The Role of the CDO in Advancing Gender Equity at a Technology-Focused Learning Institution

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A look inside Georgia Tech’s gender equity initiativeArchie-Ervin

As diversity professionals in higher education, we are aware of the gender equity challenges faced by technology-focused learning institutions. According to the American Society for Engineering Education, women were awarded 19.9 percent of all bachelor’s degrees from engineering programs in 2015, and the representation of women in engineering faculty ranks increased to 15.7 percent — only a 4 percent gain since 2006. In STEM fields overall, women earn 29 percent of all bachelor’s degrees awarded, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, and this number is even lower when you look at bachelor’s degrees in STEM awarded to minority women.

In light of these statistics, what is the role of chief diversity officers (CDOs) in advancing gender-equity at technology-focused learning institutions? Fundamentally, CDOs are institutional change agents, and they are central to the coordination of major gender equity initiatives at their respective college or university.

Reimagining the Concept of Faculty Equity Advocates
As CDO at the Georgia Institute of Technology, I helped reimagine the concept of faculty equity advocates through the ADVANCE Program’s Equity, Diversity, and Excellence Initiative (EDEI). This is a model of the National Science Foundation’s ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant, awarded to Georgia Tech from 2001 to 2006. Through EDEI, the current Georgia Tech ADVANCE Program — an inter-collegiate network of professors who are world-class researchers and role models — leverages faculty equity advocates to engage our deans and chairs in the advancement of women faculty. EDEI focuses on four areas — mentoring, transparency, bias awareness, and accountability — to help foster a diverse pool of talent, create an inclusive and equitable work climate, and support the career growth of existing faculty at all levels.

Presenting Georgia Tech’s Gender Equity Initiative
In addition to EDEI, Georgia Tech’s Office of the President conducted a number of listening sessions last year with female students, faculty, and staff to gather feedback about gender-related issues on campus. This feedback was collected, categorized, and synthesized to create the Gender Equity Initiative (GEI), which will be implemented by my unit, Institute Diversity — in close partnership with Human Resources and Faculty Affairs — over the next two years.

Georgia Tech’s GEI has two goals: (1) promote gender equity through policies and processes related to the recruitment, hiring, retention, promotion, professional development, and appointment of faculty and staff to leadership roles; and (2) celebrate the contributions of women in our community and make our commitment to inclusion more visible in our communications.

Specific recommendations of the GEI include the following:

● Provide implicit bias workshops for faculty hiring, promotion and tenure, and senior staff search committees.

● Provide effective practices for diversity guidelines to faculty and senior staff search committees.

● Promote family-friendly programming and policies for faculty and staff.

● Require inclusive and open processes for appointments to faculty, administrative, named faculty, and Regents’ professor and researcher positions.

● Offer professional and leadership development programming for faculty, staff, and students.

● Conduct salary equity studies for faculty and staff.

● Identify and clarify processes and pathways to advancement and promotion for faculty and staff.

● Provide awareness education for all community members, and promote channels of reporting suspected discrimination.

● Regularly highlight women in internal communications and to external media outlets.

● Promote events on campus that feature and celebrate women.

● Offer regular reports of diversity measures and progress.

In the spirit of promoting events on campus that feature and celebrate women, the theme of our 2016 diversity symposium is “Celebrating Women at Georgia Tech,” as this year marks the 60th anniversary of Georgia Tech’s first two female graduates, Diane Michel and Shirley Clements Mewborn. During the diversity symposium awards luncheon, we will present our first-ever Gender Equity Champion Award to members of the campus community who are advancing gender equity at Georgia Tech.

The National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education’s (NADOHE) Standards of Professional Practice for CDOs identifies inclusive excellence as the ultimate outcome for institutional diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts and lists gender equity as one of the central tenets that should drive an institution’s diversity vision and mission. Through policies, processes, partnerships, and communications, CDOs are instrumental in leading major gender equity initiatives that increase the representation and advancement of women at technology-focused learning institutions — thus contributing to a more diverse workforce that is reflective of the U.S. population.●

Archie W. Ervin, PhD, is the vice president of Institute Diversity at Georgia Tech and the president of NADOHE. Georgia Tech is a 2014 and 2015 INSIGHT Into Diversity HEED Award recipient.