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Chilly Climates, Balancing Acts, and Shifting Pathways: What Happens to Women in STEM Doctoral Programs

Marilyn Cabay (), Bianca L. Bernstein (), Melissa Rivers () and Natalie Fabert ()
Additional contact information
Marilyn Cabay: Supportive Psychological Services, Scottsdale, 4300 N Miller Rd., 110-5, Scottsdale, AZ 85251, USA
Bianca L. Bernstein: Counseling and Counseling Psychology, Arizona State University, PO Box 870811, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA
Melissa Rivers: Educational Leadership, Northern Arizona University, PO Box 5774, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA
Natalie Fabert: Counseling Services, Arizona State University, PO Box 872104, Tempe, AZ 85287, USA

Social Sciences, 2018, vol. 7, issue 2, 1-33

Abstract: Women in doctoral programs in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) leave without finishing at higher rates than men and, as with men, turn away from academic and research careers. This qualitative study examines the day-to-day influences on female doctoral students during their third or fourth year in physical science and engineering programs. Ethnographic cognitive interviewing and online incident reports document the specific experiences and reactions of 28 participants over a six-month period. The data were analyzed to identify key incidents, categories and recurring themes. Some incidents contributed to women’s growing sense of competence, recognition and identification of oneself as a scientist. Others fit a model of microaggressions and gender barriers in a predominantly masculine culture. Problems of work-life balance were demonstrated for some women. Incidents generated responses by some participants that they would disengage from a research-intensive career trajectory toward alternate career interests outside of academic research. The findings provide information about the lived experiences of women in doctoral programs and suggest that the metaphor of career pathways may be more useful than pipelines in explaining the direction of women who are advanced doctoral students in research-intensive fields.

Keywords: women; graduate students; science and engineering; STEM; gender inequity (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: A B N P Y80 Z00 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2018
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