Carolina’s TEAM ADVANCE seeks to strengthen faculty pipelines by boosting mentoring for women, especially women of color.
Mentoring can be an important tool for career growth, but mentoring is not equally available to all. Carolina’s STEM disciplines, for instance, reflect national trends that show a list of inequities: women of color and white women are underrepresented in leadership and at the full professor rank; women tend to be underrepresented at each tenure rank and overrepresented in fixed-term positions, compared to men; men are more likely to request and lead funded research projects, compared to women; women reported less access to mentoring, compared to men; and non-white faculty reported less access to mentoring, compared to white faculty at all ranks.
Enter TEAM ADVANCE.
Housed in the Center for Faculty Excellence and working in partnership with the Carolina Women’s Center, TEAM ADVANCE — “TEAM” stands for “Targeting Equity in Access to Mentoring” — strives to achieve a culture of equitable mentoring across the University, specifically for women of color and white women in STEM and related disciplines. The project is funded by a $1 million National Science Foundation grant.
“Across our University, we’ve seen gender and racial inequities in terms of faculty progress,” said TEAM ADVANCE Lead-Principal Investigator Erin Malloy, director for the Center for Faculty Excellence and a professor in the School of Medicine’s psychiatry department. “So we applied for this grant with faculty mentoring in mind, because we knew that all departments in our schools had been charged with developing mentoring plans for their faculty.”
Malloy said that TEAM ADVANCE has four main objectives:
- Establish and collaborate with the special assistant to the provost for TEAM ADVANCE to ensure consistent faculty mentoring program implementation and accountability across the University.
- Serve chairs, deans and other leaders by providing workshops, educational materials and other resources to help them create effective intersectional mentoring plans that are driven by understanding the racial and gender inequities on campus.
- Provide direct support, peer mentoring circles, mentoring training and leadership development for early- and mid-career faculty.
- Promote effective mentoring practices through mentoring training for mid- to senior-career faculty mentors.
Kia Caldwell, professor of African and African-American and diaspora studies in the College of Arts & Sciences, is a co-principal investigator and special assistant to the provost for TEAM ADVANCE. She said that the goal is to infuse gender and racial equity and intersectionality into all discussions of faculty mentoring.
“I like to say that we’re taking a holistic approach to mentoring that acknowledges all of the different factors that affect people,” Caldwell said. “When we mentor, we can’t act as if everyone is the same and provide one-size-fits-all mentoring. We have to think about the specific gendered and racial experiences of women of color and BIPOC women and consider how they affect their professional trajectories.”
Women, especially women of color, are historically underrepresented in STEM, but both Malloy and Caldwell said that TEAM ADVANCE has been able to open their programming across campus, without being limited exclusively to STEM fields.
One of the ways TEAM ADVANCE reaches each department on campus is through its mentoring climate surveys. Caldwell said that for the past three semesters, TEAM ADVANCE has distributed surveys to faculty that measure the impact of resources and programs provided to department chairs, faculty members and faculty mentees. The information gathered allows TEAM ADVANCE to better understand the University climate related to faculty development and mentoring, as well as see which programs and resources are most effective.
In the fall of 2020 and the spring of 2021, Caldwell said questions regarding COVID-19 were included in the survey as a way to collect data about the impact of the pandemic on faculty and their productivity, as well as how they feel about the impact on their professional and personal lives. Jonatha Foland, the research project manager for TEAM ADVANCE, said that there were significant gender differences in the way men and women responded to the climate survey questions about the pandemic.
“Across several items that measured general stress to workload stress to impacts on family relationships, we saw that women tended to indicate higher levels of stress,” Foland said. “And we saw those differences when we looked at gender overall, and when we looked at gender differences among white faculty and BIPOC faculty.”
Experiences of marginalization can slow the professional progress of white women and women of color, hinder their research and isolate them from access to mentoring, according to TEAM ADVANCE’s website. TEAM ADVANCE’s mission of equity, intersectionality and inclusion ultimately strives to promote interventions and research activities that support the retention of women of color and white women in STEM and other related fields.
Foland remembered an experience at an early career professional workshop in TEAM ADVANCE’s first academic year that underscores the importance of TEAM ADVANCE.
“There was an early career faculty member, a woman of color, who came up to me and told me that our workshops have been incredibly helpful for her professional development,” Foland said. “She said she was a fixed-term faculty member, and when she comes to our workshops, she feels like a full member of the faculty and community at Carolina.”
The Spring 2021 Mentoring Climate Survey is open until May 28. Faculty should look for an email from TEAM ADVANCE, which provides an individualized link that ensures anonymity.
By Gaby Iori, The Well