New NSF Grant to Foster Greater Equity in Promotion Among Information Technology Professors
A team of researchers, including Foisie Business School Assistant Professor Elizabeth Long Lingo, has been awarded a $998,053 grant from the National Science Foundation to examine the systemic biases that undermine the efforts of women and under-represented minorities to advance to full professor of information technology at colleges and universities.
In partnership with the Association for Information Systems (AIS), the team will conduct research and develop best practices for identifying and mitigating barriers to women’s promotion to full professor. In the United States, women make up only about 20 percent of IT full professors.
“Associations play an essential role in scholars’ advancement to full professor—it’s where people are seen, meet up with collaborators, take on resume-building leadership roles, and develop ties to journal editors and conference organizers,” Long Lingo says. “Our team has found that in IT, professional associations play a particularly important role for women and other underrepresented minorities who want to advance to the rank of full professor. In contrast to their home institutions or departments, associations are the locus for belonging and retention in the field. That’s why it is so important to focus on associations and their role in fostering more equitable outcomes.”
Long Lingo is co-principal investigator of the three-year project, “ImPACT IT: Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Information Technology." Principal investigator is Eleanor Loiacono, formerly of WPI and now associate professor at the College of William and Mary. Lakshmi Iyer, professor at Appalachian State University, also is a co-PI.
The grant was awarded under NSF’s ADVANCE program, which aims to increase the number of women in science and engineering by encouraging academic institutions, industry, and professional groups to address factors that impact women in their ranks.
Long Lingo, an ethnographer who is an expert on organizational change and innovative leadership, previously worked on a separate ADVANCE grant from the NSF that examined WPI’s faculty promotion process and investigated structural and systemic biases and barriers to promotion. That research noted the role that department heads can play in transforming promotion processes.
Her work under the new grant will involve analyzing AIS systems and practices, as well as conducting ethnographic interviews with 50 to 75 AIS members who are associate and full professors to elicit their insights regarding how AIS might foster greater retention and advancement of historically marginalized groups within IT academia.
The researchers are collaborating with AIS, an international professional organization with about 5,000 members, which is a leading organization for IT scholars. AIS publishes journals, organizes conferences, and promotes excellence in the IT field. The grant work will build upon AIS’s recent efforts to advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts across the association.
The researchers plan to analyze and improve the way that AIS gathers data about IT professors across the globe, create practices that will support women as they aim to become full professors, and implement practices and training programs that will reduce and address biases within AIS and its members. Biases, which can make it harder for some scholars to gain promotions, could range from how recommendation letters are written and interpreted to how awards, leadership opportunities, and conference organizers are determined within the association.
“It will be important to bring forward individuals’ lived experiences, to learn how they navigate the existing system, and to have their voices heard, perhaps for the first time,” Long Lingo says. “From these insights, we can understand how associations can play a role in supporting more inclusive scholarship, foster greater diversity among journal editors and award committee members, and build stronger communities of practice among women and underrepresented minorities. Coupled with gathering data and creating accountability systems based on that data, we see an opportunity to forge potentially powerful mechanisms for change across the IT field, and STEM academia more broadly.”
- Lisa Eckelbecker