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Development of a Subtle Gender Bias Index (SGBI) to Better Understand Micro-inequities within Academic Settings

UMass Lowell Status Report - August 28, 2013

We have conducted one-on-one interviews with nine female STEM faculty from UMass Lowell and UMass Medical School. Because of the exploratory nature of this study, we sampled female STEM faculty from two distinct campuses to yield a broader sense of the experiences of women in STEM. This broad picture, in turn, provides a solid basis upon which to design an intervention for the UMass Lowell campus specifically. During the hour-long interviews, participants were asked to describe their career paths, including opportunities and resources, struggles and challenges, and events that led to their current career positions. Participants were asked to share experiences from various stages of their career, including the job interview and negotiation process, and to reflect upon departmental and institutional policies as well as on their treatment by colleagues.

All interviews have been audio-taped and transcribed for analysis; we are well into the process of content analyzing them to generate themes.1 Direct quotes from these interviews are being used to develop items to measure the subtle biases and microinequities that occur within these contexts. The sample items will be reviewed by an expert panel in Fall 2013 and piloted during late Fall/early Spring 2014. Results to date are already being used to inform the IT grant proposal. The narratives highlighted particular contexts in which gender-based subtle biases and microinequities may occur: 

  1. Institutional culture and policy – Bias; clarity of promotion and tenure procedures; standards for evaluation. Sample items:   
    “Some people at my university are unlikely to change their prejudiced views against women.”
    “At my current institution, I am being informally evaluated by colleagues because I am a woman.”

  2. Departmental culture – Collegiality; assistance with promotion and tenure. Sample items:   
    “My department colleagues are able to guide new hires through the tenure process.”
    “Men in my department are unsure how to treat women faculty.”

  3. Allocation of resources – Research needs; faculty development. Sample items:   
    “I received advice and assistance in creating my tenure/promotion package.”
    “I have had opportunity to utilize institutional resources for my benefit.”

  4. Interpersonal relationships – networking, relationships with co-workers, relationships with students. Sample items:   
    “I am affected by not being part of the “club,” or a close-knit group of colleagues.”
    “I have not encountered colleagues who cause problems for others because of bias against someone’s gender.”

  5. Mentoring – Advocacy for post-docs and junior faculty; informal guidance and collaborations; formal collaborations. Sample items:
    “My primary mentor helped me connect with others for a position or opportunity.”
    “I have had someone advocate for me in my career.”

1NVivo 9.0, a software program that greatly enhances the analytical capacity for qualitative data, is being used to code the text from each interview.