The University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) ADVANCE IT program is working to expand its efforts beyond UNH to improve the climate for, and retention of, STEM faculty women nationally. Our IT program research shows that bias incidents in the academic workplace create a negative climate for STEM faculty women, as well as for other faculty with minority status in their field. This negative climate impacts their job satisfaction and increases their intention to quit their jobs. However, our research also identifies ways to counteract the negative impact of these bias incidents through bystander intervention.
Our results indicate that an individual’s belief that colleagues will intervene when bias incidents occur has a positive effect on workplace climate. That is, colleague intervention mitigates the negative impact of the bias incidents on climate and supports the retention of STEM women faculty and other faculty who are underrepresented in their field. But colleagues can only intervene if they recognize the bias incident, take responsibility to do something about it, and know how to intervene in an impactful and safe manner.
Building on the research findings of our ADVANCE IT program, and with the help of our research partners, we will develop a taxonomy of faculty colleague intervention behaviors, based on input from diverse faculty representing widespread regions of the country. The behaviors will then be evaluated empirically for their degree of impact and risk in various bias incident contexts, taking into account the user’s rank and minority status (as defined by gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity and the intersection of these demographics). We will then use this taxonomy to develop an interactive, online colleague intervention guide and decision tool to model recommended intervention behaviors based on the user’s rank and minority status. The intervention guide and decision tool will be beta tested and revised based on feedback from our research partners, advisory board members, and results of formative evaluation. The goal is to create an intervention guide and decision tool that can be adopted and implemented at the institutional level for widespread colleague intervention behavior skill development at the individual faculty level. We plan to license the intervention guide and decision tool with assistance from UNHInnovation, a UNH office that advocates for, manages and promotes UNH’s intellectual property. We will also introduce the product at national meetings of organizations, including the Association for Women in Science (AWIS), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU).
We believe that institutional commitment and efforts to raise the bias awareness and intervention skills of faculty colleagues will bring about systemic organizational change through at least two organizational mechanisms: (a) by communicating a compelling leadership message that the institution is committed to a positive workplace climate; and (b) through the direct effect of colleague intervention behavior on workplace climate.