JSU’s female faculty work to understand gender bias in the academy

(JACKSON, Miss.) – Female faculty members from Jackson State University’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) disciplines gathered at the Mississippi e-Center @ JSU on Dec. 10 to offer insight into the perceptions and realities of gender bias toward single and married/partnered academic women in the STEM and SBS areas. Many of the partnered women were joined by their spouses/partners, who also participated in the workshop.

JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers (left) participated in the JSUAdvance workshop, "The Academic Woman: Balancing Responsibilities, Expectations and Biases." Also pictured are JSUAdvance principal investigator Loretta Moore (standing), psychology professor Debra Pate (next to Meyers), biology professor Jacqueline Stevens, Mississippi College law professor Angela Kupenda, psychology professor Kaye Sly and political science professor Lenice Davis.

“Two of the things we wanted to look at was the impact of marital status on advancement in the academy and the impact of a woman’s degree or the professoriate on her marital status,” said Loretta Moore, who is the interim associate dean of JSU’s College of Science, Engineering and Technology and principal investigator of the JSUAdvance program, which organized the workshop.

Funded by a $3.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, JSUAdvance is a five-year project designed to advance the careers of STEM and SBS women faculty and transform the institutional climate of Jackson State University.

University of Alabama at Huntsville communication arts professor Eletra S. Gilcrist facilitated a session during the Dec. 10 JSUAdvance workshop. Gilcrist is the editor of "Experiences of Single African-American Women Professors: With this Ph.D., I Thee Wed."

Close to 40 people participated in the Dec. 10 seminar including JSU President Carolyn W. Meyers, the majority of JSU’s STEM and SBS female faculty members, most of their spouses/partners and national experts on issues that face women in the academy.

“It was great that Dr. Meyers came out and supported the event,” Moore said. “It means a lot to the women faculty who where there.”

Although women faculty serve in leadership positions at JSU and other universities, those in the STEM and SBS disciplines are notably less visible in administration levels.

The JSUAdvance project is expected to add an understanding of the issues that impact women faculty in the STEM and SBS disciplines and promote strategies that JSU and other Historically Black Colleges and Universities can adopt. It is also expected to foster a culture that seeks the inclusion of faculty regardless of gender, race and other target characteristics.

Spouses and partners of JSU female faculty took part in a focus group to help understand the unique challenges facing academic women in the STEM and SBS disciplines, particularly women of color. Pictured are chemistry professor John Watts (left), Reginald Buckley, Mississippi e-Center @JSU executive director William McHenry and facilitator Anthony L. DePass, assistance vice president for research development at Long Island University.

“The majority of married female faculty in STEM and SBS at Jackson State have spouses who work outside of the university,” Moore said. “We had some great suggestions coming out of the event that will help support the women in their advancement. For example, the men at the workshop said they would like to continue to meet to build a community of spouses of STEM and SBS faculty.”

Posted by Jean Gordon Cook


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