Training in the Tiger Advocates program will be initially targeted to male faculty, but facilitators plan to open it up to multiple audiences.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Clemson University will take steps to further promote gender diversity and support female faculty through Tiger Advocates, a program that will provide training for male faculty members who seek to be proponents of gender diversity. The initial training session will take place March 30, with plans to make the program a permanent fixture on campus.

Tiger Advocates is funded by a $3.4 million grant from a National Science Foundation program called ADVANCE: Increasing Participation and Advancement of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Careers. Melissa Vogel, associate professor in Clemson’s sociology and anthropology department, was tapped by members of the ADVANCE team to lead the Tiger Advocates program. Vogel said the program will help to not only change the conversation on gender diversity at Clemson, but how that conversation takes place.

“The program will give male faculty members the tools to identify bias and strategies to effectively address it,” Vogel said, “but more than anything it will inform them how to do that in a constructive way so that people are receptive to new ideas. That’s how you make lasting changes to a culture.”

Faculty trained through the program will learn about the use and impact of covert and institutional bias—exhibited by both men and women—toward women in higher education, its effects and how to address it. When marital status, pregnancy or something as seemingly inconsequential as a woman’s choice of clothing becomes a factor in the treatment, recruitment or retention of female faculty, a Tiger Advocate will be able to recognize this bias and be empowered to intervene.

According to Vogel, the program will initially focus on tenured male faculty in order bring more male voices to the argument for female faculty and ease the burden on female faculty who may feel targeted by speaking up on issues.

Faculty from North Dakota State University will conduct the training, which is based on its own FORWARD program initiated in 2008. Roger Green, associate professor in North Dakota State University’s electrical and computer engineering department, will lead the training effort. Green said the FORWARD program has been highly successful at North Dakota State University and other universities, and he looks forward to sharing proven tools and practices with Clemson faculty.

“The primary focus of the program is for men to work with other men, beginning with themselves,” Green said. “Intervention is one form of action, but not necessarily the most important; developing awareness of issues and skills to reduce unconscious bias are crucial components. The focus is on individual behavior and institutional climate, particularly as influenced by majority groups.”

The initial training session will provide context and relevant data from Clemson, according to Green. The training then tackles unconscious bias and literature on gender inequity in academia. Training is closed out by discussion, workshops and activities to reinforce concepts and skills and the development of specific action faculty can take promote gender equity.

After the training in March, a follow-up session will occur during the summer to identify and recruit those interested in training the next generation of Tiger Advocates at Clemson. Vogel is hopeful that the training will be opened up to female faculty, staff and even students in the future.

“By the trainers’ third visit in fall 2017, we should be at a place where we’re evaluating how well we’re training ourselves,” Vogel said. “We’ve already had a great deal of interest for the initial training so I’m optimistic about finding faculty members who want to lead the effort at Clemson in the future and keep this program around for the long haul.”

The program currently has over 70 open training slots and will accept applications until all spots are full. For more information please contact the program lead: Dr. Melissa Vogel,