A Longitudinal Study of Women in Physics and People of Color in STEM at Primarily White Institutions
Effective Years: 2020-2023
This project is a ten-year follow up to a pilot study that examined the educational experiences and career goals of 21 women graduate students in physics and astronomy. The previous study results revealed a complex tapestry of experiences with mentoring, gender discrimination, and the development of career goals that influenced the students’ ultimate outcomes. The study showed that many were considering non-academic careers because of their perceptions of work-life balance and the academic workplace climate. The current project will expand the previous study by interviewing the original cohort to collect pathway data that compares their careers and trajectories to their stated goals and aspirations. The study will add a second cohort to lay the groundwork for further research that includes multiple intersectional identities that typically are omitted from physics education research. The goal is to inform interventions that may be used to recruit and retain women STEM faculty. The investigator will also implement a professional development plan to build STEM education research capacity through mentors who will provide guidance on qualitative data collection and analysis, manuscript writing, and translation of research to practice. The project is expected to expand the pool of STEM education researchers, enhance the knowledge about the role of mentoring in STEM workforce development, and reduce STEM disparities among women.
The study will seek to understand the longitudinal career outcomes and gendered experiences of women in physics and astronomy by investigating the following research questions: (1)What are the differences between the career expectations of women in graduate school and their actual careers over the last ten years? (2) What role did mentorship play in their career trajectory and outcomes? and (3) What gendered experiences have they had since completing their graduate degrees? The research questions will test the hypothesis that the career trajectories of women and people of color in physics are impacted by their identities and mentoring experiences which in turn inform their career goals and academic pathways. Framed by constructivist grounded theory and standpoint theory, the study will use an intersectional approach to employ qualitative methods to analyze data from semi-structured interviews at the University of Utah to answer the research questions. The interview protocol will be a list of themed questions that will be discussed during the conversational interviews. The methodology will not compare women to their peers, but it will yield data about their individual perspectives about their experiences. The study will produce methodological approaches and results that could be transferable to other STEM disciplines for prospective academic and non-academic careers. The knowledge produced will be useful also in improving the academic climate for minority students in physics and astronomy and fostering a diverse pool of talent for the STEM workforce.
The project is supported by the ECR: Building Capacity in STEM Education Research competition of the EHR Core Research Program. ECR funds STEM education research that focuses on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM, and STEM professional workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.