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Four researchers at Old Dominion University are conducting a National Science Foundation study to determine how characteristics of the information technology (IT) workplace can foster increased retention and advancement of women and minorities. Currently, these groups comprise only 25 and 6 percent respectively, of the IT workforce in the United States.

The professors are looking for more local, regional and national IT organizations and companies with IT departments to participate in the study.

"Organizations pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to do just this," said Deborah Major, associate professor of psychology. "They hire outside consultants to come in and do what we are offering for free."
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.

Major, principal investigator for the three-year project, is conducting the study along with psychology colleagues Donald Davis and Janis Sanchez-Hucles and Joan Mann, professor of MIS/decision sciences.

The goal of the study is to:
* 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.

"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 has involved 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 as well as outcomes such as performance, satisfaction, stress, organizational commitment and turnover intentions. Human resource directors will be interviewed for information about their organizations' 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 evaluating 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.

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

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