Benore Research: Persistence of Women in STEM

Career disparities and a lack of diversity in (STEM) careers are a global problem. A number of obstacles, hindrances and problems have been identified, leading to a “leaky pipeline”; a loss of STEM women as they advance through their careers. Despite attempts by federal, national and state governments and industry efforts to achieve equitable participation of women in STEM, parity is difficult to achieve. Yet many women persist.  

I propose gathering information from successful women in STEM to explore what factors aided them. Investigation into the characteristics that generate resilience and persistence, resulting in equity and success, would be invaluable. Information beyond the simple statistics of women in STEM can be gleaned from the personal stories and advice of women via interviews. Obtained by one-on-one interviews with successful STEM women to gain insight, we can learn from their remarkable experiences. By comparing women in different cultural situations, we can identify similar examples of support, and determine which factors might be personal and which can be attributed to cultural or education factors.

Stories and oral biographies have emerged as key to understanding the cultural anthropology of human behavior. We can ask- what has impacted the careers of these women? These studies are critical to our potential in creating successful programs and changing negative practices, as well as fostering personal self-efficacy in mentees.   The oral histories can be archived to serve as a rich source of data for future studies. The edited videos will provide stories which will resonate as road maps for success.  Biographies and stories are inspiring, but also have potential as agents of social disruption and change.

I will conduct this research from an “emic” point of view- as a scientist with extensive social science and administrative experience.  I have spent extensive time studying the experiences and support systems for girls and women in science and engineering, and now I wish to augment and bridge the work by studying STEM women in Europe and the middle east, where practices and politics differ somewhat from the US. Comparing diverse cultural and education environs is essential to identifying common factors.

I begin my work this fall in Europe with a visiting position at the University of Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines.

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