Bringing Data to Discussions of Diversity
Twenty-eight percent of technology transfer professionals polled by AUTM say their gender, race or other demographic characteristics have had an impact on their career trajectory—one of several key findings from a survey conducted to better understand the diversity of the Association’s Membership and the tech transfer field, as well as diversity- and equity-related challenges that tech transfer professionals face.
The Demographic Survey of Technology Transfer Professionals, launched in 2022, asked questions about how well AUTM embraces equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). The responses were generally positive and consistent with those of a similar beta survey conducted in 2020. As AUTM defines it, diversity encompasses but is not limited to race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, gender identity, age, ability, military and veteran status, socioeconomic status, marital and familial status and sexual orientation.
Because one of AUTM’s objectives is to help Members succeed in their tech transfer careers, the Association was particularly interested in learning the extent to which diversity- and equity-related issues create barriers to professional opportunities.
“This survey confirms that challenges related to equity, diversity and inclusion can limit the ability of AUTM Members and other tech transfer professionals to succeed in their careers,” said AUTM CEO Stephen J. Susalka, PhD.
AUTM’s Demographic Survey Task Force collected and analyzed responses from 477 people who completed the Survey, a 60% increase over participation in 2020.
“Understanding the demographic makeup of our Membership helps us to make decisions based on diverse perspectives,” said AUTM Board Chair Almesha L. Campbell, PhD. “Those diverse perspectives are critical to the evolution and growth of any organization, so we’re thankful to everyone who participated.”
Survey responses were confidential and anonymous. No contact information was collected from respondents, and the survey results were aggregated to safeguard privacy.
Career Impact Findings
Because one of AUTM’s objectives is to help Members succeed in their tech transfer careers, the Survey Task Force was particularly interested in learning how diversity-related challenges are impacting career opportunities. The findings related to the perceived career impact of demographics include:
- 28% of respondents reported that their demographics had negatively impacted their career trajectory (see table for breakdowns by gender and ethnicity). When respondents were asked to specify, as a write-in response, how their demographics had impacted their career success, sexism was mentioned more often (14 times in the 39 responses) than any other type of discrimination.
- More men than women report being in leadership positions (36% vs. 20%). This is consistent with the separate survey finding that more women than men believe their demographics have negatively impacted their career success (see table).
- According to the self-reported data, a greater proportion of non-white respondents (39%) than white respondents reported being in the profession less than five years.
When asked to rate how well AUTM has demonstrated its commitment to EDI on a scale from 1 to 10 (with 10 being “extremely well”), respondents’ scores averaged 7.64 for diversity and 7.69 for inclusivity. Among the 93 write-in responses about specific areas for prioritization, AUTM Board diversity and AUTM Meeting and course panel diversity were cited. Content creation and programming, mentoring and financial support were also suggested as areas for exploration.
“The results of the Survey show that AUTM and tech transfer, like many professions in 2023, are making great strides in EDI areas but also have room for improvement in key areas,” said Clay Christian, PhD, who leads AUTM’s Demographics Survey Task Force.
Baseline Demographic Findings
One goal of the 2022 Survey was to establish baseline demographics for the tech transfer community. Being able to assess and compare the baseline findings with those of future surveys will allow AUTM to better serve the technology transfer community and those who work within it.
Baseline demographic findings were generally consistent with published data for other similar professions. They included:
- The response rate for self-identification as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual/aromantic/agender (LBGTQIA+) was 8.8% of respondents; 88.9% self-identified as non-LGBTQIA+.
- More than one quarter (27%) of respondents reported being non-white, compared with 73% white. (See table for specific race/ethnicity response rates.)
Regarding gender, 56.7% of survey respondents reported being female, 2.7% nonbinary and 40.6% male; this contrasts with AUTM Membership metrics (based on questions about gender pronouns that are part of the renewal process) suggesting the Association is closer to 55% men and 46% women. Men also tend to outnumber women among lawyers and entrepreneurs (see footnotes in the table for sources).
Based on the collective findings, AUTM’s Demographic Survey Task Force suggested that the Association create additional programming and content focused on equity, diversity and inclusion; increasing the diversity of leadership development opportunities, including the Board of Directors and event speakers; and provide additional support through mentoring programs and financial initiatives.
Feedback from 2022 Survey participants also will inform the next Demographic Survey, expected to be completed in 2024/2025.
Find the 2022 Demographics Survey Executive Summary here.