It’s complicated: a multi-method approach to broadening participation in STEM

Valerie Gray Hardcastle*, Stacie Furst-Holloway, Rachel Kallen, Farah Jacquez

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: A lot is known about systemic barriers to broadening participation (BP) in STEM. Empirical research has demonstrated the existence and impact of implicit bias, stereotype threat, and micro-aggressions on a sense of belonging, organizational productivity and leadership opportunities. We also know that achieving greater participation of women and faculty of color in the STEM disciplines is complicated and depends on altering complex and multi-layered interactions between activities and actors. Further, because researcher and institutional goals vary as a function of target population and context, generalizable models can struggle in the face of larger BP efforts. Through the authors experience as an NSF ADVANCE-IT awardee, the authors believe that a dynamic, multi-scaled and organizational level approach is required to reflect the reciprocal dialogue among research questions, best practices, tailored applications and quantifiable goals. The authors describe several examples of research, programming activities and program evaluation that illustrate this approach. In particular, the authors describe both the programming successes and challenges, with the aim of helping others to avoid common mistakes by articulating very broad and, the authors’ hope, generalizable “lessons learned.” The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: To better understand the barriers for women in STEM, the authors utilized an iterative methodology. Specifically, the authors conducted a social network analysis, an exit survey of departed faculty, longitudinal analysis of career trajectories and research productivity, and a survey on the interaction between values and climate. Findings: The analyses suggest three strategies better retain women in STEM: improve women’s professional networks; re-aling policy documents and departmental practices to better reflect faculty values; and improve departmental climate. Practical implications: The pay-off for using this more complex research approach to triangulate onto specific challenges is that the interventions are more likely to be successful, with a longer-lasting impact. Originality/value: With continuous institutional research, metric refinement, and program evaluation the authors are better able to develop targeted programming, policy reform, and changes in institutional practice. The interventions should result in permanent institutional and systemic change by integrating multi-method qualitative and quantitative research into BP practices, which the authors couple with longitudinal analysis that can quantify success of the authors’ efforts.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)349-361
    Number of pages13
    JournalEquality, Diversity and Inclusion
    Issue number3
    Early online date2019
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2019


    • gender
    • organizational culture
    • higher education
    • career development
    • sciences
    • diversification


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