BOONE, N.C. — A persistent gap exists between the number of men and women in the information technology (IT) field: At colleges and universities across the U.S., only 28% of IT faculty are women, according to the Association for Information Systems (AIS).

Dr. Lakshmi S. Iyer, acting associate dean of graduate programs and research in the Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University, is performing research aimed at fostering gender equity in IT through a three-year project titled Increasing the Participation and AdvanCemenT of Women in Information Technology, or ImPACT IT.

Iyer, who also serves as a professor in the Department of Computer Information Systems, was awarded more than $100,000 in support of the project — funding that is part of a nearly $1 million ADVANCE grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

According to the ImPACT IT project site, equal representation among IT faculty will “enhance the quality of students’ education, the impact of university research, engagement with communities and the leadership of higher education institutions.”

In partnership with AIS, the ImPACT IT team — which includes Iyer and four other women IT faculty — is working to identify and eliminate organizational barriers that prevent diverse IT women faculty from fully participating in the field and advancing to the rank of full professor.

Iyer is leading the project’s best practices group, which reviews, develops, evaluates and recommends best practices for supporting associate faculty in their advancement to full professor — especially women and traditionally underrepresented groups.

Drawing from interview data and in conversation with AIS leadership, the group will develop and implement workshops to share best practice material with relevant stakeholders.

Iyer has previously demonstrated a passion to advance underrepresented students’ interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields through App State’s Innovate for Good program, the goal of which is to increase diverse students’ awareness about STEM education and career paths.

She is also founder and director of IT is for Girls, an outreach program through the University of North Carolina at Greensboro that aims to increase middle and high school girls’ awareness about education and career paths in computing.

Makayla Wilkins ’21, who is pursuing her Master of Science in applied data analytics at App State, will serve as a graduate research assistant on the ImPACT IT project. Wilkins, of Los Angeles, California, graduated from the university this spring with a Bachelor of Science in business administration in supply chain management.

The ImPACT IT model will be shared broadly and can serve as a role model for other associations seeking to increase the number of women promoted to full professor in higher education.

ADVANCE is part of the NSF’s strategy to broaden participation in the STEM workforce. Since 2001, NSF has invested more than $270 million in ADVANCE projects at more than 100 organizations nationwide, including higher education institutions and STEM-related, not-for-profits.

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Grant project collaborators

  • Dr. Eleanor Loiacono, principal investigator (PI), College of William and Mary.
  • Dr. Lakshmi S. Iyer, co-PI, Appalachian State University.
  • Dr. Elizabeth Long Lingo, co-PI, Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
  • Dr. Michelle Carter, project consultant, Washington State University.
  • Dr. Adriane Randolph, project consultant, Kennesaw State University.

Goals of NSF ADVANCE program

According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), its ADVANCE program “encourages institutions of higher education and the broader science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) community … to address various aspects of STEM academic culture and institutional structure that may differentially affect women faculty and academic administrators.”

The program’s goals:

  • Develop systemic approaches to increase the participation and advancement of women in academic STEM careers.
  • Develop innovative and sustainable ways to promote gender equity that involve both men and women in the STEM academic workforce.
  • Contribute to the research knowledge base on gender equity and the intersection of gender and other social identities in STEM academic careers.

Read more about the NSF ADVANCE program.

App State awarded nearly $1M grant to ADVANCE APPALACHIAN women in STEM academic careers

Sep. 18, 2020

The National Science Foundation has awarded Appalachian $995,509 in grant funding to implement ADVANCE APPALACHIAN — a program designed to support and advance the careers of Appalachian faculty who are women in STEM disciplines. The program will be implemented over the next three academic years.

App State joins national alliance to develop more diverse, inclusive STEM faculty

Dec. 4, 2020

App State has joined 18 other higher education institutions across the nation in a three-year effort to develop inclusive best practices for recruiting, hiring and retaining STEM faculty, as well as ensuring all STEM faculty engage in inclusive teaching, advising and research mentoring.

Diversity and Inclusion at Appalachian

Appalachian State University is committed to developing and allocating resources to the fundamental task of creating a diverse campus culture. We value diversity as the expression of human similarities and differences, as well as the importance of a living and learning environment conducive to knowledge, respect, acceptance, understanding and global awareness.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math)

Appalachian State University desires to connect and educate our community and our students through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) fields of study. Appalchian strives to build mutually beneficial and sustainable relationships with community partners to further engagement and impact in our local to global communities.

Appalachian professor awarded UNC Greensboro funding for BRIDGES project

March 30, 2018

Grant funding from UNC Greensboro will allow an interdisciplinary team of Appalachian and UNC Greensboro faculty members to implement BRIDGES — a project designed to engage diverse groups in STEM learning.

About the Department of Computer Information Systems

At Appalachian State University, computer information systems (CIS) students gain valuable professional skills and capabilities that prepare them for careers in a wide variety of technology-related industries. Students learn how to successfully interface between the technical and management aspects within organizations. Part of the Walker College of Business, the Department of Computer Information Systems offers one of 10 undergraduate business majors at Appalachian, all of which promote solid business acumen and technical fundamentals. Learn more at

About the Walker College of Business

The Walker College of Business at Appalachian State University delivers transformational educational experiences that prepare and inspire students to be ethical, innovative and engaged business leaders who positively impact our community, both locally and globally. The college places emphasis on international experiences, sustainable business practices, entrepreneurial programs and real-world applications with industry. Enrolling approximately 3,000 undergraduates in 10 majors and 175 graduate students in three master’s programs, the Walker College is accredited by AACSB International – the premier global accrediting body for schools of business. Learn more at

About Appalachian State University

As the premier public undergraduate institution in the state of North Carolina, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives as global citizens who understand and engage their responsibilities in creating a sustainable future for all. The Appalachian Experience promotes a spirit of inclusion that brings people together in inspiring ways to acquire and create knowledge, to grow holistically, to act with passion and determination, and to embrace diversity and difference. Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Appalachian is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System. Appalachian enrolls more than 20,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and graduate majors.