Panel Paper: Gender, Race and Network Effects on Organizational Self-Perceived Influence among STEM Faculty in U.S. Institutions

Thursday, November 7, 2013 : 3:20 PM
Thomas Boardroom (Westin Georgetown)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Marla Parker and Eric Welch, University of Illinois, Chicago
Personal influence is particularly important in organizational decision-making where individuals can drive how organizational resources, culture, processes, goals, and structures are shaped.  As such, personal influence can be a significant reflection of how organizational actors asses their own value. The proposed research explores the significance of network characteristics in determining the level of self-perceived influence in organizational decision-making among faculty in academic science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM).  Additionally, this research explores differences in self-perceived influence between women and men STEM faculty as well as between minority and non-minority STEM faculty in U.S. higher education institutions.  The following research questions are proposed:   1) Do network factors explain variation in self-perceived influence in organizational decision making among STEM faculty?; and 2) Are there significant differences in self-perceived influence in organizational decision-making between women and men STEM faculty as well as minority and non-minority STEM faculty?

Several areas are addressed by this research.  First, by understanding how women and minority STEM faculty feel about their relevance in their organizations, human resource management and policy can improve recruitment and retention strategies targeting historically marginalized groups (Chubin et al., 2005; Packard, 2011; National Academy of Sciences, 2007).  Second, knowledge of the extent to which women and minority faculty feel included in organizational decision-making can inform policies that actively promote equity in how diverse interests and needs are addressed (Aguirre et al, 1993; Aguirre, 2000; Turner et al., 1997; Blackwell 1988; Menges & Exum 1983; Turner et al. 1997). Lastly, more can be understood about how social network dynamics uniquely contribute to important workplace outcomes of STEM faculty, as well as how these dynamics may contribute differently to the outcomes of specific groups of STEM faculty  (Melkers & Kiopa, 2009; Feeney & Bernal, 2010; Pinheiro & Melkers, 2009).

Data for the proposed research is from a project funded by the National Science Foundation that surveyed academic STEM faculty about their individual backgrounds, experiences, work environment, productivity and social networks.  The dependent variable is faculty’s self-perceived influence in organizational decision-making related to their organizational environment and role in the organization.  The independent variables include the race and gender status of faculty and various network factors such as structure (i.e. network constraint) and composition (i.e. heterogeneity, homophily, resources).  The research model illustrates direct connections and various pathways between the independent and dependent variables. In particular, the model illustrates that gender, race, network factors independently and directly shape self-perceived influence.  Also, the model shows that gender and race determine network constraint, which in turn determines the network resources that shape self-perceived influence.   Overall, conclusions from this research will address the value of social networks in promoting inclusion and diversity among the academic STEM ranks.  More specifically, conclusions will discuss policy and management related implications relevant for facilitating the creation of a substantially representative and active population of minority and women STEM faculty, which can significantly contribute to the development of talented, stable and diverse STEM human capital.