Women in stem: Identifying and lowering the barriers



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Much has been said about the lower numbers of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) relative to men. Quantitative studies have delineated the ways in which men and women differ in the important skills necessary to complete an education in a STEM discipline and then go on to realize a successful career in a STEM field. Ways in which to inspire and motivate women have been suggested and applied and have met with some success, but not at the rate that one would expect. In this qualitative study, the perspective of feminist critical theory as viewed through the lens of constructivism, guided by a phenomenological methodology was used to determine the essence of womanhood. I examined the characteristics, culture and choices of women who navigated through life in such a way as to have success in STEM education and continue on into a STEM career. An overarching, fundamental theme of concepts of time based on perceptions of reality emerged and had a great impact on the education and career choices women made, risks they were willing to take, and the reality that was shaped as a result. Perceptions of reality also had an effect on the urgency of time; in other words, at different stages of life with the accompanying cultural expectations, the urgency of time dictated the choices made and the creation of a new path, a new creation of Self.
Cultural expectations and social interactions form who we are. Many women take on personas that are not conducive to rigorous, time-consuming careers. The literature suggests ways to ameliorate the problems of women in STEM, but perhaps has not explored fully the fundamental issues and the treatments that help lower the barriers for women. In this study, I examined the familial relationships and their impact on education and career choices, environmental circumstances that fostered confidence and a willingness to engage in risk-taking behavior, plus the impact of support systems on women interested in the sciences.



STEM, Phenomenological study, Entity mindset, Stereotype threat, Social constructivism, Feminist critical inquiry, Social role theory, Expectation states theory, Symbolic interactionism, Incremental mindset