June 23, 2013
June 23, 2013
June 26, 2013
Women in Engineering
23.966.1 - 23.966.13
Pilot Study: An Exploration of the Experiences that Influence Women’s Interest, Pursuit, and Continued Involvement in STEM CareersWhile longitudinal studies that examine the effects of personal and environmental factors onwomen’s career motivation have been reported in the literature (Farmer, 1997; Xie & Shauman,2005), none have provided depth or breadth of biographical interviewing over the time span ofthe last two decades. Many intersecting variables have been identified by empirical research toaccount for women’s continued underrepresentation in STEM careers, yet persistence, especiallyin computer science and engineering, remains an issue. Recent studies (Hill et al. 2010; NAS,2007) cite several contributing factors to the underrepresentation of women in the field and givespecial attention to women in STEM academic positions, with less focus on women in STEMcareers broadly.In this pilot study the experiences that encourage or discourage women’s interest and persistencein STEM careers through a retrospective analysis of their K-16 and early career experiences areexplored. The researchers use a grounded theory approach (Corbin & Strauss, 1990; Glaser &Strauss, 1967) to interview women about their experiences and use these data to formulatetheoretical propositions that extend or challenge what is presently known about factorsinfluencing underrepresentation of women in STEM careers. The influences of family, culture,K-16 educational experiences, and transition to the workforce of women ages 25-45 who havegraduated from college in a STEM major, with particular emphasis in studying the experiencesof women in engineering and computer science, are examined.Five women of diverse ages, race, ethnicity, and background in the fields of engineering,computer science, and STEM education were interviewed. While this pilot sample is very smalland far from representative, it has presented some interesting early results. Parental support hasbeen identified in many studies as being a factor that encourages women’s participation in STEM(Matkins, 1996). Participants indicated that parents provided support for college attendance withmessages that encouraged nontraditional gender roles; grandparents were also identified as rolemodels. Contrary to the supposition that the media, with unrealistic images of women, fosterstraditional gender roles (Pipher, 1994), our pilot participants did not perceive the media as astrong influence of career or educational choices in their lives.Pilot participants identified the importance of STEM-related high school summer camps, co-opexperiences, and internships in shaping their college major decisions. They described a lack ofpositive influence from school counselors in supporting them in STEM-related college decisions.Given the dearth of literature in school counseling and academic advising publications, this earlyfinding is not surprising, but nonetheless disturbing. School counseling literature is justbeginning to address the counselor role in encouraging girls to pursue STEM careers (Akos etal., 2007; Feller, 2009; Sciarra, 2010; West-Olatunji et al., 2010), and college academic advisorshave only recently been exposed to articles on supporting young women pursuing STEM careers.The preliminary results show gaps in the literature and the need to capture the influence ofinformal educational experiences. ReferencesAkos, P., Shoffner, M., & Ellis, M. (2007). Mathematics placement and the transition to middle school. Professional School Counseling, 10, 238-244.Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1), 3-21.Farmer, H. S. (1997). Diversity and Women’s Career Development: From Adolescence to Adulthood. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Feller, R. (Sept/Oct. 2009). The Stem Career Launch Pad. ASCA School Counselor. 36-41.Glaser, B. G., & Strauss, A. L. (1967). The discovery of grounded theory: Strategies for qualitative research. New York, NY: Aldine de Gruyter .Hill, C, Corbettt, C. & St.Rose A. (2010) Why so few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Washington, D.C. American Association for University Women.Matkins, J. J. (1996). Characteristics of Women Scientists: Science in Different Voices. Unpublished Dissertation.National Academy of Sciences (2007) Beyond Bias and Barriers: Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering.Pipher, M. (1994). Reviving Ophelia: Saving the selves of adolescent girls. New York: Ballentine Books.Sciarra, D. T. (2010). Predictive factors in intensive math course-taking in high school. Professional School Counseling, 13, 196-207.West-Olatunji, C., Shure, L., Pringle, R., Adams, T., Lewis, D., & Cholewa, B. (2010). Exploring how school counselors position low-income African American girls as mathematics and science learners. Professional School Counseling, 13, 184-195.Xie, Y., & Shauman, K. A. (2005). Women in science: Career processes and outcomes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Hobson, R. S., & Jong, C., & Dockery, D. J., & Hermann, M., & Carter, T. J. (2013, June), Pilot Study: An Exploration of the Experiences that Influence Women’s Interest, Pursuit, and Continued Involvement in STEM Careers Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. https://peer.asee.org/22351
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