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Women in the Physics and STEM Pipelines: Recruiting, Retaining, and Returning in the Aftermath of a Global Pandemic

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Engineering Physics and Physics Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


Teresa Larkin American University

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Teresa L. Larkin is an Associate Professor of Physics Education and Director and Faculty Liaison to the Combined Plan Dual-degree Engineering Program at American University. Dr. Larkin conducts educational research and has published widely on topics related to the assessment of student learning in introductory physics and engineering courses. Noteworthy is her work with student writing as a learning and assessment tool in her introductory physics courses for non-majors. One component of her research focuses on the role that various forms of technology play in terms of student learning in physics and in engineering. She has been an active member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) for over 30 years. Dr. Larkin served on the Board of Directors for ASEE from 1997-1999 as Chair of Professional Interest Council (PIC) III and as Vice President of PICs. She has received numerous national and international awards including the ASEE Fellow Award in 2016 and the Distinguished Educator and Service Award from the Physics and Engineering Physics Division in 1998. In January 2014 the Center for Teaching, Research and Learning at AU presented Dr. Larkin with the Milton and Sonia Greenberg Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Award 2013. Dr. Larkin was honored by the International Society for Engineering Education (IGIP) at the ICL conference held in Kos Island, Greece in September 2018 with the International Engineering Educator Honoris Causa award for outstanding contributions in the field of Engineering Education.

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Shams El-Adawy

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Shams El-Adawy earned her B.A. in Physics and French from American University in 2018 and her M.S. in Physics from DePaul University in 2020. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. at Kansas State University in physics education research. Her research investigates the needs, support, and motivation of STEM faculty who transition into education research. She is also working on identifying the professional development needs of physicists who engage with the public about their science. Shams has been an active member of the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) and the International Society of the Learning Sciences (ISLS) for the last few years. She can be reached at

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Victoria Vogel American University

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Tori is an action-oriented technologist working for the startup Homeward. Her professional career has primarily focused on implementing new software through agile or hybrid agile approaches. With each software release or technical project, Tori is passionate about making sure the solution adds value to people. She has enjoyed jumping into new business problems as she has worked across the banking, consulting, non-profit, government, and real estate industries. Tori’s undergraduate focus on Sociology and Applied Physics allows her to easily translate between technical and non-technical team members. Tori obtained an MBA from the University of Texas and is a continued advocate of increasing the number of women in STEM careers.

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Designing strategies to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) best practices have become a mainstream topic of conversation in the workplace. Surface-level changes are questioned, and more consequential actions and practices are sought out by employees (administrators and faculty in higher education) and their clientele (students) in industry and in academia. Both the academy and the corporate world have launched initiatives showcasing their efforts to recruit and retain diverse workforces within the STEM pipeline [1 - 2]. Still, various studies have demonstrated that women were more likely removed from the workforce or faced significant career setbacks as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic [3]. With a focus on women in Physics, this paper will provide a synthesis of the major research findings on the potential impact of the pandemic on both new and existing inequities faced by women on STEM career trajectories. These findings include those enlightened by informal discussions with women physicists at varying stages of their careers. We seek to uncover and identify how the pandemic may have further exacerbated those inequities already present in the workplace. By comparing and contrasting the underlying inequities and the role that the pandemic may have played in the corporate and academic workforces, we will explore and identify potential DEI solutions and best practices that organizations and institutions might implement to better support and retain their current workforces. For example, the pandemic has forced organizations and individuals to rethink work-life integration as they have attempted to achieve a new balance in what is often referred to as the new normal. Though neither academic nor industry STEM fields have yet found gender parity in their respective workforces, through a cross-sector comparison, this paper will address a fundamental shift that needs to occur in the way effort and performance is measured to retain and return female talent into the STEM pipeline. It is both timely and critical to take more immediate action to address gender-related DEI issues and their impact both pre- and post-pandemic on women in Physics and STEM career paths.

Larkin, T., & El-Adawy, S., & Vogel, V. (2022, August), Women in the Physics and STEM Pipelines: Recruiting, Retaining, and Returning in the Aftermath of a Global Pandemic Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. 10.18260/1-2--40655

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