University of Colorado at Boulder

Strategies for Effecting Gender Equity and Institutional Change

logo for StratEGIC Toolkit How can universities create institutional environments that support the success of women scholars in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields? This challenge has faced U.S. institutions of higher education for decades as they seek to increase the representation and involvement of STEM academic women. Solving this problem requires system-wide efforts to identify and remove organizational constraints that lead to gendered biases in institutional policies and processes.

The StratEGIC Toolkit offers research-based advice about strategic interventions useful in this type of organizational change. Our research draws upon the programs and experiences of institutions that have implemented Institutional Transformation (IT) projects under the National Science Foundation's ADVANCE program.

This practical Toolkit distills and shares lessons learned about particular interventions and how they combine into an overall change portfolio. Organizations can strategically choose and combine interventions as they work to support the success of women scholars in STEM fields.

START HERE: The StratEGIC Users' Guide

Read the StratEGIC Users' Guide first for an overview of the StratEGIC Toolkit and advice on how to use it in planning or implementing your own initiative.

Strategic Intervention Briefs

Each Brief examines one type of strategic intervention that has been frequently used in ADVANCE initiatives. These interventions are not "one size fits all"—rather, the Briefs offer detailed information that will enable you to assess whether and how this intervention will be strategically useful to your institution as part of an overall change portfolio. The intent and structure of the Briefs will be most clear if you first read the concise introduction in the StratEGIC Users' Guide.

  1. Faculty professional development programs
  2. Grants to individual faculty
  3. Mentoring and networking activities
  4. Development of institutional leaders
  5. Inclusive recruitment and hiring
  6. Equitable processes of tenure and promotion
  7. Strengthened accountability structures
  8. Flexible work arrangements
  9. Practical family-friendly accommodations
  10. Support for dual-career couples
  11. Strategies for improving departmental climate
  12. Visiting scholars
  13. Enhanced visibility for women and women's issues

Institutional Portfolios

These summaries describe how different institutions combined interventions—such as those described in the Briefs—into an overall change portfolio.  The Institutional Portfolios offer real examples of how project teams identified core problems for STEM women faculty on their campus; chose, designed and implemented interventions to address these problems; and assessed their success.  The intent and structure of the Portfolios will be most clear if you first read the concise introduction in the StratEGIC Users' Guide.


In addition to the StratEGIC Toolkit, we are also preparing scholarly publications based on our research findings. Publications to date include:

Austin, A. E., & Laursen, S. L. (2015).  Organizational Change Strategies in ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Projects: Synthesis of a Working Meeting. Boulder, CO, and East Lansing, MI. Download report

Laursen, S. L., Austin, A. E., Soto, M., & Martinez, D. (2015). ADVANCing the agenda for gender equity: Tools for strategic institutional change.  Change:  The Magazine of Higher Learning, 47(4), 16-24.  DOI: 10.1080/00091383.2015.1053767 Abstract

Laursen, S. L., Austin, A. E., Soto, M., & Martinez, D. (2015). Strategic institutional change to support advancement of women scientists in the academy: Initial lessons from a study of ADVANCE-IT projects. Ch. 5 in M.A. Holmes, S. O’Connell & K. Dutt (Eds.), Women in the geosciences:  Practical, positive practices toward parity, AGU Special Publications 70, Washington, DC, & Hoboken, NJ:  American Geophysical Union & John Wiley & Sons; pp. 39-49. Table of Contents

Austin, A., Laursen, S., Hunter, A.-B., Soto, M., & Martinez, D. (2011.) Organizational change strategies to support the success of women scholars in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields: Categories, variations, and issues. Presented at Inciting the Social Imagination: Education Research for the Public Good, 2011 Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA, April 8-12. Fulltext>>

The ADVANCE Program

To learn more about the NSF ADVANCE program:

We do not take responsibility for the content or currency of material at external links.


logo for National Science FoundationOur collaborative research team is based at Michigan State University and the University of Colorado Boulder. Ann Austin (MSU) and Sandra Laursen (CU) co-direct the project. We thank Melissa Soto and Dali Martinez for their work as research assistants at MSU. We also thank Anne-Barrie Hunter (CU), Melissa Arreola Peña (CU) and Karla Bellingar (MSU) for their assistance.

We are grateful to our study participants, those who helped us coordinate interviews and visits, our advisory board, and the many ADVANCE program leaders and colleagues in the broader ADVANCE community who have shared their insights, advice, and encouragement.

This research study and development of the StratEGIC Toolkit and other products has been supported by the National Science Foundation through ADVANCE PAID grant #HRD-0930097.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations are those of the researchers and do not necessarily represent the official views, opinions, or policy of the National Science Foundation.

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