1st Edition

Breaking In Women's Accounts of How Choices Shape STEM Careers

    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    256 Pages
    by Routledge

    Why is it that, while women in the United States have generally made great strides in establishing parity with their male counterparts in educational attainment, they remain substantially underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)? Why is it that, in proportion to the PhDs they obtain in STEM, they attain fewer administrative and managerial positions in academia and industry than their numbers warrant and, moreover, are more likely leave the field once started in their careers? In the culture and context of women’s advancement and satisfaction with careers in STEM, the data show that many challenges and obstacles remain.By showcasing the stories of eight women scientists who have achieved successful careers in the academy, industry and government, Breaking In offers vivid insights into the challenges and barriers that women face in entering STEM while also describing these women’s motivations, the choices they made along their paths, and the intellectual satisfactions and excitement of scientific discovery they derive from their work.Breaking In underscores issues aspiring women scientists will encounter on their journeys and what they can do to forestall potential obstacles, advocate for change, and fulfill their ambitions. And it speaks to the question: What can be done to encourage more women to specialize in science, mathematics, and engineering? In doctoral granting institutions, where women must start if they hope to earn advanced degrees, Breaking In can serve both as a student text and as guide for department chairs and deans who are concerned about organizational climate and culture and their impact on retention in STEM fields. At a broader level, this book offers advice and inspiration to women contemplating entering STEM fields, as well to the teachers, researchers, and administrators responsible for nurturing these women, growing enrollments in their disciplines, and developing creative and intellectual capital that the nation needs to compete in the global marketplace.

    Preface Acknowledgments 1. The Realities of Breaking In 2. Fascination, Fun, and Flexibility—Cynthia Barnhart 3. A Curious Mind—Linda S. Birnbaum 4. The Consummate Professor—Susan Blessing 5. Academia. A Good Fit—Teresa D. Golden 6. A Life Full of Serendipitous Options—Sharon Hays 7. Enjoying a Life That Fits—Angela Hessler 8. An Ardent Adventurer—Bonnie F. Jacobs 9. Just Happened To Be In the Right Place at the Right Time, and Incredibly Bright—Radia Perlman 10. The Realities of Choice 11. Is the Past the Present? 12. Hidden Choices 13. Choices. Is The Past the Future? Appendix. Web-Based STEM-Related Resources for Girls and Women Index


    Ann Wolverton graduated from the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1999 with a PhD in economics. Her 1993 entering class consisted of roughly 30 students, four of whom were women; and no tenure-track women were on UT’s economics faculty at the time. Most of the women who started the program finished it. As Ann puts it, “We were a stubborn bunch.” Ann served two terms (2007 and 2009) on the Council of Economic Advisers to the President as the senior economist for environment and natural resources. She currently works as an economist for the federal government. Lisa Nagaoka graduated from the University of Washington’s PhD program in anthropology program in 2000, specializing in archeology. During much of her time there was a lone female professor on Washington’s faculty; and she was the only archaeology professor with children. She notes that, at one time, the archaeology graduate student population was mostly female, two women to every man. The attrition rate for women, however, was twice that of their male counterparts. Lisa has established herself as an international expert in zooarchaeology with a focus on human-environment interactions. Today, she is the sole tenured woman faculty member in the Geography Department at the University of North Texas. Mimi Wolverton graduated from Northern Illinois University with an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a minor in geology in 1967. She encountered no women on the faculty in either department. That year, women in STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) accounted for 8 percent of PhDs. and less than 25 percent of baccalaureate degrees. After working a number of years in heavy construction, she earned both an MBA and a PhD in education leadership and policy studies at Arizona State University and spent several years in academia, retiring in 2007 as a full professor.

    “Today, in the culture and context of women’s advancement and satisfaction with careers in STEM, the data show that many challenges and obstacles remain.

    The women profiled here describe how they developed essential conflict handling skills, understanding of the organizational cultures, customs, and structures in which they work(ed), and how their own beliefs, attitudes, and values influenced their decision making. Each chose her battles carefully, was tolerant of her own missteps, kept her sense of humor, practiced good stress management techniques, and let her own deeply felt principles guide her choices. They are saying to every reader of this book ‘You can do it too!'"

    Donna J. Dean, Executive Consultant, Association for Women in Science; Career Consultant, American Chemical Society

    National President, Association for Women in Science, 2006-2007; and Senior Federal Executive (retired), National Institutes of Health