The impact of mentoring on female acience and engineering faculty members

Date

2009-05

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Abstract

The culture of science and engineering is a masculine one (Robinson and McIlwee 1991). A preliminary set of interviews conducted during the Fall of 2007 in conjunction with an NSF ADVANCE-PAID PoWERS grant sought to understand the significance of mentoring relationships for female faculty in science and engineering. A second set of interviews was launched with the purpose of understanding how and if mentoring assists female faculty in adjusting to the masculine culture of the field. This research reports findings from the second set of interviews. The same female faculty members in science and engineering departments at Texas Tech University, a total of 20, were re-interviewed. The data from the second set of interviews explore the extent to which isolation impacts both their professional life and examined two strategies, dress and mentoring, used to combat that isolation. The decision to highlight or disguise her gender through dress was greatly affected by her rank. It was noted that tenured faculty, when asked about their dress, tended to remark on its genderless qualities. While untenured faculty apparel tended to reflect their femininity. The style of dress chosen either accentuated one’s femininity perhaps with the intent of legitimizing female presence in science and engineering or camouflaged one so she would not been seen as different from the male faculty. Mentoring served as another way to combat isolation, because a mentoring relationship provides one with professional advice and support as well as networking opportunities.

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Keywords

Women, Science, Engineering, Qualitative

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