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An Old Dominion University faculty member recently received funding from the National Science Foundation to study how characteristics of the information technology (IT) workplace can foster increased retention and advancement of women and minorities. Debra Major, associate professor of psychology, is principal investigator on the three-year project, which will:

* identify conditions that help to recruit, retain and promote women and minorities in IT;
* provide feedback to organizations in order to reduce organizational barriers and build on effective practices used to those ends and;
* evaluate the effectiveness of the organizational feedback and resulting interventions.

Researchers received the grant June 15 and have been developing survey materials. They are currently recruiting local, regional and national IT organizations and companies with IT departments to participate in the study, Major said.

"Organizations and scholars nationwide can learn from the best practices developed during this project to understand and improve equal opportunity," Major said. "As a result, the recruitment, retention and advancement of women and minorities in IT may be improved on a large scale."

The first year of the project will involve analyzing the barriers and opportunities experienced by women and minorities in the IT departments of the participating work organizations. IT employees and supervisors will complete a comprehensive and confidential survey via the web, evaluating the climate for opportunity and inclusion.

The survey assesses barriers and enablers and also assesses outcomes such as performance, satisfaction, stress, organizational commitment and turnover intentions. Human Resource Directors will be interviewed for information about the organization's policies, practices and demographic composition.

The second year of the project will use the results of the first phase of the research to provide feedback and implement organizational interventions that build on effective practices used to promote the success of women and minorities.

The third year of the project will focus on the evaluation of the implemented organizational interventions. A second survey is planned to measure the same variables assessed during the first year to determine the impact of the interventions.

By establishing and sharing best practices, the impact of the project on the IT workplace, as well as the scientific community, has the potential to be substantial, Major said.

Companies interested in participating in this project should contact Debra Major at (757) 683-4235 or dmajor@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: September 24, 2002

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Old Dominion University is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution.