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ACCESS+, a WEPAN Initiative

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April 11, 2024

Amplifying the Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS+) is an initiative working on extending the breadth and number of STEM professional societies engaged in addressing disciplinary diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). ACCESS+ seeks to accelerate the awareness, adoption, and adaptation of NSF ADVANCE evidence based; gender-related; DEI policies, practices, and programs within and across STEM professional societies.

WEPAN, the leading champion in North America to propel the inclusion of women in the field of engineering, serves as the backbone organization of ACCESS+, which funded by an ADVANCE Partnership grant from the National Science Foundation (HRD #2017953), and through support from the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

ACCESS+ builds on the successful efforts of ACCESS, a multi-society of DEI change leaders from five biological professional societies. ACCESS+ scales up and extends the impact of DEI efforts of Boundary Spanners within and across multiple STEM professional societies. Boundary Spanners are individuals who foster connections between organizations for mutual benefit by finding, translating, and diffusing DEI information and resources and working to support STEM DEI reform.

ACCESS+ is currently supporting upwards of 60 representatives from over 30 STEM professional societies. The project team is composed of representatives from five partner organizations and initiatives recognized for national STEM DEI leadership.

  • The Women in Engineering ProActive Network (WEPAN) is the nation’s first network dedicated to advancing DEI cultures in engineering education, and brings 30 years of experience in serving women in the engineering domain.
  • The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is a boldly inclusive, mobilized, and global scientific community that ignites, enables, and celebrates scientific excellence and science-informed decisions and actions.
  • The ADVANCE Resource and Coordination (ARC) Network brings NSF ADVANCE-specific expertise, community, and a library of resources.
  • The INCLUDES Aspire Alliance National Change Team connects the proposed work to the Aspire Alliance and broader national NSF INCLUDES efforts.
  • The Alliance to Catalyze Change for Equity in STEM Success (ACCESS) Project provides “proof of concept,” as a multi-society of DEI change leaders from five biological professional societies, and serves as the foundation for the proposed ACCESS+ Initiative.

Cohort members first spend two months working on the Equity Environmental Scanning Tool (EEST), a comprehensive DEI professional society self-assessment tool that helps societies assess and benchmark their intersectional DEI efforts, discern strengths, and identify areas for attention. In order to effect change, it is important for a society to understand where it currently is in its DEI journey.

Broad engagement builds ownership in the process, accountability to address identified areas of concern, and investment in changing traditional, or unexamined, ways of “being and doing” that have not resulted in inclusive disciplinary excellence. The EEST is at the heart of the ACCESS+ theory of change to promote STEM society DEI culture reform, and is offered for free under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-SA).

Cohort members then spend nine months engaging in a Community of Practice (CoP) that shares evidence-based policies and practices, engages in professional development to enact effective change, and works to create societies that practice DEI values.

In addition to the EEST, the CoP uses the Inclusive Professional Framework for Societies (IPF: Societies), another organizational change tool. IPF: Societies is an interrelated set of strategies that can help change leaders and organizations identify and address mental models hindering DEI reform. Cohort members also participate in the annual in-person ACCESS+ Convening, where they meet with other cohorts, explore areas of strength and areas for development, and prepare action plans to guide their DEI change work.  

The vision of ACCESS+ is science, technology, engineering, and mathematics spaces where a diversity of women and gender minorities thrive because of cultures that value inclusive excellence.

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