Mapping professional support networks of women and gender and sexual minorities in physics
Effective Years: 2021-2024
This project is a collaboration among the University of Utah as the lead institution and Western Michigan University and Wright State University as partners to investigate how women and gender and sexual minorities (GSM) construct and navigate their professional networks to support their post PhD physics careers. The goal is to use social network analysis with qualitative methods to characterize the professional support networks of women and GSM physicists to test the central hypothesis: professional support networks of these physicists will include substantial out-of-field or out-of-hierarchy elements and that significant differences may appear by employment sector. The specific aims are to (1) identify the types of professional support networks experienced by GSM physicists, (2) compare professional support networks and career trajectories between different GSM identities, (3) compare professional support network characteristics among physics employment sectors, and (4) synthesize results into a professional support network survey that can be distributed to a wider scientist audience. The project will provide a nuanced understanding of these changing roles and structures with the goal of broadening participation in physics for underrepresented or marginalized groups.
The project will employ standpoint theory to investigate research questions that are aligned with the project aims. The framework motivates the importance of in-depth data collection that centers an individual with their multitude of experiences. It also suggests that individuals from underserved groups should not be compared to those from majority groups, but investigators should focus knowledge production from their voices and lives. Investigators will conduct semi-structured interviews to address three research questions: (1) How are the professional support networks of women and GSM in physics characterized? (2) How satisfied are women and GSM in physics with their career trajectories and current jobs? What network patterns are associated with higher satisfaction and sense of professional identity? (3) What similarities and differences exist among employment sectors? Investigators will use qualitative methods to analyze and code participant surveys and ego network analysis to focus the exploration of the professional networks of women and GSM physicists. The project contributes guidance for universities, professional societies, and mentors to better understand the professional network needs of women and GSM scientists.
The project is funded by the EHR Core Research program that supports fundamental research focused on STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, 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.