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Barriers to Gender Equity in STEM Occupations and ...

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Barriers to Gender Equity:A New Look at Women's Employment Policies and Programs
DanaFelthamMarch 27, 2017
Who am I?IntroductionKey Themes and OutcomesWays ForwardDiscussion and Questions
Thematic Literature SearchResearch Question: Why have policies and programs intended to increasegender equity in STEM occupationsmet with limited success?Long-term advocacy/policy goalPersistently low participationProportionofwomenin scientific occupations requiring a university education rose from 18% to 23% between 1991 and 2011
Memorial University Engineering Graduates (2003 – 2015)
Broad Structural BarriersGender politicsFamily dynamicsRetentionEducational Structures“Doing Gender”Critical Mass
Key Themes
“Entrenched masculine culture” as the dominant and determining factorThree clear themes:gender equity is an accepted institutional imperative with substantial efforts directed to improve participation and retentionResistance, hostility and indifference among both men and womenGender is regularly denied by both men and women as a factor leading to the low representation of women in STEM occupations
Structural Barriers
1987 article byCandace West and Don H. ZimmermanGender is defined as a complex interaction of social interaction, activity, and perceptionCan be viewed as both a barrier and an opportunity to fostering gender equity in the workplaceGovernment of Canada Women in Science
“Doing Gender”
Work activities are a set of gender expressive behaviors and socially constructed responsesGender is an emergent feature of social situationsStudy of Women’s Experiences on the Hibernia Construction Project (1996)ideological factors and organizational structure
“Doing Gender” as a Barrier
Gender as an anti-essentialist conceptgender as more than a set combination of attributesBinary definitions about women and menGender constructed by a set of behaviors that are “multiple, fluid and relational”Career choice is defined by a “emotions, social and economic conditions, culture, gender, social context and unexpected life events”
“Doing Gender” as an Opportunity
Essentialist approach fails to consider gender variabilityPotential to highlight “weak signifiers”Pink hardhats as a symbol of successUnintentional reinforcement of gender norms
“Doing Gender” and Gender Policy
Gender display and scheduled behavior“Gender-differentiated” style of interactionFraternal in natureAbsent when women are involvedMasculinity = competencyDouble BindGender equity as a problem “of and for women”
“Doing Gender” and Gender Policy
“Leaky Pipeline”Women leave the field at a rate higher than menWomen in STEM occupations rank people skills higher than technical skillsSize of the socio/cultural groups can influence acceptanceAttrition negates any gains resulting from recruitment
Critical Mass
Career fit confidenceMessages of inequality can further discourage womenFocus on isolation and the lack of peers within the industryInclusive practicesIndicators of change“Rhetoric of intimidation”Taking advantage of policies can be career limiting
Critical Mass
Link to gender performanceNeed for material increase for true management of gender equityAre quotas a solution?Board of Directors exampleDistinction between hard law and soft lawChange in organizational dynamicsValue of participation at highest levels of the organization
Critical Mass
Current situation does not diminish value of diversity planning and existing effortsStrategy needed to identify and address structural barriersBroad effort required – Industry, educational institutions and government
Ways Forward
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Barriers to Gender Equity in STEM Occupations and ...