New director creates two-pronged strategy for Butler Center

For 2017-18, the Susan Bulkeley Butler Center for Leadership Excellence is implementing a new, two-pronged strategy to advance the inclusion and success of women and broaden their representation in academic decision making.

The data on women’s leadership on college campuses paint an uneven picture. For example, women held nearly half of all tenure-track positions in the U.S. in 2015 but held only 38.4 percent of the tenured positions.1 According to Director Mangala Subramaniam, the new Butler Center strategy is designed to create greater symmetry in two ways:

  1. Through professional development events that provide relevant tools, content and context for the success of women in academia.
  2. Through research that examines various issues which impede or facilitate women’s academic careers and considers mechanisms for women to excel and succeed.  

Both strategies have implications for and include the broader Purdue community of faculty, staff and students.

The first strategy is accomplished through panels, workshops and conferences that draw generously from subject matter experts and encourage meaningful dialogue. Topics are primarily geared toward women, but men are always welcome and many have participated.

One successful example of this strategy is the Conference for Pre-tenure Women, now in its eighth year. The September conference attracted more than 200 participants from Purdue and other institutions, and discussion groups focused on such topics as preparing for tenure, using resources, and creating a strong instructional environment.

New from the Butler Center this year is a series called Conversations about Inclusion. These interactive panel discussions are designed to foster dialogue about inclusion in ways that webinars and videos do not allow. For 10 minutes, panelists share scholarly research, literature and personal experiences related to inclusion. The remaining time is devoted to lively discussion with the audience. The series focuses on topics that are meaningful to the entire Purdue community, and participation by faculty, staff and students is encouraged. The series will continue next spring and will cover additional topics related to inclusion.

Also in the spring, the Butler Center will sponsor a workshop conducted by the American Association of University Women for women faculty, staff, postdocs and graduate students who have completed their preliminary exams and have all but the dissertation to complete. Called “Negotiation,” the workshop will include an introduction to the gender pay gap and its long-term consequences.

The founder of the Butler Center, Susan Bulkeley Butler, conducted leadership coaching for staff and faculty this fall and will conduct coaching sessions again in the spring. Additional leadership workshops for faculty and staff will be conducted by the AAUW in April.

Research provides the second strategic pathway by which the Butler Center hopes to enhance the inclusion of women in academic leadership.

Through a pilot study earlier this semester, Subramaniam and PhD student Zachary D. Palmer developed a reliable and valid set of measures to study climate — people’s perceptions of and experiences with the university environment. Climate is a critical factor in determining faculty retention, career success, and job satisfaction. A subset of these measures will be used as Purdue custom questions in the next Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) survey. 

In spring, the Butler Center will host a panel of researchers from outside Purdue, who will discuss their work about faculty workloads and rewards — something associate professors asked Purdue to address in the last COACHE survey. 

Also in the spring, the Butler Center, in partnership with ADVANCE-Purdue, the Center for Faculty Success, will launch a new working paper series called “Navigating Careers in the Academy: Gender, Race, and Class.” The series will serve as a means for documenting and sharing interventions, practices and processes developed by faculty and postdocs for navigating successful careers.

Through the two-pronged strategy of relevant events and targeted research, the Butler Center looks forward to providing more meaningful support and professional development to more women than ever before.

December 13, 2017

1United States Government Accountability Office, GEO 18-49, "Contingent Workforce: Size, Characteristics, Compensation, and Work Experiences of Adjunct and Other Non-Tenure-Track Faculty,” Oct. 2017.

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