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 FoxEmail author
  • Gerhard Sonnert
  • Irina Nikiforova


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.


Women Gender Science Engineering Undergraduate education Programs 



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


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Frank Fox
    • 1
    Email author
  • 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

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