June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Engineering Physics & Physics
24.83.1 - 24.83.17
A Phenomenological Study of Factors Influencing the Gender Gap in Physics and other STEM-Related Fields Current reports on the gender gap in STEM suggest factors influencing careerchoice between the sexes are not inevitable. Recent decades have documented a clearchange in the gender makeup of some STEM disciplines. However, in many areas, thegap has persisted with little or no change in the number of women choosing to pursue acareer in a STEM-related field such as Physics. According to recent AIP reports1, 2,women comprise 21% of undergraduate, 21% of graduate, and 19% of doctoral degreesin Physics. Many factors have been studied by scholars as contributing to the dearth ofwomen in Physics and STEM3-8. Factors including the lack of role models,discouragement from the media, sex difference in cognitive skill, and unpleasantexperiences related to gender-bias in the classroom have all been suggested as potentialreasons why women tend not to pursue a career in Physics or other STEM field.Suggestions from some scholars also indicate that women often tend to seek out careersin which they feel they can make a difference. Unfortunately, the size of the gap in manyareas has reached a plateau that hasn’t appeared to shift significantly over time. This phenomenological study will look at how individual perceptions of STEM(with an emphasis on Physics) as a career option may influence academic andprofessional pursuits. To that end, formal interviews with practicing professionals andcollege students from a range of disciplines will be used as a primary data collection tool.This paper will provide a synthesis of the empirical data collected through these formalinterviews. Factors that emerge from this synthesis as having a significant influence onone’s perception of STEM as a career choice will be further examined and discussed. Byfocusing on individual perceptions, this study aims to contribute to the existing empiricaldatabase of factors that influence career choice and perpetuate the gender gap in STEM-related fields such as Physics. The themes that emerge may stimulate further research onthis topic and provide suggestions for best practices that may contribute to closing thegap. References1. http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/reports/bachdemograph10.pdf, Accessed 126.96.36.199. http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/reports/bachdemograph10.pdf, Accessed 188.8.131.52. Rosser, S. V. (Ed.). (1995). Teaching the majority: Breaking the gender barrier in science, mathematics, and engineering. New York: Teacher’s College Press.4. National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. (2007). Beyond bias and barriers: Fulfilling the potential of women in academic science and engineering. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.5. Rosser, S. V. (Ed.). (1995). Teaching the majority: Breaking the gender barrier in science, mathematics, and engineering. New York: Teacher’s College Press.6. Seymour, E. & Hewitt, N. M. (2000). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Oxford: Westview Press.7. Tobias, S. (1990). They’re not dumb, they’re different: Stalking the second tier. Tucson: Research Corporation.8. Ceci, S. J. & Williams, W. M. (Eds.). (2007). Why aren’t more women in science? Top researchers debate the evidence. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Larkin, T. L., & Vogel, V. T. (2014, June), A Phenomenological Study of Factors Influencing the Gender Gap in Physics and other STEM-Related Fields Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/19975
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