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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.v13.i1.30
pages 37-76

What Works for Women in Undergraduate Physics and What We Can Learn from Women's Colleges

Barbara L. Whitten
Physics Department, Feminist and Gender Studies Program & Environmental Program, Colorado College, 14 E. Cache la Poudre, Colorado Springs, Colorado 80903, USA
Shannon R. Dorato
Colorado College, USA
Margaret L. Duncombe
Colorado College, USA
Patricia E. Allen
Appalachian State University, USA
Cynthia A. Blaha
Carleton College, USA
Heather Z. Butler
Lakeside School, USA
Kimberly A. Shaw
Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville, USA
Beverley A. P. Taylor
Miami University, USA
Barbara A. Williams
University of Delaware, USA


We are studying the recruitment and retention of women in undergraduate physics by conducting site visits to physics departments. In this second phase of the project, we visited six physics departments in women's colleges. We compared these departments to each other and to the nine departments in coeducational schools that we visited in phase 1 of the project (Whitten, Foster, & Duncombe, 2003a; Whitten et al., 2003b; Whitten et al., 2004). We learned that women's colleges, much more than coed schools, try to recruit students into the physics major. This has led us to criticize the "leaky pipeline" metaphor often used to describe women in physics and to call attention to women dropping in to the physics pipeline. We discuss our results for students and pedagogy and for faculty and institutions, and we offer some advice on how to make a physics department more female friendly.