Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Factors that promote success in women enrolled in STEM disciplines in rural North Carolina community colleges
by Kincaid, Shannon D., Ed.D., Western Carolina University, 2015, 218; 3700881
Abstract (Summary)

Women have historically been underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM fields). The underrepresentation of women in STEM may be attributable to a variety of factors. These may include different choices men and women typically make in response to incentives in STEM education. For example, STEM career paths may be less accommodating to people who are less resilient. Another factor may be that there are relatively few female STEM role models. Perhaps strong gender stereotypes discourage women from pursuing STEM education and STEM jobs. The factors that contribute to success and the barriers that impeded success must be identified before any steps can be taken to improve the educational outcomes for women in STEM disciplines. Consequently, relatively little is known about the role of resilience in academically successful adult women in rural community colleges enrolled in STEM disciplines and the mechanisms that underlie the performance deficits that occur as a result of stereotype threat effect. This mixed method study addressed those knowledge gaps by determining: (1) if high resilience is positively correlated to high grade point average for women enrolled in STEM disciplines in rural community colleges in North Carolina, and (2) if stereotype threat effect is a risk factor for these women. Quantitative data were collected by using "The Resilience Scale" (Wagnild & Young, 1987) and through examination of grade point average of students from Datatel data management software. Qualitative data were collected through semi-structured focus group interviews. Findings from this study indicate high resilience is positively correlated to high grade point average for women enrolled in STEM disciplines in rural community colleges in North Carolina, and stereotype threat effect was a risk factor for low-scoring women (i.e. those women who reported resilience scores less than 121 and grade point averages lower than 2.70) and was not a risk factor for high-scoring women (i.e. those women who reported resilience scores of 147 or higher and grade point averages of 2.70 or higher). Overall, qualitative data analysis revealed both high-scoring and low-scoring women in STEM disciplines were affected by stereotype threat effect. However, low-scoring women were negatively impacted by stereotype threat and high-scoring women were able to use pressures associated with stereotype threat as motivation for success. Based on results from this study four principal factors were found that influence the success of women in STEM disciplines. These factors include elimination of stereotype threat, enhancement of resilience of female students, expansion of female gender representation on community college campuses, and development of positive instructor-student and advisor-student relationships. While this study does not, and cannot, explain why gender differences in STEM exist, it does provide data and insight that will enable more informed policymaking for community college administrators in order to increase success of women in STEM disciplines. The findings provide definitive evidence of a need to encourage and support women in STEM education with a goal of gender parity.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Habel, John
Commitee: Binkley, Russell, Ford, Thomas
School: Western Carolina University
Department: Human Services
School Location: United States -- North Carolina
Source: DAI-A 76/09(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Community college education, Mathematics education, Womens studies, Educational psychology, Educational technology, Science education
Keywords: North carolina, Rural, Science, technology, engineering, math, Women
Publication Number: 3700881
ISBN: 978-1-321-71094-6
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