaska. Prochaska’s model is based on the premise that change is comprised of six different
stages: precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, maintenance and termination.
14
We
use this model because women may not know enough information about the benefits of global
collaboration (e.g. the needs for increased awareness and support listed in Table 4), and they
need to be convinced that international engagement is worth the time and effort. In the model,
precontemplation is the stage where individuals are not ready to take the necessary steps to alter
their behavior in the foreseeable future. There are factors that might impede the level of
readiness, for example an individual or group may be uninformed or unaware about the benefits
of change. Others may be aware but may be unmotivated or resistant to take the necessary steps
to change. The contemplation stage occurs when individuals begin to weigh the pros and cons of
altering their behavior. The preparation stage is when individuals begin to plan to make changes
in the future typically within the next month. Change processes at the preparation stage can
include acts such as doing research about the issue or consulting an expert for help. During the
action stage, people begin to make a conscious effort to change their behavior. The maintenance
stage occurs when individuals continue to perform the new learned behavior or action.
Termination occurs when the individual adopts the desired behavior change typically over a
period of five years or more.
Our project was able to take participants through the first four stages fairly quickly. The
participants were informed about ideas regarding an international opportunity in March 2014,
reminded of the opportunity in May 2014, invited to participate in the blogging project and travel
excursion in June 2014, and travel commenced in July 2014. The period of introducing the
opportunity near 5 months in advance of the excursion may have provided the participants with
enough time to experience the precontemplation, contemplation, and preparation stages prior to
participating in the action stage.
The instability and juggle of career-life balance feeds the notion that the women may not be
ready to make permanent decisions about their ability or freedom to engage in international
activities. The process of change is not linear. An individual may move from the stage of
precontemplation to action and then back to contemplation.
14
In addition to the six stages of
change, the transtheoretical model has deeper levels that describe ten processes of change. These
processes include: consciousness raising, self-evaluation, self-liberation, counter-conditioning,
stimuli control, reinforcement management, helping relationships, dramatic relief, environmental
reevaluation, and social liberation. We did not conduct additional analyses to examine all of
these processes in the context of our project. However, we did note that the process of
consciousness raising was employed, as our project provided opportunities for individuals to
become aware of the issues of international engagement and career-life balance through
literature, informational lectures and by receiving feedback from others. The delegates
participating in the study regarded consciousness as an essential first step to increasing the
number of underrepresented minorities and women in international collaboration. In our project,
consciousness raising began before the trip, and continued during the trip through exposure to
the lectures during the conference and the conversations between the participants. Consciousness
raising continued after the trip as the blogging process and reflections continued once the
participants returned to the U.S. and were back in their respective home environments. Even
without evaluating the other 9 processes, we believe that continuous consciousness raising is a
key factor that can lead to the final two stages of the Transtheoretical Model of Change:
maintenance and termination. In our case, maintenance means that the participants continue to
seek opportunities for international engagement, and termination means that they have made the
change completely and continually engage in global activities over the course of their careers.
An increase in awareness might not be enough to bring about the desired change for international
collaboration. As the literature on women in STEM suggests, there are multiple factors that
impede the recruitment, retention and advancement of female faculty in the field. Such factors
include having a family, academic and work environment that is supportive the unique needs and
interests of women as the struggle to balance the demands of work and family. We found such
issues to be pertinent in this study.
Conclusion
Providing a funded and guided opportunity for global research and collaboration was important
for women of color, and for men who are “in training” to be champions of change for women.
The participants agreed that the cohort-based experience was a good introduction to, as well as
preparation for, international collaborations, and that this kind of organized entry point can lead
to academic advancement. We believe that developing organized international engagement
cohorts of underrepresented women in fields like engineering, IT, and computer science, can
increase retention and advancement through the faculty ranks if there is attention to
consciousness raising about issues of importance to the women. These issues include, but are not
limited to attention to family responsibilities, capacity to complete career-related tasks, strategies
for dealing with the potential manifestations of racial and gender inequity, and financial
obligations. When deliberate attention is given to these career-life balance and cultural issues,
and when information about such issues are coupled with explanations regarding the benefits of
international activities, we believe that participants can experience positive change as they take
action and maintain levels of global engagement.
We propose our organized cohort-based model as a potential, replicable intervention to address
the current limited participation of women of color in STEM international activities.
Administrators in offices of faculty affairs and Principal Investigators for projects such as the
National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE program for women faculty, or the AGEP program
for graduate students, can consider cohort models as structures that can be offered to their
faculty. Conversations with participants revealed that many had not participated in an
international experience prior to this project. We learned that active (not passive) “invitations” to
engage must also be employed as part of the consciousness raising process to increase the
participation of women and people from underrepresented groups in international collaboration
and research. Along with an “invitation to engage,” other areas of concern must be addressed to
assist women faculty of color with opportunities for advancement. As administrators seek to
recruit women of color into faculty positions, they should invest in building new, or deploying
existing structures that facilitate women’s retention and promotion in STEM in ways that
incentivize international collaboration and research as part of the tenure process. As such, they
are invited to consider the results and recommendations in this paper. These recommendations
include addressing issues such as: financial barriers, work demands, demands of travel and
career-life balance. Our next steps include replicating the model and organizing deeper levels of
engagement within other international settings. This includes focusing on maintaining women’s
global engagement for the long-term and moving them from precontemplation to the termination
phase, which could theoretically manifest in the expansion and increase of international
networks, collaborations, publications, and recognition.
Acknowledgements
This international project was co-funded by the National Science Foundation: NSF #1449322, by
the NSF International Science and Engineering Section, the Career Life Balance Initiative and
the Division of Engineering Education and Centers Broadening Participation in Engineering
Program. This project acknowledges the participants in this study, The Graduate School at
UMBC, and UMBC’s International Education Services Office. The blog hosting and social
science research are sponsored by the PROMISE AGEP, NSF Directorate for Education and
Human Resources (EHR), Division of Human Resource Development (HRD). Current projects
are supported by: Collaborative Research: AGEP T: PROMISE AGEP Maryland Transformation
# 1309290. Foundational projects were developed and implemented under HRD grant #0202169
"AGEP: Maryland's Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate," HRD grant
#0639698 "PROMISE: Maryland's AGEP"; and HRD grant #1111217 "PROMISE Pathways."
The LSAMP Bridge to the Doctorate program at UMBC is supported by NSF award #1301912,
Bridge to the Doctorate at UMBC, #20132015. The women faculty were
participants from either one or a combination of the PROMISE Mentors-in-Residence program,
the NSF LSAMP BD program (Philadelphia AMP), or the NSF ADVANCE Hispanic Women in
STEM project (Co-led by Universidad Metropolitana - UMET, San Juan, Puerto Rico), NSF
Award #1216490, Collaborative Research: Framing the Issue: A NETWORKing Workshop to
Address Academic Advancement of Hispanic Women in STEM.
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... An example of this would be "'invest in building new, or deploying existing structures that facilitate women's retention and promotion in STEM in ways that incentivize international collaboration and research as part of the tenure process." (Brown, Tull, Medina, Holder, & Medina, 2015). Another way policy recommendations are made is through calls for cultural changes. ...
... The current PROMISE AGEP: Maryland Transformation program includes all of the institutions within the University System of Maryland, two of which have LSAMP BD programs. UMBC's graduate students have also had the benefit of having other diversity programs on campus, such as the Meyerhoff Graduate Fellows Program that is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, and the NSF International Engagement project that examines challenges to global participation for U.S. women with underrepresented ethnic/racial backgrounds [33]. The PROMISE AGEP engages and retains diverse engineering and other STEM students through primary use of the conceptual framework of McMillan and Chavis' " Psychological Sense of Community (PSOC), " along with professional development programming to engage and retain underrepresented graduate students [30]. ...
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