Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Women in science? Universities don't make the grade

Date:
September 30, 2011
Source:
Sociologists for Women in Society
Summary:
Despite years of trying to improve the number of women undergraduates in science and engineering, a new study shows most universities are failing.

Despite years of trying to improve the number of women undergraduates in science and engineering, a new study shows most universities are failing. Not only are women lagging behind their male classmates, efforts to close the gap too often focus on students instead of faculty and institutional structures.

This is first study that looks at the full range of programs for undergraduate women in science and engineering in the U.S. It gathered information from nearly 50 difference programs.

Researchers found ongoing issues with the atmosphere towards women in the classroom, the structure of academic programs, and poor faculty attitudes. The teaching environment, they found, "often portrays science and engineering as highly competitive, masculine domains." While many universities are committed to increasing the number of women pursuing these "elite fields," their programs too often focus on things such as peer mentoring -- instead of creating real structural change. The result, say the authors, is that universities are contributing to the ongoing wage gap between men and women, as well as the continuing dearth of skilled scientists and engineers in the United States. Gender divisions in college education are significant because people who pursue scientific careers usually receive an undergraduate degree in their field.

Mary Frank Fox, a professor in the School of Public Policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology, Gerhard Sonnert (Harvard) and Irina Nikiforova (Georgia Institute of Technology) conducted the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation. The findings appear in the October issue of Gender & Society, a journal of Sociologists for Women in Society.

The paper points out that while women earn 58 percent of all undergraduate degrees in the U.S., when it comes to science and engineering they're still far behind men. In fact, women receive only 21 percent of degrees in the field of computer and information science, and only 19 percent of engineering degrees.

Fox and her co-authors found that university program directors believe women's self-confidence and their knowledge about careers in science was a bigger obstacle than their academic ability. At the same time, the hostile classroom climate in may be affecting student's self confidence in science and engineering courses. Fox says the key issues facing undergraduate women were: a lack of supportive peer relationships, a lack of faculty advisors, unsupportive classroom climates, a lack of both faculty and administrative commitment to undergraduate women, and little attention paid to gender equity on campus.

Despite seeming to understand the problem, the authors found that many institutions did not try to change the climate in the classroom, create more faculty advisors, or improve and strengthen the faculty commitment to educating women in science and engineering. Instead, they found programs often left these key structural obstacles "untouched," -- especially when it came to faculty. Diversity training for faculty, mentoring of undergraduates and new course components are examples of programs that could make a difference, researches say.

Schools need to focus less on "easy" but ineffective fixes, such as social activities, and more on challenging their existing institutional arrangements. Fox says many of the programs she and her colleagues studied have "set the goal of increasing their numbers of women students, without working to improve the climate of the departments they will be recruited to."

Successful programs, she says, find ways to integrate their core academic components with activities such as hands-on research opportunities for students.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Sociologists for Women in Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. M. F. Fox, G. Sonnert, I. Nikiforova. Programs for Undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering: Issues, Problems, and Solutions. Gender & Society, 2011; 25 (5): 589 DOI: 10.1177/0891243211416809

Cite This Page:

Sociologists for Women in Society. "Women in science? Universities don't make the grade." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 30 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152104.htm>.
Sociologists for Women in Society. (2011, September 30). Women in science? Universities don't make the grade. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152104.htm
Sociologists for Women in Society. "Women in science? Universities don't make the grade." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110929152104.htm (accessed August 28, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) It’s an unusual condition with a colorful name. Kids with “Alice in Wonderland” syndrome see sudden distortions in objects they’re looking at or their own bodies appear to change size, a lot like the main character in the Lewis Carroll story. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Stopping Schizophrenia Before Birth

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Scientists have long called choline a “brain booster” essential for human development. Not only does it aid in memory and learning, researchers now believe choline could help prevent mental illness. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Personalized Brain Vaccine for Glioblastoma

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive brain cancer in humans. Now a new treatment using the patient’s own tumor could help slow down its progression and help patients live longer. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain Surgery in 3-D

Brain Surgery in 3-D

Ivanhoe (Aug. 27, 2014) Neurosurgeons now have a new approach to brain surgery using the same 3D glasses you’d put on at an IMAX movie theater. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins