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Women in Research at Montana State University and Enhancing Research Capacity
Transcript of Women in Research at Montana State University and Enhancing Research Capacity
Critical Transitions: Support that Makes Success Possible
The strongest theme in the qualitative study is the importance of support networks, especially in times of career transition.
Ryan and Deci would liken strong support networks to the critical need of "relatedness" which is critical for career success and personal satisfaction (2000).
The women in the study reported that their networks were not large and one-dimensional but multi-level, multi-functional, and evolutionary in nature.
They agreed that without their support networks they would not be the successful scholars they are today.
Senior scholars in this study strongly encouraged up and coming women in the sciences to focus on building their networks.
Intuition and Risk: Decision-making in the Early Career Stage
In the ADVANCE ethnographic study that interviewed 12 successful women in STEM at MSU, nearly all the participants had an intuition or feeling that an interest in a particular subject had importance and deserved pursuit.
In most cases, this interest became a passion that complimented their primary research interest but was not always fully supported by their mentors or committee members. For example, one researcher focused primarily on the biological sciences but loved statistics and had to argue for its place in her research agenda.
Ryan and Deci, motivational researchers, would say that these women were "intrinsically motivated" to pursue these paths due to their natural interest in them (2000).
This healthy state of motivation produced substantial rewards by way of locating an important niche, filling a deficit in the field, and contributing to feeling personally and professionally satisfied.
Making It: (Abbreviated) Advice for New Researchers from Established Researchers
"Be a giraffe. Stick your neck out. Look long, eyes open and have a full picture view."
"Find something that you are really excited and passionate about and when there are hurdles (because there will be hurdles and hardships)...choose something that is going to get you through the difficult times."
"You need to identify your primary value to your department and pursue that."
"The biggest thing for me is support networks."
"Go visit with the senior guys."
"Don't let yourself get in your own way."
"Talk about the awesome research you are doing."
"It's hard. Don't expect that this is going to be handed to you."
How High Can You Go? Finding the Moving Bar of Success
The rubric of academic success has remained consistent for the last half of a century; publish or perish, cultivate new researchers, secure funding, and earn tenure.
Despite this supposed clarity in process, nearly all respondents expressed uncertainty over what exactly constituted success and competence.
In response to this uncertainty or muddying of the path, these women scholars expended a tremendous amount of effort to go above and beyond the bar of success.
"Competence" is a relatively subjective term, but as a critical need to be filled, the women in this study expended effort and consulted with their network in order to define competence for themselves.
Problem: Women in STEM are Underutilized as Researchers
Montana State is representative of many US college campuses where women faculty, especially in STEM disciplines, are not only underrepresented in their fields but are underutilized as grant-active researchers.
Transcending the Leaky Pipeline to Find More Challenges
Even though more women than ever earn STEM degrees, the "leaky pipeline" or continuum of attrition over time due to bias, work-life challenges, and the like accounts for a significant loss of female researchers.
The women that do transcend this pipeline find that the process of establishing a successful research career is complicated by complex grant submission requirements and the daunting need to connect with senior colleagues as collaborators (Ono & Hardcastle, 2014).
The lack of fellow female researchers means that representatives on influential committees and other types of role models are lacking.
Women are needed in research but the data reveals that women are not sufficiently valued for their contributions.
The Data: Regional and National Economies Need Researchers. People Need Researchers.
Research at MSU added $109.5 million dollars and 730 jobs to the Montana economy in 2014. The results of research at MSU impact human health, the environment, and international relations.
A 2013 article in
decried institutional sexism in the sciences as directly responsible for "the potential waste of human talent" that occurs when women are excluded ("Science for all", 2013).
Women represent 37% of the total faculty body and are responsible for an estimated 12-15% of research expenditures.
Total research expenditures for 2011 through 2013 came in at $308,827,583 and women were responsible for approximately 12% of this activity, possibly more.
From January 12, 2011 when MSU officially received its Carnegie classification as "very high level of research" to July 1, 2014, women from the STEM colleges submitted nearly 1000 proposals for a proposed total of $176,522,743 (OSP data, 2014; MSU Planning and Analysis, 2014).
These submissions resulted in a known $35,948,157 in active research expenditures with some yet to be reconciled, meaning that the number could be much higher (OSP data, 2014; MSU Planning and Analysis).
In conclusion, women are ambitious researchers and have a desire to contribute to the research enterprise. Recruitment and retention of women promises big payoffs.
The Data: Institutional Data Analysis of Women in Research and what is Possible
Despite Discouraging Odds A Small Number of Women Persist, but How Exactly?
Pervasive institutional cultures that are not family-friendly and harbor conscious and unconscious bias against women are the major causes of lack of female representation in the STEM fields.
A 2014 ADVANCE ethnographic study revealed that women persist in STEM fields by meeting three critical needs, namely, the need for autonomy, relatedness, and competence.
Successful women take risks early in their careers in order to establish their sense of autonomy.
They also establish support networks that are multi-dimensional in nature to satisfy the need for relatedness.
Finally, to prove their competence, they locate the movable bar of success and go well above and beyond it.
"Be strategic and find people who don't make you feel lousy." - successful senior environmental scientist
Want Some Real Advice? Read the Full Study Here [link to web?]
In a few cases, the challenge to an individual's autonomy incited outright rebellion and of those who experienced this, the clear response to naysayers whether they vocalized it or not was, "Oh yeah, watch me."
Not one participant stated that they regretted the decision to act autonomously and follow the intuition that the goal would be meritorious for their career. For example, the woman who pursued statistics and biological sciences landed her first faculty position on behalf of her mathematical skills.
Despite pervasive societal messages that women cannot be successful scientists, women continue to defy the odds and engage in activities that are beneficial to the research community.
What is ADVANCE doing about Women and Research Capacity?
There is a correlation between the depth, size, and quality of the network (degree of relatedness) with feelings of autonomy in decision-making and career mobility.
Deci and Ryan attribute goal attainment and internalization of goals with a sense of belongingness to other individuals or larger groups of people (Deci & Ryan, 2000).
The PI's of the ADVANCE grant predicted that by providing formal psychological "need support" in research endeavors, that women would not only increase their grant preparation skills and therefore feelings of competence, but by facilitating connections that relatedness would also increase (Smith, et. al. 2011). Thus, the Research Capacity Initiative has performed the following activities:
Success in STEM is hard won through:
Establishing AUTONOMY and taking risks!
Establishing RELATEDNESS by building a support network
Establishing their sense of COMPETENCE by going above the bar of success
Talking with an earnest colleague or close friend about career decisions was helpful to the women in the study.
The majority of respondents had trouble answering the question, "Do you think women in STEM must work harder than men to prove their competence?" What do you think?
"If I am going to be respected and the bar is at my nose, I am going to pretend it's over my head so that there is absolutely no question about my competence and abilities" - senior social scientist on the issue of competence
"I think women who are able to reach a higher bar are the ones that end up successful because they have the attitude of, "Watch me, I am going to do it." - Successful scholar in mathematics
Hired a Grant Submission Training Coordinator
This position provides direct assistance by making connections for women faculty and providing training and technical assistance in the grant submission process
By August 8, 2014:
faculty made contact with the grant training coordinator for assistance with their grant submission.
"Good news. Couldn't have done it without you." - PI on a grant that was awarded
" I want to use this email to thank you for the great help. I could not submit the application without the significant amount of effort you have put in."
These contacts resulted in:
The submission of
grant proposals to federal, state, private, and internal funding mechanisms.
of these submissions were from women in STEM
Workshops and Events
MSU faculty engaged in
major research capacity events including a Grant Writing Boot Camp, NIH Mock Review Panel, and number of NSF Web-based workshops.
Boot Camp participants were grant successful in the first Boot Camp offered in Fall 2013
women in STEM participated in these events and all
women in STEM who participated in the Boot Camp went on to submit at least
Creation of Grant Facilitator Network
Through a network that connects researchers collaboratively and in a mentorship capacity,
faculty registered to utilize the network and
pairs of research partnerships formed
Women in STEM are actively using the Grant Facilitator Network as facilitators, submitters, and/or collaborators
See what ADVANCE is currently doing about women and Research Capacity! [link to web]