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Looking through the Glass Ceiling: A Qualitative Study of STEM Women’s Career Narratives


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Although efforts have been directed toward the advancement of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) positions, little research has directly examined women’s perspectives and bottom-up strategies for advancing in male-stereotyped disciplines. The present study utilized Photovoice, a Participatory Action Research method, to identify themes that underlie women’s experiences in traditionally male-dominated fields. Photovoice enables participants to convey unique aspects of their experiences via photographs and their in-depth knowledge of a community through personal narrative. Forty-six STEM women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows completed a Photovoice activity in small groups. They presented photographs that described their experiences pursuing leadership positions in STEM fields. Three types of narratives were discovered and classified: career strategies, barriers to achievement, and buffering strategies or methods for managing barriers. Participants described three common types of career strategies and motivational factors, including professional development, collaboration, and social impact. Moreover, the lack of rewards for these workplace activities was seen as limiting professional effectiveness. In terms of barriers to achievement, women indicated they were not recognized as authority figures and often worked to build legitimacy by fostering positive relationships. Women were vigilant to other people’s perspectives, which was costly in terms of time and energy. To manage role expectations, including those related to gender, participants engaged in numerous role transitions throughout their day to accommodate workplace demands. To buffer barriers to achievement, participants found resiliency in feelings of accomplishment and recognition. Social support, particularly from mentors, helped participants cope with negative experiences and to envision their future within the field. Work-life balance also helped participants find meaning in their work and have a sense of control over their lives. Overall, common workplace challenges included a lack of social capital and limited degrees of freedom. Implications for organizational policy and future research are discussed.
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fpsyg-08-00236 February 16, 2017 Time: 16:39 # 1
published: 20 February 2017
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00236
Edited by:
Catherine Alison Hill,
American Association of University
Women, USA
Reviewed by:
Chiara Ghislieri,
University of Turin, Italy
Alexander Pundt,
University of Mannheim, Germany
Mary J. Amon
Specialty section:
This article was submitted to
Organizational Psychology,
a section of the journal
Frontiers in Psychology
Received: 21 October 2016
Accepted: 07 February 2017
Published: 20 February 2017
Amon MJ (2017) Looking through
the Glass Ceiling: A Qualitative Study
of STEM Women’s Career Narratives.
Front. Psychol. 8:236.
doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00236
Looking through the Glass Ceiling: A
Qualitative Study of STEM Women’s
Career Narratives
Mary J. Amon*
Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University
Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, USA
Although efforts have been directed toward the advancement of women in science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) positions, little research has directly
examined women’s perspectives and bottom-up strategies for advancing in male-
stereotyped disciplines. The present study utilized Photovoice, a Participatory Action
Research method, to identify themes that underlie women’s experiences in traditionally
male-dominated fields. Photovoice enables participants to convey unique aspects of
their experiences via photographs and their in-depth knowledge of a community through
personal narrative. Forty-six STEM women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
completed a Photovoice activity in small groups. They presented photographs that
described their experiences pursuing leadership positions in STEM fields. Three types
of narratives were discovered and classified: career strategies, barriers to achievement,
and buffering strategies or methods for managing barriers. Participants described three
common types of career strategies and motivational factors, including professional
development, collaboration, and social impact. Moreover, the lack of rewards for these
workplace activities was seen as limiting professional effectiveness. In terms of barriers
to achievement, women indicated they were not recognized as authority figures and
often worked to build legitimacy by fostering positive relationships. Women were vigilant
to other people’s perspectives, which was costly in terms of time and energy. To manage
role expectations, including those related to gender, participants engaged in numerous
role transitions throughout their day to accommodate workplace demands. To buffer
barriers to achievement, participants found resiliency in feelings of accomplishment
and recognition. Social support, particularly from mentors, helped participants cope
with negative experiences and to envision their future within the field. Work-life balance
also helped participants find meaning in their work and have a sense of control over
their lives. Overall, common workplace challenges included a lack of social capital and
limited degrees of freedom. Implications for organizational policy and future research are
Keywords: STEM women, leadership, Photovoice, career strategy, gender roles, organizational policy,
Participatory Action Research, underrepresentation of women
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Amon Looking through the Glass Ceiling
Research on the underrepresentation of women in science,
technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) often focuses
on top-down factors that influence recruitment, retention, and
promotion. Such top-down factors tend to overlook women’s
unique perspectives and strategies. Women are agents of
their own career success, with their own complex perceptions
and bottom-up strategies within the workplace. Granting that
individual experiences in the workplace give rise to personal
narratives, common themes are likely to emerge across STEM
women’s experiences. The goal of this research is to examine
the career narratives of STEM women, or the spoken account
of their experiences pursuing leadership positions in STEM.
Photovoice, a Participatory Action Research method, informed
by a grounded theory perspective, was used to identify the
barriers that STEM women perceive as especially challenging,
as well as their bottom-up approaches for managing barriers to
Women prepare for college degrees in STEM at approximately
equal rates as men. However, after matriculating into college,
women are less likely to pursue degrees in these fields (Hill
et al., 2010). While women are more likely than men to earn a
bachelor’s, Master’s, or doctoral degree, they remain the minority
of degree-earning STEM students (United States Census Bureau,
2010). This is particularly true for more advanced degrees,
where graduation rates in STEM favor men 2.5:1 (National
Science Foundation, 2015a). Women are excluded from STEM
despite generally high levels of academic achievement. In
high school, girls and boys take approximately equal credits
in STEM fields, with girls earning higher grades on average
(Shettle et al., 2007). In higher education, women earn better
grades than men and are more likely to achieve post-secondary
degrees at all levels (Buchmann and DiPrete, 2006;United
States Census Bureau, 2010). Despite generally high levels of
achievement, women who are proficient in math-intensive fields
are more likely to choose careers outside of STEM and leave
STEM careers as they advance in their education (Ceci et al.,
Gender discrepancies become more pronounced at the
professional level, a pattern that is evidenced across both
academia and industry (Trower and Chait, 2002). Women
account for nearly half of the United States workforce, but
compose less than 30% of the positions in STEM (National
Science Foundation, 2015b). STEM women advance more slowly
and are more likely to leave their positions than male peers
(Valian, 1999). Overall, the higher the rank in STEM the less
likely it is to be occupied by a woman, making women particularly
underrepresented in leadership positions.
The shortage of women from high-ranking positions is
not exclusive to STEM fields. For example, while the average
corporate board has 8.8 members, 36% of companies do not have
any women on their board of directors and only 8% of boards
have three or more women (Gladman and Lamb, 2012). However,
the shortage of women is particularly striking when leadership
and STEM intersect: at 61%, energy companies have the highest
percentage of boards with no women, and in academia, only 31%
of full-time STEM faculty and 27% of deans and department
heads are women (National Science Foundation, 2015b).
Despite evidence that attrition of women from STEM
disciplines increases as women progress through college,
graduate school, professional, and leadership ranks, surprisingly
little research has been conducted on the intersection between
STEM and leadership (McCullough, 2011). In order to address
this problem, it is essential to understand features of the
workplace climate that are objectionable and unwelcoming to
women. Qualitative research provides a unique opportunity
to synthesize the complex experiences of STEM women by
identifying common themes that underlie women’s career
narratives. To date, a small number of qualitative studies
with student participants have highlighted the importance that
STEM women place on social support, coursework success,
and early and positive exposure to STEM disciplines (e.g.,
Hughes, 2010;Packard et al., 2011). For example, STEM
women transitioning from a community college to a 4-year
program identified social support in the form of helpful
academic advisors and professors as significant resources for
overcoming obstacles such as poor course experiences and
limited finances (Packard et al., 2011). A study by Riffle et al.
(2013) highlighted the spoken accounts of STEM faculty using
semi-structured interviews. Men and women faculty members
identified aspects of their work environment that facilitated
success, including mentorship, social support, and work-life
balance. However, there were gender differences in perceptions
of departmental climate. Unlike men, women reported greater
discrimination and sexism during interviews, less departmental
collegiality, and holding less influence in their department.
In addition, though men and women participants were found
to have equal levels of productivity, women noted that their
departments viewed their productivity as lower than their male
counterparts (Riffle et al., 2013). Qualitative studies such as
these lay the foundation for accounts of workplace gender
inequality by beginning to draw attention to factors that are
perceived as major obstacles and supports in pursuing STEM
The present study expanded on this work by using Photovoice
to examine the career narratives of STEM women graduate
students and postdoctoral fellows pursuing leadership positions.
Photovoice (Wang and Burris, 1997) is a method of group
analysis that requires participants to take photographs that
represent their viewpoint and present them during a group
discussion. Participatory Action Research methods such as
Photovoice recognize experiential learning as a legitimate source
of knowledge and allow researchers to gather information about
the targets’ perspective. Photovoice is particularly well-suited
for research on STEM women, as it was developed based on
feminist theory and literature on critical consciousness (Wang,
1999). As defined by Weiler (1988), feminist methodology is
characterized by an emphasis on women’s subjective, everyday
experiences. Critical consciousness literature argues that people’s
perspectives can be used to break a culture of silence and
increase awareness of social issues (Freire, 1973). Photovoice
was used to promote a critical dialog about how women’s
everyday experiences in male-dominated careers impact broader
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gender distribution. This approach is useful in synthesizing the
complex issues that influence STEM women’s career trajectories:
First, as a consequence of identifying experiences common to
STEM women, this approach is positioned to consolidate a
number of topics relevant to the advancement of women in
STEM (e.g., organizational climate and incentive structure).
Second, Photovoice has direct ties to policy advocacy by
providing a platform for STEM women to identify aspects of
the work environment that they perceive as especially relevant
to their career trajectories, including changes that need to
be made to enhance their success. Third, qualitative research
can facilitate the identification of new research directions
useful for understanding and enhancing STEM women’s career
The present study expands on previous qualitative studies
of women’s experiences in STEM in three key ways. First,
STEM women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows were
recruited from STEM leadership workshops, representing a
group of women experienced in STEM and with explicit
interest in leadership positions. Women in this career stage
are making critical decisions about their career trajectory,
with many opting for careers in education or healthcare over
STEM occupations (Beede et al., 2011). Thus, participants have
a unique vantage point as they are actively gaining insight
into the advantages and disadvantages of STEM careers and
navigating their career path. Second, this is the first study using
Photovoice to examine STEM women’s experiences and the
first qualitative study to focus on STEM women in leadership.
Photovoice gives participants the opportunity to identify and
share aspects of their experiences that are most important to
them and is more open-ended than methods like structured
or semi-structured interviews. Literature on STEM women
emphasizes a wide range of factors that influence women’s
career outcomes, from implicit stereotype cues to organizational
policies (e.g., Valian, 1999;Smith and White, 2002;Murphy
et al., 2007;Bilimoria and Lord, 2014). However, it remains
unclear which of these aspects of the work environment
that women find more or less challenging. Identification of
themes underlying women’s experiences in STEM via qualitative
methods can be used to highlight their observations and
perceptions of the field in a way that is atypical of most
experimental research. Third, the present research recruited
a relatively large and diverse group of participants. Forty-
six participants completed the Photovoice exercise, which is
considerably more than the median of 13 participants in
Photovoice studies (Catalani and Minkler, 2010). The sample also
included 16 international participants, representing 11 different
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics women
graduate students participating in leadership workshops were
invited to a an additional workshop session where they had
the opportunity to present four photographs depicting their
experiences with STEM leadership and discuss them in a small
group setting. Specifically, participants were asked to share with
a group two photographs depicting the past experience in STEM
and two describing their future in STEM. Transcripts from the
eight workshops sessions were coded borrowing from grounded
theory framework (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). The grounded
theory perspective forwarded by Strauss allows for basic research
questions and predictions to guide analysis (Corbin and Strauss,
1990;Devadas et al., 2011). Accordingly, it was hypothesized
that STEM women would acknowledge the effects of gender
stereotypes in STEM, reflecting their common experience with
gender stereotypes. Additional coding was carried out inductively
to identify emergent themes in the raw data. The current
article discusses the career strategies, barriers to achievement,
and approaches for managing barriers to achievement described
by STEM women, as well as implications for research and
Forty-six participants from a leadership workshop for STEM
women enrolled in a second session in order to complete
the Photovoice activity. Participants signed up for one of
eight possible workshop sessions, with an average of six
participants in each session. Participants from the final sample
ranged in age from 21 to 51 years (M=29, SD =6.13).
Thirty-five percent of the sample was international students,
with participants representing 11 different countries. Sixty-four
percent of participants identified as White, 22% Asian, 4% Black,
4% Hispanic, 4% Biracial, and 2% Native American. A variety of
fields were represented from the natural sciences (50%), medicine
and health (28%), and engineering (22%).
Women graduate students and postdoctoral fellows in STEM
fields from a large public research university were recruited
to participate in leadership workshops via flyers and e-mails.
Participants indicated their availability for eight different
workshop groups. Whenever possible, they were matched into
groups in order to have individuals from different academic
disciplines in each session. Upon arriving to the first workshop
session, participants were asked to sign an informed consent
and complete a demographic survey. The first session included
interactive activities designed to identify leadership role models
and personal values, develop personal action plans, and practice
conflict resolution. Prior to the end of the workshop, participants
were invited back for a second session to complete the Photovoice
In line with the goal to understand the broad range of issues
related to women’s advancement in STEM, Photovoice allowed
for open-ended discussion about participants’ experiences in
STEM. Participants were asked to prepare two photographs
describing past experiences with leadership and two pictures
representing their future leadership aspirations. Participants were
invited to take their own pictures or use images found online.
Directions did not prompt participants to attend to a particular
issue. Photographs were e-mailed to the researcher prior to
workshop sessions in order to format them into a slide show
for the Photovoice discussion. Audio and video equipment was
positioned to record each workshop session. The Photovoice
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activity was transcribed, producing 80 single-spaced pages of
The Photovoice activity was held 1 week after the participants’
original workshop sessions. Participants were invited to discuss
their Photovoice pictures with the group, and participants
determined the order of presentation (i.e., who presented and
the order of photographs). Each individual projected their
photographs onto a large screen at the front of the room
and explained the meaning of each of their four photographs.
After each individual presented a photograph, the workshop
facilitator (i.e., a female graduate student) or participants
were allowed to ask questions or comment. For example,
a participant projected a picture of their messy desk while
explaining how it relates to their past experience pursuing
STEM leadership, in this case, noting that they juggle many
projects and do not always have a healthy lifestyle due to high
workplace demands. Other participants related to this narrative,
noting that they too do not always have a healthy lifestyle
or work-life balance even though they consider those things
important. Within this structure, the workshop facilitator and
participants were able to probe further comments. Individual
narratives can elicit agreement or disagreement from peers as
they discuss photographs in a small group setting, providing
information about the typicality of a given experience. All
research was carried out in accordance with the protocol
approved by the University of Cincinnati’s Institutional Review
Data Analysis
The grounded theory approach to qualitative analysis forwarded
by Glaser and Strauss (1967) provides a framework for text
analysis. Grounded theory utilizes a constant comparative
method whereby text is assigned to a category based on content
and compared with other text included in the same category
(Glaser and Strauss, 1967). Categories are created if text needs to
be further differentiated, or if categories need to be integrated.
Over the course of the analysis, categories are arranged into
a hierarchy that is representative of their relationship to one
another. This method of coding is used to uncover the full range
of categories possible, their dimensions, the conditions under
which it is pronounced, its consequences, and its relationship to
other categories. Unlike many experimental studies that typically
examine cause-and-effect relationships, qualitative research is
often utilized at the discovery stage of research in order to develop
new and testable theories.
Qualitative data was analyzed using QSR International’s
NVivo 10 software to aid in examining text and coding
transcripts. The author and a trained research assistant
independently coded the transcripts, condensing language
into categories. Categories were defined using open coding,
examining the transcripts line-by-line, allowing for patterns and
categories to emerge through observation (Glaser and Strauss,
1967). Text was coded when it was identified as meeting specific
criteria relevant to a categorical definition. To investigate the
a priori research questions, additional coding examined career
challenges and strategies. Category labels and definitions were
shared between researchers, though they were blind to the text
included within each category by the other researcher. When
possible, categories were collapsed into higher-order categories
based on researcher consensus until no new categories or sub-
categories were identified. This is an indicator of theoretical
saturation, such that additional data collection and coding is
unlikely to identify new emerging themes (Locke, 2001;Kreiner
et al., 2009).
After categories were independently coded, they were
discussed in meetings to finalize coding (Kreiner et al.,
2009). Consensual validation was used to refine category
definitions and reduce bias (Kreiner et al., 2009). Agreement
was reached on categories and content by the researchers
and coding was adjusted. Only categories mentioned by
25% or more participants were included as themes (Dutton
and Dukerich, 1991). Relationships across categories were
then examined using axial coding, rendering nine primary
themes (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). After identifying the
most prominent thematic connections between categories
and subcategories, three broader frameworks were identified
using selective coding (Strauss and Corbin, 1998). These
frameworks and their underlying themes were examined and
adjusted by six study participants in order to verify its
trustworthiness (Creswell, 2007). Three additional faculty-level
researchers were also enlisted to review the findings for
alternate themes and explanations (Lincoln and Guba, 1985;
Creswell, 2007). Participants’ descriptions of past experiences and
future aspirations in STEM leadership were coded for themes
across groups. Three complementary frameworks were identified
from the participants’ Photovoice narratives: Career motivation,
barriers to participation, and buffering strategies. The conceptual
frameworks and underlying themes are elaborated below (see
Tables 1 and 2).
Framework 1: Motivation
In describing past experiences and future pursuits of “leadership,
participants had a broad definition of leadership that extended
beyond managing others to the achievement of individual and
group goals. In terms of individual goals, STEM advancement was
seen not only as a way to achieve career success, but also personal
development (Theme 1): “Leadership is a good way to help me to
improve myself. . .I don’t want to just stay in one specific level.”
Leadership was also seen as a way to help others achieve their
goals and develop positive relationships. As one participant put
it, “I try to find a sky for me to fly, and. . .if I want to be a leader I
also have to find a sky for the others.”
Women noted a number of methods important to facilitating
effective collaboration (Theme 2). Participants believed that
collaboration could be enhanced through clear communication,
justification of team goals, and individual recognition.
Participants noted the importance of actively motivating
colleagues, as exemplified by one participant’s statement:
“Appreciating their work and being respectful of them is
really important; not treating them like your workers and
giving them menial tasks but making them feel valuable to
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TABLE 1 | Summary of themes and theoretical significance.
Theme First-order codes
Motivation 1 Collaboration Work with one or more people toward a common goal.
2 Social impact Activities or goals that have social value and affect the surrounding community.
3 Self-development Work to advance personal skills and potential.
Barriers 4 Lack of authority Lack of power or right to make decisions, influence, or enforce obedience.
5 Vigilance Monitoring environmental and interpersonal cues.
6 Gender stereotypes Generalizations about gender differences and roles.
Buffers 7 Accomplishment Positive experiences or recognition.
8 Social support Positive social engagement that enhances psychological resources or leads an individual to believe
that they are valued and accepted.
9 Work-life balance A comfortable balance between professional work and personal lifestyle.
TABLE 2 | Illustrative evidence for themes.
Theme Illustrative quotations
Collaboration “It was sort of like a musical kind of harmony, where
somebody is playing ‘the lead’ obviously but then the
backup is just as important.”
Social impact “I hope to be a leader amongst my peers professionally
as well as in the community.”
Self-development “I want to improve myself, to get more.”
Lack of authority “I can give you a token. I can call you up and recognize
you for your work and thank you. That’s all I have.
That’s the only power.”
Vigilance “We haven’t really butted heads with anybody or really
said a whole lot. . .you just kind of listen and deal with
Gender stereotypes “She’s either going to be an authoritative b-word, or
she’s going to be like this motherly figure.”
Accomplishment “But the whole cause itself is really, really great. And I
think it was a really good way for me to connect
teaching, mentoring, and science.”
Social support “So I got a really good friend, good mentor, a very
supportive family.”
Work-life balance “Even if it’s 10 min [off of work] it shows that you’re in
control and you know what you want to get out of this.”
the project.” The value of working side-by-side with others
was seen as a strategy for teaching other people positive work
habits, and demonstrated participant’s preference for a more
egalitarian work environment. Overall, participants described
their leadership style as transformational (Burns, 1978), where
leaders work to motivate team members toward the achievement
of a common goal.
Participants sought to develop a full range of skills within the
workplace to influence others in a meaningful way. Teaching,
mentorship, service, organizational, and applied work were all
seen as opportunities for broader impact (Theme 3). Among
those pursuing careers in research, their goals were often
geared toward promoting the well-being of others (e.g., water
conservation, disease control, and social programming). Other
participants questioned how much impact research has in
comparison to applied work. One woman stated that while
she had never discussed career options within her department,
she was strongly considering going into applied work, “I
don’t want to belittle it by saying ‘cookie-cutter’ or saying
this is the ‘typical route’ that graduate students take, to be
a professor. And that ignores the need for better science
education at the lower levels.” Whether interested in research
or applied work, participants engaged in big picture thinking:
Women not only desired to advance in their field, they
saw leadership as a means of self-actualization (Theme 1),
collaboration (Theme 2), and social impact (Theme 3).
Framework 2: Barriers
The second framework outlined the circumstances under which
goal achievement became especially challenging. Participants
generally preferred a transformational leadership style, but they
did not always feel empowered as leaders. One participant noted,
. . .this is literally kind of like a struggle, not just finding
leadership opportunities, but once you’re in them I feel like
I am kind of up against somebody most of the time.” When
women were in authority positions, they did not assume that
subordinates would take their direction seriously and instead
worked to build legitimacy by fostering positive relationships.
The “fair-and-balanced” approach some women desired may
have, in part, reflected their uneasiness in positions of authority
(Theme 4). As one woman stated, “I can give you a token. I can
call you up and recognize you for your work and thank you. That’s
all I have. That’s the only power.” Participants were primarily
focused on increasing their social status through relationships,
rather than increasing their personal power or access to resources
(e.g., Sachdev and Bourhis, 1991).
Attempting positive relationships and social impact were
costly in terms of time and energy. To support a positive and
collaborative work environment, women were vigilant to other
people’s perspectives (Theme 5). Participants frequently noted
the thoughts and feelings of others during their narratives.
One participant stated, “We should always do well in our own
business, but we also need to think about others, be considerate,
and so everyone can be comfortable.” Participants were also
vigilant to how their own behavior might be evaluated by others.
One participant described carefully watching her steps, “I’m
walking around with my shoes untied. I always have to look and
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make sure I’m not going to trip and fall.” She contrasted this with
her “comfy shoes” that she wore at home. Another participant
stated the importance of controlling other people’s impressions
of her, “Wear your dark-colored suit, flat shoes, and no jewelry.”
Monitoring social interactions was particularly challenging
when gender dynamics were involved (Theme 6). Participants
noted the dichotomy between being the “motherly figure” and
the “authoritative b-word,” and sometimes felt the need to adapt
their leadership style to the situation. A woman with industry
experience stated, “I always work in a man environment, so I
cannot be too soft. They just crush you.” She contrasted this with
working with women, explaining, “It’s like if you’re in this as
equals, then they think you’re not in it to get anything. Somehow
you have to keep your feminine, soft side.” When working with
men, participants felt the need to mask emotions and appear
confident, but among women they tried to act less threatening,
more egalitarian, and attentive to emotion. Some women felt
that situational pressures could be overcome by adopting a more
individualized leadership style, and other women expressed their
continuing journey to find a leadership identity. Upon hearing
other participants discuss how they changed their behavior based
on context, one woman noted, “All I can do is be a good person
and be strong in what I do.”
Framework 3: Buffers
The third framework illustrated coping strategies participants
used to buffer against career challenges they encountered.
Participants sought comfort in their achievements (Theme 7).
Feelings of accomplishment reassured women that they were
on the right career path. Participants often noted achievements
in mentoring, service, and applied roles. In these positions
women were more readily elevated into leadership, developed
relationships with others, and gained respect. One woman noted
about her teaching, “I’ve had great success with being a leader
in that people really appreciate me and I have gotten really
good feedback.” For some women, finding comfort in their
achievements meant being appreciative of their current positions.
As one participant stated, “Whatever you do and what role you
are in in your future career, even though it can be boring or
a simple role, as long as you have positive thinking and you
are smiling you can do this job very well.” This perspective was
controversial among other participants, some of whom argued
that women are too easily satisfied with just having a job, rather
than expecting to be treated fairly based on their qualifications.
Outside of their own accomplishments, participants found
resiliency in social support offered by mentors, friends, and
family (Theme 8). The encouragement of mentors helped them
cope with negative experiences, and to envision their future
within the field—as one participant said, “I do so many things
now and I attribute it to my advisor giving me so many
opportunities and just kind of encouraging me.” However, the
difficult balance between the ideal woman and ideal leader
led to a lack of real world role models for some participants.
For example, one participant stated, “I have role models for
leadership, and I have role models for personal growth, but both
of them together they don’t really exist. And it’s hard to even
imagine a real, tangible opportunity.” Perhaps because of this,
some women adopted an informal definition of ‘mentorship,
looking for guidance from coworkers, friends, and professionals
outside of their field. Mentorship outside of formal supervision
helped women navigate the politics of their fields.
Family was another important source of support and an arena
where many women took on a leadership role. Participants
discussed future leadership aspirations in terms of family,
as numerous women considered motherhood as a significant
leadership role. As one women explained, “I would like to become
a mother someday. So that’s another big kind of leadership thing
that will be hard to balance.” Work-life balance also helped
women find meaning in their work and have a sense of control
over their lives (Theme 9). One woman described the importance
of taking time off work saying, “Even if it’s 10 min, it shows that
you’re in control and you know what you want to get out of this.”
The present study is the first to qualitatively examine the
experiences and perspectives of STEM women using Photovoice
as a Participatory Action Research method. Findings provide
a basis for better understanding the complex ways that
gender stereotypes surface in organizations, as well as the
bottom-up strategies STEM women employ to cope with
workplace challenges. Specifically, results provide a framework
for understanding women’s work preferences, challenges, and
buffering strategies. In line with its history as a advocacy tool,
Photovoice also generated insight into policies that can best
support and enhance STEM women’s career success.
While institutional policies were mentioned more or less
indirectly, the frequency and depth of narrative surrounding
interpersonal interactions suggests that this is often the most
immediate and troubling aspect of the work environment for
women. Women were mindful of other people’s perspectives and
actively worked to manage them. Participants described being
held accountable for multiple, often conflicting, roles in the
workplace related to gender and STEM. Women’s perceptions
of conflicting expectations, between acting “soft” and “hard” as
they put it, is consistent with literature on role congruity and
the evaluation of women in typically male-dominated fields.
Role congruity theory states that, because men have traditionally
occupied positions in science and leadership, career success
in these fields are associated with masculine traits (Eagly and
Karau, 2002). As a result, women are viewed as unfit for STEM,
particularly in STEM leadership, and are also evaluated more
negatively when occupying these roles. Women are viewed as
less likely to succeed, less likely to be promoted, and less likely
to become a leader when in male-dominated sectors than when
in female-dominated professions (Garcia-Retamero and Lopez-
Zafra, 2006). Women who succeed in spite of these stereotypes
often experience backlash for stepping outside of their prescribed
social role. For instance, women in senior management typically
have less authority, less opportunity for advancement, and receive
fewer rewards than their male peers (Jacobs, 1992). At first
glance it might appear that STEM women are too image-focused
and work unnecessarily hard to manage their interpersonal
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Amon Looking through the Glass Ceiling
interactions, but these efforts may be a reaction to the negative
evaluations commonly encountered by STEM women.
Women in this study responded to perceived gender role
conflict with two primary strategies: First, some women adopted
distinct behaviors within different contexts, remaining vigilant
to cues regarding role expectations. This workplace strategy
required role transitions throughout their day to accommodate
workplace demands (cf. Schein, 1971;Van Maanen, 1982).
Role transitions entail “the psychological (and, where relevant,
physical) movement between roles, including disengagement
from one role (role exit) and engagement in another (role entry;
Burr, 1972;Richter, 1984)” (Ashforth et al., 2000). Each transition
requires psychological preparation, as roles require varying levels
of attention and arousal (Ashforth, 2001), and may therefore be
costly in terms of cognitive and physical resources. Individuals
vary in the extent to which their roles are segregated from one
another (Ashforth, 2001); the more integrated roles are, the
less challenging it is to transition between them. Along these
lines, some women adopted a second workplace strategy and
avoided numerous role transitions by adopting an individualized
leadership style that they could comfortably apply across a variety
of situations. Given the relatively large age range of participants,
it is possible that older participants were more likely to have
developed a stable sense of self and were less easily influenced by
social pressures.
In addition to the interpersonal demands reported by STEM
women, women often described being socially disconnected from
both leadership and subordinates. Consistent with research that
women are viewed as less competent leaders (e.g., Jacobs, 1992;
Garcia-Retamero and Lopez-Zafra, 2006), even when women
were in leadership positions, they noted they were not treated
as authority figures. Participants appealed to subordinates by
fostering positive relationships, working alongside them, or
incentivizing them with rewards. Women also had a difficult time
identifying mentors and role models who represented, not only a
desirable career path, but also a desirable lifestyle. A lack of real
world examples meant that women had a difficult time imagining
how they would be able to succeed in STEM.
Women’s focus on social interactions, vs. policy, as barriers
to achievement suggests that women are more frequently and
directly confronted with the former, and that these challenges are
viewed as more personal in nature. The focus of narratives on
social interactions may reflect a shifting tide where organizational
policy may change over time to support more gender-neutral
practices. Even so, gender stereotypes, societal norms, and
organizational climate are more enduring and difficult to change.
As one women stated, “Just because the policy changes does
not mean [people’s] beliefs change.” Overall, women reported
a lack of social capital, or “the aggregate of the actual or
potential resources which are linked to possession of a durable
network of more or less institutionalized relationships of
mutual acquaintance or recognition” (Bourdieu, 1985, p. 248).
Women devoted significant time and energy to fostering group
cohesion and developing professional relationships: Monitoring
social cues, accommodating social expectations, implementing
strategies to enhance collaboration, and pursuing applied work
and social impact all require significant effort. These efforts
were not always rewarded, as women struggled to establish
relationships with subordinates and mentors. Women also
noted that they faced negative evaluation, from being belittled
during presentations to being harshly questioned for their career
decisions. Similar reports come from the faculty-level, as women
professors generally report low-levels of collegiality (Riffle et al.,
2013). Despite committing significant resources to maintaining
positive relationships, women often failed to receive benefits from
participation in groups (Portes, 1998).
Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics women
encountered two distinct limitations in the workplace that
restricted their social interactions and professional activities.
First, women’s workplace behavior was restricted by the potential
for negative evaluation and its implied consequences. Women
worked to overcome negative evaluation by maintaining a
certain appearance, adopting different mannerisms based on
role expectations, working to make sure people “liked” them,
and monitoring their behavior for what could be perceived as
“mistakes.” Women felt that they were encouraged, implicitly
or explicitly, to mold their behavior to avoid negative social
evaluation. Second, women were limited by an incentive structure
that rewarded a relatively narrow range of professional activities.
Numerous women reported that their departments valued basic
research over applied directions, and the pressure on academics
to publish and pursue research trajectories without direct
application caused some participants to question if their goals
aligned with a career in STEM, vs. fields like health or education.
Opportunities for self-development, collaboration, and social
impact were identified as major motivational factors for STEM
women—a lack of rewards for these activities may therefore
hinder STEM women’s professional advancement. The space
that women in STEM are allowed to occupy is enclosed by
narrow boundaries and is enforced by the potential for negative
social evaluation and career stagnation. Compared to their
male peers, STEM women have fewer degrees of freedom in the
Policy Implications
Though women’s narratives often referenced the importance of
interpersonal interactions to shaping their careers, institutional
policies can foster a workplace climate conducive to collegiality
and increased opportunity for a diverse faculty. The threat of
negative evaluation significantly impacts women’s daily activities.
STEM leadership may benefit from an awareness of the chronic
judgment that women are often subject to by both female
and male coworkers and subordinates. Methods of formal
evaluation used by departments and universities can be altered
or weighted to take into account gender biases typical of student
and departmental evaluations (Kaschak, 1978;Sprague and
Massoni, 2005;Moss-Racusin et al., 2012). Departments can also
reduce the threat of negative evaluation and increase women’s
social capital by promoting diversity and a positive workplace
climate. In particular, institutions can explicitly advocate for
workplace collegiality, offer structured networking opportunities,
institute faculty mentorship programs along with mentorship
training, and incentivize departmental and interdepartmental
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The ability to recruit, retain, and promote a diverse
workforce hinges on the ability of an organization to value
heterogeneous perspectives and contributions. In this study,
numerous participants noted the value that they placed on
applied scholarship. At an institutional level, criteria for
promotion and tenure can be restructured to reward a more
diverse set of workplace activities. For example, some women
may place greater emphasis on applied work over publishing,
the former of which can be explicitly incentivized. In addition,
recognition for achievements, in the form of competitive
grants and awards, can advance women’s research and publicly
recognize their achievements. Individuals who experience
barriers to participation in STEM need sufficient reason to enter
into and persevere within these stereotyped domains. Women
can be encouraged to remain in STEM with opportunities for self-
development, collaboration, and social impact. Organizations can
incentivize these activities and emphasize these opportunities
through organizational messaging.
In the present study, a fulfilling personal and family life
is closely tied to STEM women’s feelings of success and life
satisfaction. This is consistent with research suggesting that
policies promoting work-life balance are essential to recruiting,
retaining, and advancing faculty in academia (Welch et al., 2011).
A variety of initiatives can bolster STEM employee’s support
network and work-life balance (e.g., Kelly, 1999;Association for
Women in Science, 2001;Tower and Dilks, 2015): Employee
benefits can be structured to allow for flexible work hours,
leadership can take into account family obligations during
scheduling, organizations can offer paid maternity and paternity
leave, and dual-career hires can be made a greater priority, as
these issues may disproportionately influence female employees.
Future Directions and Limitations
One strength of qualitative research is its ability to formulate
new research questions (Glaser and Strauss, 1967). While there
is much work to be done to understand the complex array of
factors that influence women’s participation in STEM, the present
study generated two distinct research questions to be explored
further. First, a significant portion of women in this study
described their strategy for dealing with conflicting demands
in the workplace, particularly disparate role expectations for
women vs. scientists in male-dominated domains. Some of these
women adapted their behavior to different contexts based on
situational cues; other women adopted a personal leadership style
that they carried across contexts. Women in the latter tended to
be older and more experienced scientists. It is unclear from this
study if there is an association between seniority and leadership
style. Future research should investigate the perspectives of
women in more or less advanced positions in STEM to examine
how factors influence women’s participation in different ranks,
as well as whether women in various career stages employ
different strategies for dealing with workplace challenges. Along
these lines, it is important to increase our understanding of
which career strategies are more or less useful for overcoming
barriers to achievement. Second, many participants preferred
applied work over basic research. Additional research is needed
to examine if this preference holds true across a broader
sample. It is also essential to understand whether or not women
are implicitly or explicitly encouraged by others to go into
applied work over basic research. Women may be directed
away from basic research, which is likely to be more male-
A limitation of this study is that participants did not play
a significant role as decision-makers in the research project.
Photovoice often emphasizes the involvement of participants in
study design and implementation. However, participants retained
significant independence in their personal contribution, and
a number of participants were also recruited to help in data
interpretation after data analysis was completed. In addition,
material from the workshop women were recruited from may
have cued women to talk about particular aspects of their career
progression. An attempt was made to control for this possibility
by making the original workshops activity-based. Overall, the
workshop format was an effective recruitment method, and
career narratives were largely unrelated to workshop material,
which focused on values, conflict management, and role model
Finally, the current study is limited in focusing on the
experiences of STEM graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.
For the purposes of this study, graduate women offer a unique
perspective. Having persevered as an undergraduate in typically
male-dominated fields and continuing into advanced training,
they have made a considerable personal investment in their fields.
They are also gaining a new perspective into the professional
world ahead of them. As graduate women advance in STEM they
remain vulnerable to the gender stereotypes that pervade these
Women identify interpersonal interactions as limiting their
professional opportunities more often than institutional policy.
In particular, women report having less social capital and fewer
degrees of freedom than their male counterparts. Their reports
are largely consistent with research demonstrating women’s lack
of authority and the negative evaluation of women compared
to men (Jacobs, 1992;Garcia-Retamero and Lopez-Zafra, 2006).
The close relationship between women’s career narratives and
previous research findings supports that notion that qualitative
research is not only useful in understanding the perceptions of
a given population, but that group analysis is relatively reliable
in describing their experiences. The findings also synthesize a
number of the complex issues that influence STEM women’s
career trajectories.
The present work identifies strategies implemented by women
to cope with organizational and interpersonal barriers to
achievement. Recognition of achievements, social support, and
work-life balance assured women that their efforts pursuing
STEM leadership would pay off. In addition, some women
managed conflicting role expectations by adapting their behavior
based on context; other women adopted a more individualized
leadership style that they could comfortably maintain across
contexts and regardless of social demands.
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Findings enhance understanding of how gender stereotypes
manifest and impact women in male-dominated careers, and
have a number of implications for organizational policy.
By emphasizing the importance of positive interpersonal
interactions and organizational climate to career success,
women’s narratives indicate the importance of organizational
policies that incentivize collegiality and collaboration. Though
barriers to achievement often occur at an interpersonal level, a
variety of organizational policies can address these challenges
by promoting fair workplace evaluation, positive climate,
collaboration, work-life balance, and an incentive structure that
rewards a variety of scholarly activities.
MA was responsible for the research question, study design,
running participants, data analysis, and manuscript.
I would like to thank the individuals who participated in this
research for sharing their experiences and perspectives. I would
also like to thank Dr. Luis H. Favela for his valuable edits and
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Conflict of Interest Statement: The author declares that the research was
conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could
be construed as a potential conflict of interest.
Copyright © 2017 Amon. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms
of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or
reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor
are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance
with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted
which does not comply with these terms.
Frontiers in Psychology | 10 February 2017 | Volume 8 | Article 236
... Thus, it involves more than participants taking photos and describing them [21]. Participants become knowledge co-constructors, planners, and data interpreters and are the expert counter-narrative carriers [24][25][26][27][28][29]. Three objectives of photovoice include: (1) Documenting and critically reflecting on strengths and weaknesses in one's community; (2) Engaging in collaborative group discussions; (3) Promoting change by reaching out to leaders and decision-makers within that community [21,24]. ...
... Photovoice has been used as a promising practice in various domains, from healthcare to education research [25,[29][30][31]. For example, in education, Chelberg and Bosman [31] used photovoice to understand the needs of underrepresented STEM students in postsecondary education, particularly American Indian students and explored the benefits of photovoice and photo elicitation. ...
... Additionally, Amon [25] conducted a photovoice study to explore the lived experiences of women pursuing leadership positions in the male-dominated STEM workforce. The study included 46 participants who attended leadership workshops and were prompted to take photographs of their past leadership experiences and future in leadership. ...
Full-text available
Background: The attrition of engineering students remains an issue, and even more so for historically marginalized students at some institutions. This study aimed to investigate the challenges minoritized students face in engineering and the ways they navigate toward success. Method: We used photovoice, a methodology where participants take pictures in response to a prompt, and collectively identify the strengths and weaknesses of their community. The final aspect of photovoice is a collective sustainable change, such as policy change. We used thematic analysis of focus group interview transcripts triangulated with results from a pre-survey, photos and their associated hashtags, and written descriptions of photographs as sources of data. Results: Two themes emerged, financial constraints and engineering stress culture, as barriers to student success, while social networks (e.g., student organizations, faculty, and family), finding balance, and positive reassurance were determined to be facilitators to their success. Conclusions: While underrepresented, engineering students continue to face challenges; their collective reflection and discussion initiated by photovoice served as psychosocial support. As institutions grapple with how to support students better, the power of photovoice as a sustainable practice has implications for the teaching, research, and service that can improve student success.
... We also need a culture and environment that respects and advocates for work-life balance (i.e. a comfortable balance between professional work and personal lifestyle; Amon, 2017;Brue, 2019) and adjusts the academic norm of high workloads. One participant stated "Work on the workload issue in academia (change the norm)" (ID12). ...
... Therefore, it is important for a work-life balance to be acknowledged and promoted during the ECR stage and this may help to increase the wellbeing and retention of women. A healthier work-life balance can help women to find meaning in their work, have a sense of control over their lives and can reduce incidences of anxiety and depression (Amon, 2017;Evans et al., 2018). ...
... Becoming a leader happens over time, still there are many skills to learn that we usually do not acquire from university but have to get from somewhere else" (ID7). This is in line with previous research, which has highlighted the benefits of having a mentor or network of mentors (Bielczyk et al., 2020) in marine science (Johnson et al., 2016;Andrews et al., 2020;Johri et al., 2021;Van Stavel et al., 2021;Burdett et al., 2022) and STEM more broadly (Johnson and Gandhi, 2015;Amon, 2017;Wellcome, 2020). Mentoring can be vital in retaining women ECRs and supporting their career progression . ...
Full-text available
Diverse and inclusive marine research is paramount to addressing ocean sustainability challenges in the 21st century, as envisioned by the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. Despite increasing efforts to diversify ocean science, women continue to face barriers at various stages of their career, which inhibits their progression to leadership within academic institutions. In this perspective, we draw on the collective experiences of thirty-four global women leaders, bolstered by a narrative review, to identify practical strategies and actions that will help empower early career women researchers to become the leaders of tomorrow. We propose five strategies: (i) create a more inclusive culture, (ii) ensure early and equitable career development opportunities for women ECRs, (iii) ensure equitable access to funding for women ECRs, (iv) offer mentoring opportunities and, (v) create flexible, family-friendly environments. Transformational, meaningful, and lasting change will only be achieved through commitment and collaborative action across various scales and by multiple stakeholders.
... From the previous literature on women leaders we know that phenomena like the glass ceiling (e.g., Cotter et al., 2001;Eagly & Carli, 2007;Glass & Cook, 2016) or the glass cliff (e.g., Ryan & Haslam, 2005, 2007Ryan et al., 2016) make it difficult for women to reach and succeed in top leadership positions, and thus require women to "rise through difficulties" (i.e., per ardua surgo; Freischlag & Silva, 2016). Along this line, a growing number of primarily practice-oriented articles indicate that the resilience of women leaders might be a possible explanation for why some women reach and succeed in these positions despite the odds (e.g., Amon, 2017;Redmond et al., 2017;Schmidt & Nourse, 2017). Resilience can be described as a process that enables individuals to cope effectively with challenges but also to grow through it (e.g., Kossek & Perrigino, 2016;Wright et al., 2013;. ...
... Social support through the parents in early life helped our participants to overcome common societal obstacles. For instance, a frequently mentioned prejudice which hinders women from reaching leadership positions is that women are not as competent as men (see, e. g., Adapa et al., 2016;Amon, 2017;Garcia-Retamero & López-Zafra, 2006;Jacobs, 1992). Moreover, previous research has shown that stereotypes, for instance, that women are expected to be good-looking and friendly, make it difficult for them to construct a professional identify (Adapa et al., 2016). ...
... In this vein, participants also underscored that being able to separate the personal from the leadership role was equally important to retaining their resilience. Previous research shows that role transition, i.e., the move between different roles (e.g., Ashforth et al., 2000), enables women to deal with gender-role-expectations (e.g., Amon, 2017). ...
Although there are preliminary indications that resilience is a key factor for women on their way to top leadership positions, research on this topic is scarce. To narrow this research gap, we applied an exploratory interview study focusing on the development of women leaders’ resilience. We conducted 25 biographical interviews with women in top leadership positions in medium and large companies listed in Germany. Through a qualitative content analysis, we identified three critical phases for the development of women leaders’ resilience—early life, early career, and upper leadership—as well as phase-specific resilience factors—i.e., individual, situational, and behavioral factors. We integrated these findings in a process model that provides insights into the interlinkages of the different phases and factors and can serve as a starting point for future research.
... Tip 2: establish a support network As highlighted earlier, making the move to social science presents significant challenges and it is important to have a strong support network around you. For example, social support can enhance an ECR's psychological resilience and can lead an ECR to believe that they are valued and accepted (Amon, 2017). This is not only important during the move, but also for the rest of an ECR's career. ...
... It was important to talk to others who were experiencing or had experienced a similar path and we found great value in working with peers and helping to keep each other motivated (Reynolds et al., 2018;Masefield, 2019). Support and encouragement can also come from external sources, including family and friends (Amon, 2017;Reynolds et al., 2018). Family and friends encouraged us to make the move, support our career and progression in academia, and help us to achieve a work-life balance. ...
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Recent years have seen increasing calls to better document and understand the human dimensions of the marine and coastal environment and to incorporate this knowledge into decision-making. Human dimensions of the marine and coastal environment are best investigated through the application of marine social science. Individuals within marine social science are not solely “pure” social scientists, but rather are a diverse and interdisciplinary community, including many who have moved from the natural sciences to pursue a career in marine social science. This is particularly the case for early career researchers, with many moving from natural to social science earlier in their academic careers than their predecessors, and thus developing stronger interdisciplinary skills than previous generations of social scientists. In this perspective, we draw on our experiences, highlighting our main motivations for moving from natural to social science, the barriers we have faced and our top tips for early career researchers faced with similar opportunities and challenges. The ten tips include: “Work with like-minded researchers,” “Learn from and be inspired by academic heroes,” “Learn about and engage with research philosophy, positionality and reflexivity,” “Value your own skillset and perspective,” and “Be patient and kind to yourself.”
... Still, the situation depends on many factors related to not only cultural and socio-economic context but also factors such as self-perception, self-efficacy, or previous educational experiences (Cadaret et al., 2017;Leaper and Starr, 2019;Lent et al., 1994Lent et al., , 2002Moss-Racusin et al., 2012;Malik and Al-Emran, 2018;Salami, 2007;Salas-Morera et al., 2019;Seo et al., 2017). In addition, throughout the academic and professional trajectory of a woman in the STEM area, there are many stages where the number of women decreases: when they enter university, when they enter the labor market, and when they reach high professional positions (Amon, 2017;Seo et al., 2017). ...
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Gender equity and quality education are Sustainable Development Goals that are present when a culture of equity and inclusion is pursued in society, companies, and institutions. Particularly in undergraduate programs in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), there is a noticeable gender gap between men and women. The objective of this study was to find out the causes of permanence in STEM careers of women, as well as the possible causes of career abandonment towards another STEM or non-STEM career. This was done by analyzing historical data for admission to STEM careers and using an instrument (survey) for data collection carried out in a private university in Mexico. Historical data indicates that only 17% of the total population were women choosing a STEM career. A survey was carried out for 3 months to obtain information on the factors that affect the decision to opt for a STEM career or to remain in it. It was found that men and women prefer inspiring Faculty who motivate them to continue their careers. Factors such as the competitive environment and the difficulty of teaching with less empathetic Faculty were negative and decisive aspects of decision-making. School achievement did not influence the dropout rate of women in STEM careers. The factors of choice and desertion of women in STEM careers were determined, and actions of educational innovation such as mentoring and timely monitoring of already enrolled female students, digital platforms for students and Faculty, awareness workshops for Faculty, and talks with successful women in STEM areas were proposed.
... In Latin America, Argentina is an apparent leader in gender equality in academia (De Kleijn et al., 2020): it boasts the greatest proportion of researchers in the region, with almost 3.18 researchers for every 1000 workers, of which almost 55% are women (Ludovico et al., 2019). However, further analysis of this statistic shows a quite different reality; women are less represented in top-hierarchical positions in academia, related to two global phenomena known as the 'leaky pipeline' (see, e.g., Chuliver et al., 2021) and the glass ceiling (Amon, 2017). Gender equality policies and programs of Latin American governments mostly demonstrate the lack of a profound political will to achieve substantial progress in gender equality as these programs typically focus on "absences", that is, promoting women's access to positions where they are not currently represented instead of addressing the multidimensional causes of the inequality (see, e.g., O'Brien et al., 2019). ...
Although Argentina harbours a notable increase in the academic community, achieving the highest number of researchers per capita in Latin America, the gender gap is still evident. The objective was to identify and evaluate the evolution of the main research themes in Argentinian ecology during the last 20 years to address whether social gender stereotypes were reproduced in research theme selection. We analysed four books of abstracts from the Argentinian Ecology conferences of the last 20 years and identified gender of the first author and co‐authors. Natural Language Processing approach was used to analyse gender associations with the 16 319 words appearing in the 2208 titles of abstracts. The average number of female co‐authors was always larger in female‐led abstracts although the proportion of female co‐authors/total authors increased the most in male‐led abstracts. Research themes evolved from those considered cornerstones of ecology (e.g. population‐oriented studies) to contemporary themes defined by Management and policy studies. Gender differences were present and changed with time. Currently, men work on research themes related to decision‐making, while women focus on environmental processes therefore it is urgent to create more leadership spaces for women to reduce gender inequalities.
... It should be noted that categories were independently coded and discussed before finalizing the coding, and the consensus was used to improve categorization and reduce bias (Amon, 2017;Kreiner et al., 2009). The techniques used to isolate the analysis elements were concept identification and categorization to develop the coding scheme. ...
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This study examines the success and role of African women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). In the absence of significant research on women’s STEM leadership, the success and roles of others could motivate an aspiring African woman to pursue a career in STEM. A qualitative approach was sought using open online questions and narratives from African women leaders about their roles and career success in STEM. Data were collected from the western, eastern, northern, and southern regions of Africa from participants who held STEM leadership positions, such as directors, deans, and chief officers. The participants were 42 women representing 12 African nations. The narratives of these women leaders’ tones and life experiences were analyzed through content analysis. The narratives of these women leaders’ tones and life experiences were analyzed in search of recurring patterns and themes. Successful leadership in STEM requires balancing career and family life, setting goals, solving problems, being open to innovative ideas, embracing diversity, collaborating, and having knowledge of STEM research and mentoring skills. Using the achievements and roles of others could inspire future African women to pursue careers in STEM.
... This is not only due to the relatively fewer women in the field, but also due to the additional unique time pressures in personal life faced by women surgeons [61]. Similar considerations apply to other male-dominated disciplines where there is already a lack of female mentors, and women in those fields often do not have the time to commit to mentorship due to competing priorities and external demands [62,63]. Women may also feel somewhat uncomfortable reaching out to male mentors due to gender dynamics [64]. ...
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Mentorship is critical to the development and professional growth of graduate medical education (GME) trainees. It is a bidirectional relationship between a mentor and a mentee. Mentorship has consistently been shown to be beneficial for both the mentor and mentee, with the mentee gaining valuable skills in education, personal growth, and professional support, and the mentor attaining higher career satisfaction and potentially greater productivity. Yet, there is a lack of research and in-depth analysis of effective mentorship and its role in postgraduate medical education. This chapter outlines different approaches toward mentorship and provides the reader with basic concepts relevant to the effective and competent practice of mentorship. The authors discuss the challenges that physician mentors and mentees face, the organizational models of mentorship, the approaches and techniques for mentorship, and the deleterious effects of mentorship malpractice. Our general discussion touches on best practices for both the mentor and mentee to allow for self-improvement and lifelong learning. The variety of applicable models makes it difficult to measure effectiveness of mentorship in GME, but there is an ongoing need for expanded research on the benefits of mentorship, as greater amount of supporting evidence will likely incentivize organizations to create mentorship-friendly policies and support corresponding institutional changes.
The continuing emphasis on the development of a Knowledge Economy in the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC) intends to transform countries away from being predominantly fossil-fuel dependent. This means that citizens’ uptake of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees and careers, and having highly competent leaders in STEM fields, is of paramount importance. Knowledge and understanding of how to avoid worker attrition in STEM fields is also critical. In the current era of rapid educational transformation in the Gulf, women have an important part to play in the development of their country’s educational system. Many young Gulf women are the first of their generation and families to enter into higher education. This chapter charts the narrative journeys of fifteen female leaders who have navigated their way to success in STEM fields, and focuses on the role that schooling and university experiences have played in their lives as they have forged this path. In school, key themes that emerge are the positive impact which a teacher’s care and concern about a student has, as well as the capacity of exposure to STEM experiences to ignite an interest and engagement in learning both within and outside of the classroom. All but one of the fifteen leaders interviewed undertook doctoral studies (and most, Masters degrees too) overseas in international universities. This is conceptualised by the women as a cathartic experience of highs and lows, but ultimately one that greatly developed their sense of independence, resilience, self-efficacy and the broadening of their world view as a result of the diversification of experiences outside of their native countries.
‘Interdependent’ privacy violations occur when users share private photos and information about other people in social media without permission. This research investigated user characteristics associated with interdependent privacy perceptions, by asking social media users to rate photo-based memes depicting strangers on the degree to which they were too private to share. Users also completed questionnaires measuring social media usage and personality. Separate groups rated the memes on shareability, valence, and entertainment value. Users were less likely to share memes that were rated as private, except when the meme was entertaining or when users exhibited dark triad characteristics. Users with dark triad characteristics demonstrated a heightened awareness of interdependent privacy and increased sharing of others’ photos. A model is introduced that highlights user types and characteristics that correspond to different privacy preferences: privacy preservers, ignorers, and violators. We discuss how interventions to support interdependent privacy must effectively influence diverse users.
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Work/life satisfaction policies are seen as key to recruiting, retaining, and advancing high quality faculty. This article explores the work/life policies prevalent at NSF ADVANCE institutions (PAID, Catalyst, and IT). We systematically review ADVANCE university websites (N = 124) and rank 9 categories of work/life policy including dual career support, tenure clock extension, and tuition remission. Our rankings show that for most policies, ADVANCE institutions are highly progressive. For example, protections for birth mothers tend to be generous and more than half of the universities surveyed go beyond the ACA regarding lactation. However, tuition remission and dual-career policies are lagging. © 2015 National Association of Diversity Officers in Higher Education.
A role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders proposes that perceived incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles leads to 2 forms of prejudice: (a) perceiving women less favorably than men as potential occupants of leadership roles and (b) evaluating behavior that fulfills the prescriptions of a leader role less favorably when it is enacted by a woman. One consequence is that attitudes are less positive toward female than male leaders and potential leaders. Other consequences are that it is more difficult for women to become leaders and to achieve success in leadership roles. Evidence from varied research paradigms substantiates that these consequences occur, especially in situations that heighten perceptions of incongruity between the female gender role and leadership roles.
Social and psychological influences restrict women's choice and pursuit of careers in science.