Faculty members in science and engineering at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor say the overall work climate has improved significantly since 2001 – but change took that long to manifest, according to a new report. The climate survey was first conducted in 2001 as part of the university’s ADVANCE program to promote women and underrepresented faculty members. The program includes a network for women scientists to prevent women in mostly-male departments from feeling isolated, as well as a mentoring program for new faculty members.
There was little improvement in overall climate reported in a subsequent 2006 survey, but in 2012 – survey data for which was only recently released – faculty members report statistically significant gains in the general climate and climate for diversity in their departments. Faculty members described a more civil work environment and white women and white men and men of color reported hearing fewer disparaging comments about women. All faculty members reported overhearing fewer disparaging comments about racial or ethnic minorities or religious groups. Women of color also reported higher levels of job satisfaction, and all women reported more satisfaction with the level of social interactions shared with fellow professors.
Not all data was rosy, however. Women still report more gender discrimination than their male colleagues, and faculty members of color report unchanged rates of racial-ethnic discrimination.
Janet Malley, director of research and evaluation at the university, said that change takes time is the project’s biggest takeaway. Improving climate is “a long-term project, so one shouldn’t perhaps expect to see dramatic changes in five years – but in 10 years, maybe.”
Malley said change takes a “concerted effort on the part of the administration and faculty,” but that Michigan’s ADVANCE program easily could be exported to other institutions wanting to tackle climate issues.
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