Male Advocacy Initiative Launched

By Nadine Herman

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Center of Excellence for Women in Technology (CEWiT) is fostering the launch of an initiative to intentionally engage male colleagues as advocates and allies for the advancement of women faculty.

According to CEWiT Director, Maureen Biggers, “Men are an integral part of the gender–equity equation in technology, STEM and other academic arenas. Our CEWiT male affiliates have asked for ways they can be more meaningfully included in this organization. This program is one way to engage with positive and significant impact with faculty. We will also introduce similar programs for students in the near future as they can make a positive difference both here with peers and in the work force when they leave.”

The literature is replete with studies that suggest that: Compared to their equal male counterparts, women job candidates are rated as less qualified, and offered lower salaries and support, women receive poorer letters of recommendation, women faculty are evaluated lower in research and publication productivity and quality, women faculty are rated lower in teaching or must use more time-intensive methods, women scientists are less likely to be recognized for research and other contributions (the so-called Matilda effect), and the list goes on and on. Despite overwhelming evidence of gender bias, preliminary studies also suggest that men are more likely to reject such findings of sexism in STEM. Since men constitute the dominant group in most STEM departments, it is clear that men need to play a key role in working toward gender equity. (Bilen-Green, C., et al. 2015)

CEWiT faculty member Tom James is spearheading the effort of the group. James, Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences, sees the program as an important way to raise awareness of issues and to share best practices that promote equity and inclusion.

The Male advocacy program is in its beginning information gathering stage and there have been two meetings held to begin discussions of next best steps for this initiative.

James and the other faculty members hope to move into the implementation stage soon. “There is a large number of men out there who feel strongly that this is a challenge that needs to be addressed and they would like to be involved but don’t know how to go about it,” says James. “They’re worried about trying things out because they might make it worse.”

James thinks that CEWiT encouraging male advocacy is a step in the right direction that could be a model for other organizations to follow. “The fact that we’re starting a male advocacy program and making male advocacy one of our goals is really exciting because it is yet another way the CEWiT will effect some positive change,” says James. “Wemight be one of the first, along with NDSU and a few others, to initiate a plan for male advocacy among faculty.”

The culprit is societal bias, shared by men and women that manifests itself especially in cultures where women are in the minority. James urges men who are interested in this initiative to sign up as a CEWiT affiliate. “If you read this and feel like you are one of those people then get in touch with us,” says James. “This is not about “fixing” women – it is about changing the culture in positive ways for us all.”