The survey will inquire about perceptions related to practices such as policy implementation, distribution of resources, and treatment of employees.

New NSF-Funded Survey Aims to Understand Gender Inequity in STEM Fields

By: Robert H. Wells on

University of Central Florida researchers are starting a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded project to identify systemic gender inequities impacting university STEM faculty so that they can be addressed by the institution.

The $300,000, two-year project will focus on UCF.  The project will study STEM faculty’s perceptions of departmental culture through the frameworks of organizational justice and organizational authenticity, placing an emphasis on women, people of color, and others from underrepresented groups.

Organizational justice is the fair implementation of policies, and organizational authenticity refers to how well an organization’s actions match its stated goals.

The researchers are collecting survey data now and will conduct focus groups in the spring. The project’s approach and results could inform plans to address issues at other universities as well.

amanda koontz
Amanda Koontz is an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Sociology and the project’s principal investigator.

“We want to ensure that we have an inclusive culture here at UCF, so that we can both recruit and retain faculty that are more representative of our country as a whole, but also our student body,” says Amanda Koontz, the project’s principal investigator and an associate professor in UCF’s Department of Sociology.

“The intent is to take perceptions or lived experiences very seriously,” Koontz says. “So, the more we can hear the faculty’s perspectives, such as how they’re seeing and experiencing things in their department, then the more that we’ll be able to get some new approaches to addressing issues that I’m sure have been around for a long time.”

The survey is different than work climate and employee satisfaction surveys, such as the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education, or COACHE, survey, says project co-principal investigator Jacinta Gau, a professor in UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice.

For instance, the survey will inquire about how well faculty perceive that stated polices are being implemented effectively, that there is equitable distribution of resources such as lab space and research assistants, that salaries are fair, and that they are being treated with respect and dignity.

Jacinta Gau
Jacinta Gau is a professor in UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice and the project’s co-principal investigator.

“We’ve made a lot of efforts to distinguish it from the COACHE survey,” Gau says. “Being that we are working underneath these established theoretical frameworks, we want to really find out ways in which women, as well as people of color and people with intersectional identities, experience the work climate, and we’ll be looking at outcomes, like job satisfaction, as well as intention to quit.”

“We’re operating under the idea that the more diverse your faculty is, not only the better your research is going to be, but that’s going to encourage more diversity in the next generation of STEM students who are coming up,” she says.

Co-principal investigators are: Jana Jasinski, a sociology professor and vice provost for Faculty Excellence; Deborah Reinhart, a Civil, Environmental and Construction Engineering Professor Emerita; Linda Walters, a Pegasus Professor of Biology; and Annika Wilcox, a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Sociology.

A final report will be issued to NSF at the end of the project, and future funding could extend the initial study to look at ways to implement strategies to mitigate potential inequities that might exist.

Koontz received her doctorate in sociology from Florida State University, and joined UCF’s Department of Sociology, part of UCF’s College of Sciences, in 2011.

Gau received her doctorate in criminal justice from Washington State University, and joined UCF’s Department of Criminal Justice, part of UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education, in 2011.

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