NSF Grant Helps Coles Professor Create Opportunities for Women in Information Systems Education

KENNESAW, Ga. (Jan 20, 2021) — Throughout her education and career, information systems professor Adriane Randolph has encountered few other women – especially Black women – in her field and has sought to make a change through mentorship. Today, thanks to her part in a new National Science Foundation grant project, she has the opportunity to affect even more far-reaching change.

Randolph, the executive director of the Kennesaw State University BrainLab, is a consultant on a recently awarded $1 million NSF grant to research strategies for encouraging more women to become information systems professors. The project, called Increasing the Participation and Advancement of Women in Information Technology – or ImPACT IT – involves faculty from Washington State University, the College of William and Mary, Appalachian State University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and Kennesaw State.

Professor Adriane Randolph consults on NSF grant to increase women in information systems education

According to the Association for Information Systems, women make up 25 percent of all full professors at U.S. colleges and universities, but represent just 10 percent of all IS professorships. AIS data also shows that female IS professors report lower job satisfaction and have fewer opportunities for leadership than their male counterparts.

This all has a domino effect that prevents women from pursuing careers in the field, Randolph explained, adding that she is confident ImPACT IT can lead to improvement.  

“It’s all about creating the narrative,” she said. “For women, if you can’t see your success to the end, it’s hard to want to enter the field in the first place. And while a young girl is likely not able to articulate or understand what she’s seeing or not seeing, it’s important that she does see that representation.”

The goals of the four-year ImPACT IT project include identifying and addressing institutional biases around hiring and promoting women, as well as creating best practices for supporting faculty members through their career journeys to full professor.

Randolph’s role is as liaison to the PhD Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people of color earning doctoral degrees. Randolph is a PhD Project alumnus and currently serves as faculty advisor to its IS student group. Her responsibility on the grant project is to make sure it considers the interests of all women.

“It’s important to remember that ‘women’ aren’t a monolith,” Randolph said. “Our work also needs to focus on traditionally underrepresented groups like African Americans, Native Americans, and Latinx. My goal is to ensure intersectionality of this work with women from these underrepresented groups in the IS field.”

An excellent science and math student from a young age, Randolph attended a science and technology magnet school before earning her engineering degree from the University of Virginia and her doctorate in computer information systems from Georgia State University. In college, she was often one of the only women in her classes.

Several years ago while serving on the organizing committee of the annual NeuroIS Retreat in Austria for scientists studying human-computer interfaces, Randolph saw a group photo of the team and was surprised that she was not only the sole woman, but also the only person of color.

“I had an introspective moment,” Randolph said. “I was asking myself, was it worth it to travel nine hours every summer for this conference? But my question was answered for me when a female attendee came up to say she was so glad to see a woman on the executive committee and organizing team. She said it made her feel like she was welcome here.”

Randolph’s colleagues in the Michael J. Coles College of Business have expressed strong support for the ImPACT IT project. Khawaja Saeed, chair of the Department of Information Systems and Security, shares Randolph’s desire to bring more women into the field.

“Information technology is one of the fastest growing industries and we need better female representation to take this growth to the next level,” Saeed said. “It is well established that diverse teams bring forward unique ideas and are better prepared to explore alternative perspectives.”

The Coles ISS department is more diverse than most, with women making up 36 percent of their roster of full professors.

Sonia Toson, an associate professor of business law and the Coles College’s director of diversity relations, also applauded Randolph’s work.

“Initiatives that increase gender equity in information systems such as this are directly aligned with our mission,” Toson said. “We are incredibly proud that Dr. Randolph will spearhead involvement with the PhD Project to ensure that these opportunities are inclusive of and welcoming to women of color in the field.” 

When the grant project concludes in July 2024, the team will have a comprehensive understanding of the current status of women in IS education and the factors impeding advancement, Randolph said. The team also will have developed training materials and practices to create more equity.

“Training is one thing,” Randolph said. “The second thing becomes changing actions and behavior. Psychologically, we have to break the old patterns. I think that’s going to be uncomfortable for some, but this is what society is promoting.”

– Patrick Harbin