Understanding the Role of Affinity Groups on the Advancement of Women of Color in the Engineering Academy a Workshop

  • Rivero, Iris I.V. (PI)
  • Peeples, Tonya (CoPI)
  • Bailey, Margaret M.B. (CoPI)
  • Ivy, Julie J.E. (CoPI)
  • Mayorga, Maria M.E. (CoPI)

Project: Research project

Project Details


This workshop will study the intersection of professional organizations and affinity groups within those organizations, and the role that they play for women of color (WoC) in engineering academia as they traverse their career pathways. The purpose of the workshop is to discover the reach, structure, and impact of affinity groups, and to learn from successful models from other professional societies. The dearth of WoC in the engineering academy and their advancement in the profession can be correlated to obstacles faced by this population. In contrast from the environment in the engineering academy for underrepresented groups (URGs), corporate settings have embraced and understood the value that diversity offers. Corporate settings have gone beyond the goal of achieving diversity, but recognize that inclusion is essential for the growth of their diverse environment. To foster an inclusive environment, corporations have learned that affinity groups within the organization are key as they provide a means for individuals to articulate concerns and impart change. The perception by WoC in the engineering academy is that industry offers a more tolerable environment supporting professional career advancement. Therefore, similar efforts as those in corporate settings have been implemented organically by WoC in large professional societies. This workshop will bring together leaders from government, academia, professional societies and industry to address critical issues around the entry, persistence and advancement of WoC in the engineering academy. Participants from diverse institutions (2-year, 4-year, research intensive, minority serving) will examine this critical element of community support and belonging in broadening participation. Strategic initiatives and cross-sector collaboratives will support the development of future and current faculty to advance through professional engagement in national settings. This work is aligned with the big ideas of NSF such as INCLUDES.

This workshop will assess the effect of the presence of affinity groups within discipline-specific professional organizations on the promotion, tenure, and progression into leadership within the academy for WoC. Due to the limited availability of literature, the proposed workshop is designed to gain an understanding of the current landscape of discipline specific professional organizations, their affinity groups, and their roles leading to assess their reach and impact on the advancement of WoC in the engineering academy. A motivation driving the conceptualization of this workshop is to contribute towards supporting the career progression of underrepresented groups (URG) females in the engineering academy.

To better understand how affinity groups can support the progression of WoC in the engineering academy this workshop will seek to answer the following research questions: (1) Can the reach that professional organizations and related affinity groups within those organizations have on engaging WoC be quantified? (2) Is there a prescribed structure within affinity groups that is associated with a proportion of its population achieving academic career advancement? (3) Can the impact that professional organizations and related affinity groups have on the advancement of WoC in engineering academia be quantified? (i.e. percentages of WoC promoted to full professor, percentages of WoC in academic leadership, etc.)

This workshop will draw upon Positive Organizational Scholarship (POS) to conceptualize and design best practices for affinity groups of WoC in the engineering academy. This workshop will anchor in the POS research on career development to explore the potential of affinity groups with an emphasis on professional and psychosocial support, communal practices, mutual learning and growth, and network-based model of mentoring.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Effective start/end date9/15/2010/31/22


  • National Science Foundation: $49,999.00


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