Equity, community, and accountability: Leveraging a department-level climate survey as a tool for action


Organizational climate is a key determinant of diverse aspects of success in work settings, including in academia. Power dynamics in higher education can result in inequitable experiences of workplace climate, potentially harming the well-being and productivity of employees. Quantifying experiences of climate across employment categories can help identify changes necessary to create a more equitable workplace for all. We developed and administered a climate survey within our academic workplace—the Department of Zoology and Physiology at the University of Wyoming—to evaluate experiences of climate across three employment categories: faculty, graduate students, and staff. Our survey included a combination of closed-response (e.g., Likert-scale) and open-ended questions. Most department members (82%) completed the survey, which was administered in fall 2021. Faculty generally reported more positive experiences than staff. Graduate students often fell between these two groups, though in some survey sections (e.g., mental health and well-being) students reported the most negative experiences of departmental climate. Three common themes emerged from the analysis of open-ended responses: equity, community, and accountability. We discuss how these themes correspond to concrete action items for improving our departmental climate, some of which have been implemented already, while others constitute future initiatives and/or require a collective push towards systemic change in academia. Finally, service work of this type often falls outside of job descriptions, requiring individuals to either work more or trade-off productivity in other areas that are formally evaluated. With the goal of minimizing this burden for others, we detail our process and provide the materials and framework necessary to streamline this process for other departments aiming to evaluate workplace climate as a key first step in building a positive work environment for all employees.



equity, community, accountability, climate survey, organizational climate


Barrile GM, Bernard RF, Wilcox RC, Becker JA, Dillon ME, Thomas-Kuzilik RR, et al. (2023) Equity, community, and accountability: Leveraging a department-level climate survey as a tool for action. PLoS ONE 18(8): e0290065. https:// doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0290065
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