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Subtle Gender Bias index

The Subtle Gender Bias Index (SGBI) survey is designed to measure the presence and impact of microaggressions experienced by faculty at UMass Lowell, and to examine differences in gender based experiences of microaggressions. The survey was administered first in 2015, and a second time in the summer of 2017. The survey will be administered again in 2019. Through analyzing responses to the survey, the WAVES team aims to help the UMass Lowell faculty community understand and ultimately disrupt microaggressions on campus. 

The WAVES team presented detailed findings from the 2017 survey to the UMass Lowell University Executive Committee on March 22, 2018. During the summer and fall of 2018, the WAVES team will continue to share survey findings with individual colleges and other members of the campus community. 

We are writing to provide you with a summary of what we have heard, what we have tried to do as a result, and what we are working on for the future. We also want to extend our gratitude for the time that you have given us, the stories that you have shared, and the patience that you have shown in waiting to see change.  As you might imagine, we too are eager for our university to transform into a uniquely supportive place for women in your fields. 

The main concerns that we heard include:

  • Feeling invisible and/or not valued:
    • Lack of women faculty in general; being the only or just one of a few within a department
    • A “boys club” feel within departments
    • Lack of access to mentoring that incorporates an understanding of issues facing women
  • Daily interactions that marginalize (& reduce women’s access to important resources)
    • Sexist comments among other faculty and students
    • Few informal conversations where other faculty ask about women’s work/research
    • Comments about how women look, e.g., how young, pretty, nicely dressed
    • Biases in discussions within hiring committees
    • Male graduate students reluctant to work with women faculty
  • Lack of clarity about expectations
    • Unclear process for annual reviews; not sure the policy about reviews is being followed
    • Lack of access to mentoring from senior/mid-career women
    • Can lower women’s confidence when deciding on applications for promotion
    • Sense of differential standards for success, i.e., feeling like women have to accomplish twice that of men in research and grant writing to be considered successful by peers
  • Inequity in demands experienced by women vs. men across departments and colleges, e.g., around such issues as:
    • teaching loads
    • committee and other service work
    • expectations to fulfill mentoring roles for students and for more junior faculty
  • Work-Life balance issues:
    • Lack of information about parental leave policies (who can use, when, how, etc.)
    • Absence of day care supports; lack of information about what supports exist
    • Juggling research and teaching; departments put a higher emphasis on research  but teaching demands remain all consuming (for both men and women)

Your Recommendations

  • Recruitment and promotion efforts:
    • More university-initiated, purposefully efforts to recruit women undergraduate and graduate students into STEM disciplines
    • Enhanced, proactive commitment to hiring women as tenure-track STEM faculty
    • Recruit senior women faculty in STEM fields
    • Cultivate more current women in leadership roles (e.g., department chairs, hiring committees)
  • Training and workshops:
    • More workshops/speaker series for women re: tenure and promotion
    • More workshops/speakers series on professional development strategies, e.g., how to construct a productive research agenda and how to allocate time efficiently between teaching vs research
  • Transparent feedback systems for both tenure-track and tenured faculty
    • Systematic, timely, and formal evaluation to help better prepare faculty for tenure application
    • Implement additional feedback/coaching systems for tenured faculty
  • Work-life balance supports
    • Make procedures and policies more transparent (e.g., implementation of parental leave policies)
    • Add more flexibility around tenure clock
    • Increase access to resources for child and elder-care
    • Work to reduce unrealistic expectations for faculty with children (e.g., early or late day meetings); reduce guilt due to unrealistic demands of family and work
  • Enhance access to mentoring
    • Develop a formal mentoring system for junior faculty; but also be aware of dissatisfaction that can accompany assignment of mentor-mentee pairs
    • More women-focused networking, consulting, industry partners etc.
    • A cross-campus club for women faculty to facilitate conversations and collaborations
    • More opportunities/spaces for women to network throughout the University
  • Addressing inequities directly, e.g.,
    • Monitor the teaching load differences for women and men faculty
    • Address any differences in service expectations
  • Cultural shifts:
    • Help all faculty better understand the experiences of women in male-dominated fields
    • Create expectations for friendly, collaborative, and supportive research environments
    • Work to increase opportunities for recognition from peers, e.g., awards from dept. or college

What Has Been Done

Several programs have been initiated that aim to address concerns that you shared with us: