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Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
SJR: 0.468 SNIP: 0.671 CiteScore™: 1.65

ISSN Print: 1072-8325
ISSN Online: 1940-431X

Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering

DOI: 10.1615/JWomenMinorScienEng.2019026815
pages 231-259

WOMEN IN SCIENCE: A SNAPSHOT ACROSS GENERATIONS IN ACADEMIA

Dawn Del Carlo
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, MSH 243, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0423, USA
Tori Wagner
Science Department, Staples High School, 70 North Avenue, Westport, Connecticut 06880, USA

ABSTRACT

Previous research pertaining to women's interest and perseverance in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) is robust and covers all stages of women's lives from early childhood through degree achievement and career advancement. Over the past 75 years, it is clear that more women are entering and staying in STEM fields; however, it is not clear how their experiences as "women in STEM" have shifted nor how this played a role in their decisions to stay. This qualitative study sought to answer the following research questions: (1) What does it mean to women to be a "woman in science"? and (2) How are the life experiences from different generations of female scientists similar or different? Using feminist phenomenology as a theoretical and methodological lens, personal statements were collected from and interviews conducted with 22 women in various stages of their science careers. Overall, regardless of generation, women were inspired to pursue science either because they had "always" been interested or because of a specific teacher. This interest was coupled with a sense of self that participants felt deviated from stereotypical female norms and left many participants negotiating gender roles. For many participants, this negotiation ultimately led to the pursuit of a career in science teaching. While it appears that the level of overt discrimination experienced by our population has decreased over the generations, implicit bias still exists and is not necessarily recognized as being problematic by mid- and late-career women. This has implications for how we recognize and support the next generation of female scientists.

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