Netwise II: Women and Minority Networks in Academic Science and Engineering (NSF)

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This empirical research proposal addresses the characteristics and role of networks in career advancement, outcomes, and mentoring for women and underrepresented minority academic scientists in non–Research I institutions. The underrepresentation of women and the “invisibility” of minorities in academic science are recognized to be a significant national policy crisis and “waste” of human capital (NAS, 2007). A common thread in many of studies regarding the advancement of women and minorities in STEM fields is reference to the importance of professional networks. This observation has been underscored in the recently issued NAS report, Beyond Bias and Barriers, that repeatedly points to issues of lack of network access and participation for women in the sciences, noting “...differences in career trajectories for men and women are generated and reinforced by the social structures in which people are situated and by the networks of interactions in which they participate” (NAS, 2006; p. 174). Studies on science focus considerable attention on the most competitive scientists – those employed in Research I institutions. Yet, women and under-represented minority PhDs are disproportionately employed in Research II and Comprehensive institutions. The purpose of this research is to address the structural and resource determinants of underrepresentation, career success, and satisfaction of women and underrepresented minorities PhDs who have faculty appointments in Research II and Comprehensive institutions. We give particular attention to the role of mentorship and aspects of specific mentor resource exchange in affecting network access and participation.

This proposed study will capture detailed content and dynamics of professional networks in the less research intensive academic science setting and relates them statistically to both tangible and intrinsic career outcomes. Specifically, this involves an interdisciplinary multi-method approach that blends extensive quantitative social network, productivity, and career data with detailed and rich qualitative data to address issues of structure and impact of professional networks in this environment. The purpose of this research are 1) to quantitatively measure the structure and resources of individual professional networks (collaborative, professional development, mentoring and advice-related) of academic scientists

in non-Research I environments; 2) to determine how network structure and resources vary by gender, race, rank, and other control factors; 3) use these data to develop and test a series of explanatory models that provide a causal understanding of the role of networks in the productivity, advancement, mobility, and satisfaction of women and especially underrepresented faculty in these fields; and 4) integrate network findings with qualitatively rich interview data, to advance the understanding of issues facing women and underrepresented minorities and transform the empirical findings into practical applications. 

NSF Award #0910191



Marla Parker, PhD, Social Network Determinants of Self-Perceived Influence in Organizational Decision Making Among Minority and Non-Minority U.S. STEM Faculty, 2014