Universities were established as hierarchical bureaucracies that reward individual attainment in evaluating success. Yet collaboration is crucial both to 21st century science and, we argue, to advancing equity for women academic scientists. We draw from research on gender equity and on collaboration in higher education, and report on data collected on one campus. Sixteen focus group meetings were held with 85 faculty members from STEM departments, separated by faculty rank and gender (i.e., assistant professor men, full professor women). Participants were asked structured questions about the role of collaboration in research, career development, and departmental decision-making. Inductive analyses of focus group data led to the development of a theoretical model in which resources, recognition, and relationships create conditions under which collaboration is likely to produce more gender equitable outcomes for STEM faculty. Ensuring women faculty have equal access to resources is central to safeguarding their success; relationships, including mutual mentoring, inclusion and collegiality, facilitate women’s careers in academia; and recognition of collaborative work bolsters women’s professional advancement. We further propose that gender equity will be stronger in STEM where resources, relationships, and recognition intersect—having multiplicative rather than additive effects.
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