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Removing Barriers

Women in Academic Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics

Edited by Jill M. Bystydzienski and Sharon R. Bird

Publication Year: 2006

Movement into academic science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has been slow for women and minorities. Not only are women and minorities underrepresented in STEM careers, there is strong evidence that many academic departments are resistant to addressing the concerns that keep them from entering careers in these fields. In light of recent controversies surrounding these issues, this volume, examining reasons for the persistence of barriers that block the full participation and advancement of underrepresented groups in the sciences and addressing how academic departments and universities can remedy the situation, is particularly timely. As a whole, the volume shows positive examples of institutions and departments that have been transformed by the inclusion of women and recommends a set of best practices for continuing growth in positive directions.

Published by: Indiana University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

This edited volume would not have been possible without the hard work and support of numerous people. The 2002 conference at Iowa State University, “Retaining Women in Early Academic Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Careers,” yielded the keynote addresses and papers which constitute the chapters of this book. The organization of the conference, and a great deal of the subsequent effort of getting the contributions peer-reviewed ...

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pp. 1-20

Despite several decades of research on and interventions to benefit women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, the progress in effectively changing the representation of women in many STEM careers has been slow. Thus, while women are currently slightly overrepresented among all high school and college graduates, and constitute the majority of undergraduates and master’s-level graduates in the biological sciences, ...

Part One: History of Women in Stem Fields

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pp. 21-22

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1. Sustaining Gains: Reflections on Women in Science and Technology in the Twentieth-Century United States

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pp. 23-45

Advances in science and technology played key roles in the two world wars and in a space exploration program for which the twentieth century will undoubtedly be remembered. In that century, too, industrialized nations gave unprecedented support to systematic inquiry and, in many cases, privileged experimental and quantitative research. We may or may not agree with the lists of outstanding discoveries of the twentieth century ...

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2. From “Engineeresses” to “Girl Engineers” to “Good Engineers”: A History of Women’s U.S. Engineering Education

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pp. 46-66

Engineering education in the United States has had a gendered history, one that until relatively recently prevented women from finding a place in the predominantly male technical world. For decades, Americans treated the professional study of technology as men’s territory (Bix 2000b; Ogilvie 1986; Rossiter 1982, 1995). Until World War II and beyond, many leading engineering schools, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, ...

Part Two: Institutional and Cultural Barriers for Women in Stem

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pp. 67-68

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3. Using POWRE to ADVANCE: Institutional Barriers Identified by Women Scientists and Engineers

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pp. 69-92

On January 29, 2001, a number of presidents, chancellors, and provosts of the most prestigious research universities (the California Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Michigan, Princeton University, Stanford University, Yale University, the University of California at Berkeley, Harvard University, and the University of Pennsylvania), ...

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4. Telling Stories about Engineering: Group Dynamics and Resistance to Diversity

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pp. 93-107

Professions, businesses, and educational institutions increasingly promote the cause of diversity and commit resources to enhancing the success of members of different social groups. This is certainly true of the engineering profession in general and of colleges, departments, and programs throughout the United States that train and educate engineers. At the same time, there remains a great deal of misunderstanding within engineering about “diversity” ...

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5. The Gender Gap in Information Technology

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pp. 108-122

Concern about the technology gender gap has shifted from a focus on computer access and Internet connectivity to educational achievement and employment opportunities in information technology. While the gender gap in computer ownership and connectivity has narrowed in recent years (U.S. Department of Commerce 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000; Hoffman and Novak 1999), the gender divide in information technology ...

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6. African American Women in Science: Experiences from High School through the Post-secondary Years and Beyond

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pp. 123-141

In the United States, young women’s level of participation in many aspects of science education continues to be lower than that of young men. As a result, women remain underrepresented in science and science-related occupations— one of the most elite and influential sectors of the U.S. labor force (Hanson et al. 1999; National Center for Education Statistics 2000a, 2000b; NSB 2000; NSF 2000). This shortage of women is a reflection of the continuing bias and gender inequity in science. ...

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7. African Women Pursuing Graduate Studies in the Sciences: Racism, Gender Bias, and Third World Marginality

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pp. 142-160

In recent years, there has been much discussion among social scientists, feminist scholars, and policymakers of the fact that, while women have made some progress in the sciences, in most societies there is still a gender gap and loss of women in science-related occupations (Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, and Uzzi 2000; Hanson 1996). In Third World societies especially, women have lower enrollments in science courses ...

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8. Gendered Experiences in the Science Classroom

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pp. 161-176

For the past twenty years considerable effort has been made to get more women to pursue scientific careers. Numerous university science departments have set up mentoring programs (Clark et al. 2000; Etzkowitz, Kemelgor, and Uzzi 2000) or weekly peer-led workshops (Ligata and Adamczeski 2000), have received grants to educate science and math faculty about research in teaching science, and have implemented ...

Part Three: Feminist Study of Scientific Practice

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pp. 177-178

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9. The Construction of Sexual Bimorphism and Heterosexuality in the Animal Kingdom

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pp. 179-196

To most people in Western industrial cultures, the difference between male and female humans, animals, and plants is self-evident. In the same binary fashion, biologists categorize different forms of reproduction as sexual and asexual. In biology classes students may learn about hermaphrodites, like the earthworm, which have male and female reproductive organs. ...

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10. Feminism and Science: Mechanism without Reductionism

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pp. 197-214

Modern science is a historical enterprise born in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We all know its “fathers”: Francis Bacon, René Descartes, John Locke, Galileo Galilei, Sir Isaac Newton, Robert Boyle; this intellectual honor roll goes on and on. They developed a way of producing knowledge that was astonishing in its ability to explain the natural world. Carolyn Merchant, in her book The Death of Nature (1980), ...

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11. Across the Language Barrier: Gender in Plant Biology and Feminist Theory

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pp. 215-234

Feminist theory today faces no more urgent task than learning to understand and work with the powerful discourses of science and technology that shape our world, rather than simply resisting them or turning away. Crucial to that work will be reaching consensus about what some key terms—“sex,” “gender,” “the body,” “sexuality”—can usefully mean and do, some thirty years after what is now called second-wave feminism first deployed them ...

Part Four: Remedies and Change

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pp. 235-236

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12. The Graduate Experience of Women in STEM and How It Could Be Improved

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pp. 237-253

The changing position of women earning doctorates in science and engineering is described by the title of the National Research Council’s 2001 report, From Scarcity to Visibility (Long 2001). It reflects the impact of thirty years of study, programs, and initiatives as women have grown from 8 percent of all Ph.D. recipients in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 1966 to 39 percent in 2002 ...

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13. How Can Women and Students of Color Come to Belong in Graduate Mathematics?

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pp. 254-270

The decreasing proportions of women and students of some racial and ethnic groups in most science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines as they progress to higher educational and professional levels has been the subject of extensive research in recent years. Despite this body of research, little work has been done to examine the processes by ...

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14. Designing Gender-Sensitive Computer Games to Close the Gender Gap in Technology

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pp. 271-286

Media technologies, including those used primarily for leisure, can reinforce societal divisions (Bryce 2001; Winner 1980). Investigation into the relationship between gender and technology includes considering the symbolic role technology plays in gender stereotypes, as well as the demographic characteristics of people being educated in technical fields, assembling hardware components, writing software programs, and using specific technologies ...

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15. Making Sense of Retention: An Examination of Undergraduate Women’s Participation in Physics Courses

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pp. 287-302

Retention of women i n science, technology , engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has been studied from multiple perspectives by researchers in many disciplines. Social science research illuminates numerous factors associated with low retention rates among women in STEM. Among these are classroom climate, teaching quality, students’ reasons for entering a STEM major, ...

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16. Creating Academic Career Opportunities for Women in Science: Lessons from Liberal Arts Colleges

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pp. 303-319

Recruiting and retaining women in science (both as undergraduates and as faculty members) is a challenge for liberal arts colleges and research universities alike. As pools of job applicants shrink, new strategies for attracting prospective science faculty and nurturing new faculty members are also being developed and tested out of a mixture of necessity and desperation. ...

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17. Beyond Gender Schemas: Improving the Advancement of Women in Academia

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pp. 320-332

What the 2002 Iowa State conference and the experiences of the first cohort of National Science Foundation ADVANCE Institutional Transformation awardees make clear is that we are fortunate to be at the inception of a new discipline— the discipline of gender equity. There is a distinct subject matter here. We see that our understanding of obstacles to and improvement in gender equity will draw on concepts and methods from women’s studies, ...

Selected Readings

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pp. 333-336


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pp. 337-340


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pp. 341-347

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111739
E-ISBN-10: 0253111730
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253346797

Page Count: 360
Illustrations: 1 b&w photos, 6 figures, 1 bibliog., 1 index
Publication Year: 2006