Gender Differences In Science, Math, And Engineering Doctoral Candiates' Mental Models Regarding Intent To Pursue An Academic Career
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Across university departments in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, there has been a long-standing problem of underrepresentation of women at all professorial ranks. Despite efforts over the past 30 years, many obstacles remain to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women in STEM fields. The present study utilized Lent, Brown, and Hackett's (1996) Social Cognitive Career Theory (SCCT) to help gain a better understanding of why female doctoral students in STEM fields choose not to pursue academic jobs by examining their conceptualization or mental model of academic work. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, males and female doctoral students in STEM who varied in their commitment to a career in academia were compared on the five SCCT factors of genetically-determined characteristics, overt career-related behaviors, self-efficacy, goals, and outcome expectations. Focus groups and a follow-up questionnaire were utilized. Results provided support for gender differences within those who intended to take academic jobs following completion of the doctorate as well as among those who intended to pursue jobs outside of academia. Key factors associated with interest in academia included a desire to teach in females and an optimistic perspective regarding aspects of academic life in the males. Rejection of academic jobs by female participants was consistent with a lack of self-confidence for being effective in a faculty position. For males, disinterest in academia stemmed from poor male role models and a negative mental model of academic work.