Hughes, R. (2011). Are the predictors of women’s persistence in STEM painting the full picture? A series of comparative case studies. International Journal of Gender, Science and Technology, 3(3), 548-570.
- The study's objective was to examine the experiences of several female science and engineering majors within the literature context on predictive factors of persistence in STEM majors and careers. The study focused on the roles of parental support and education level, academic preparation, and perceptions of the STEM culture in influencing the career trajectories of female undergraduates at a United States university in 2009–2010.
- The author conducted two interviews each with five women in their fourth year of college who had chosen to major in a STEM field. The first interview collected the participant’s life history, with a focus on factors and moments leading to the decision to pursue a STEM major. The second interview, conducted several months later, recorded whether the participant’s career plans had changed.
- The study found that the participants’ experiences did not always align with what the literature predicted, and that complex factors contributed to a woman’s decision to stay in or leave a STEM major. Although all the women who stayed in a STEM field described the use of coping strategies for persisting in a male-dominated field, these strategies differed among participants. Those who chose to leave their STEM major did not necessarily do so because of a lack of academic preparation, parental support, or competence, but rather seemed to share a feeling that they did not identify with the peers in their STEM field, who they described as “uptight,” “nerdy,” and lacking a life outside of the classroom.
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