Advertisement

Research in Higher Education

, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 333–353 | Cite as

Successful Programs for Undergraduate Women in Science and Engineering: Adapting versus Adopting the Institutional Environment

  • Mary Frank Fox
  • Gerhard Sonnert
  • Irina Nikiforova
Article

Abstract

This article focuses upon programs for undergraduate women in science and engineering, which are a strategic research site in the study of gender, science, and higher education. The design involves both quantitative and qualitative approaches, linking theory, method, questions, and analyses in ways not undertaken previously. Using a comprehensive, quantitative, cross-institutional, and longitudinal method, two extreme groups of programs are distinguished: those associated with the “most successful” and “least successful” outcomes in undergraduate degrees awarded to women in science and engineering. Qualitative analyses of interview data with key players in the programs in these two groups point to ways in which definitions of issues, problems, and solutions diverge (as well as converge), and thus to conceptual underpinnings that have important real-life consequences in these organizational settings of higher education. The programs that regard issues, problems, and solutions of women in science and engineering as rooted in “institutional/structural-centered,” as opposed to “individual/student-centered,” perspectives are associated with the most positive outcomes in undergraduate degrees awarded to women in science and engineering.

Keywords

Women Gender Science Engineering Undergraduate education Programs 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research reported here was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (SES-0080638). For research assistance, we thank especially Rachel Patterson.

References

  1. Allen, C. (1999). Wiser women: Fostering undergraduate success in science and engineering with a residential program. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 5, 266–277.Google Scholar
  2. Astin, H. S., & Sax, L. J. (1996). Developing talent in undergraduate women. In C. S. Davis, A. Ginorio, C. Hollenshead, B. Lazarus, & P. Rayman (Eds.), The equity equation: Fostering the advancement of women in the sciences, mathematics, and engineering. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Brainard, S. (1993). Student ownership: The key to successful invention programs. Initiatives, 53, 23–30.Google Scholar
  4. Brainard, S., & Carlin, L. (1998). A six year longitudinal study of undergraduate women in science and engineering. Journal of Engineering Education, 87, 369–375.Google Scholar
  5. Brainard, S., Kelly, J., & Wahl, P. (1993). National evaluation of existing women in engineering programs. Women in Engineering Program Advocates Network, Working paper 93–92.Google Scholar
  6. Clewell, B. C., Anderson, B. T., & Thorpe, M. (1992). Breaking the barriers: Helping female and minority students to succeed in mathematics and science. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  7. Clewell, B., & Ficklen, M. (1986). Improving minority retention in higher education: A search for effective institutional practices. Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service.Google Scholar
  8. Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology (CPST). (2006). Professional women and minorities: A total human resources data compendium. Washington, D.C.: CPST.Google Scholar
  9. Cronin, C., & Roger, A. (1999). Theorizing progress: Women in science, engineering and technology in higher education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 36, 637–661.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dietz, J. S., Anderson, B., & Katzenmeyer, C. (2002). Women and the crossroads of science: Thoughts on policy, research, and evaluation. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 8, 395–408.Google Scholar
  11. Fisher, J., Young, J., & Hein, J. (2000). Retaining women in the sciences: Evidence from Douglass College’s project SUPER. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 6, 349–372.Google Scholar
  12. Fox, M. F. (1995). Women and scientific careers. In S. Jasanoff, G. Markle, J. Petersen, & T. Pinch (Eds.), Handbook of science and technology studies. In cooperation with the Society for Social Studies of Science. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  13. Fox, M. F. (1996). Women, academia, and careers in science and engineering. In C. S. Davis, A. Ginorio, C. Hollenshead, B. Lazarus, & P. Rayman (Eds.), The equity equation: Fostering the advancement of women in science, mathematics, and engineering. A book supported by the Alfred Sloan Foundation. San Francisco, California: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  14. Fox, M. F. (1998). Women in science and engineering: Theory, practice, and policy in programs. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 24(Autumn), 201–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fox, M. F. (2001). Women, science, and academia: Graduate education and careers. Gender & Society, 15(October), 654–666.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Frehill, L. (1997). Education and occupational sex segregation: The decision to major in engineering. The Sociological Quarterly, 38, 225–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Goodman Research Group. (2002, April). Final report of the women’s experiences in college engineering (WECE) project. Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
  18. Hanson, S. (1996). Lost talent: Women in the sciences. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.Google Scholar
  19. Knight, M. T., & Cunningham, C. (2004). Building a structure of support: An inside look at the structure of women in engineering programs. Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, 10, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lagesen, V. A. (2007). The strength of numbers: Strategies to include women into computer science. Social Studies of Science, 37/1(February), 67–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Long, J. S., & Fox, M. F. (1995). Scientific careers: Universalism and particulularism. Annual Review of Sociology, 21, 45–71.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Margolis, J., & Fisher, A. (2002). Unlocking the clubhouse: Women in computing. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  23. Matyas, M. L. (1991). Programs for women and minorities. In M. L. Matyas & S. M. Malcolm (Eds.), Investing in human potential: Science and engineering at the crossroads (pp. 67–96). Washington, D.C.: American Association for the Advancement of Science.Google Scholar
  24. Matyas, M. L., & Dix, L. S. (Eds.). (1992). Science and engineering programs: On target for women?. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  25. Merton, R. K. (1973a). The normative structure of science. In N. W. Storer (Ed.), The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations (pp. 267–278). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  26. Merton, R. K. (1973b). Multiple discoveries as strategic research site. In N. W. Storer (Ed.), The sociology of science: Theoretical and empirical investigations (pp. 371–382). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Meyer, J. W., & Rowan, B. (1977). Institutionalized organizations: Formal structure as myth and ceremony. American Journal of Sociology, 83(Sept), 340–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Muller, C. (1992). The women in science project at Dartmouth. Initiatives, 53(Fall), 39–47.Google Scholar
  29. Ong, M. (2005). Body projects of young women of color in physics: Intersections of gender, race, and science. Social Problems, 52, 593–617.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pearson, W., & Fechter, A. (Eds.). (1994). Who will do science? Educating the next generation. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  31. Platt, J. (2002). The history of the interview. In J. Gurbrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  32. Robinson, J. G., & McIlwee, J. (1989). Women in engineering: A promise unfulfilled? Social Problems, 36(December), 455–472.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Rosser, S. (1993). Female friendly science: Including women in curricular content and pedagogy. Journal of General Education, 42(1993), 190–220.Google Scholar
  34. Seymour, E., & Hewitt, N. M. (1997). Talking about leaving: Why undergraduates leave the sciences. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  35. Sonnert, G., & Holton, G. (1995a). Gender differences in science careers. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Sonnert, G., & Holton, G. (1995b). Who succeeds in science? The gender dimension. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Stage, E. (1992). Interventions defined, implemented, and evaluated. In M. L. Matyas & L. S. Dix (Eds.), Science and engineering programs: On target for women? (pp. 15–26). Washington, D. C: National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  38. Sturm, S. (2006). The architecture of inclusion: Advancing workplace equity in higher education. Harvard Journal of Law and Gender, 29(Summer), 247–334.Google Scholar
  39. Weber, M. (1947). The theory of social and economic organizations. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  40. Xie, Y., & Shauman, K. (2003). Women in science: Career processes and outcomes. Cambridge: Mass.: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Frank Fox
    • 1
  • Gerhard Sonnert
    • 2
  • Irina Nikiforova
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Public PolicyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  3. 3.School of History, Technology, and SocietyGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

Personalised recommendations