2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


VIDAL, Arwen, Department of Geological Sciences, Univ of Colorado at Boulder, Campus Box 399, 2200 Colorado Ave, Boulder, CO 80309-0399, princessarwen@yahoo.com

Recruitment programs targeting women have succeeded in bringing more women into science majors. However, retention of women in these majors lags significantly behind that of men and remains a stumbling point in achieving parity between the sexes in academia and professional careers. Two methods were used to investigate the causes behind why undergraduate females drop out of science majors: 1) a focus-group interview with twelve female undergraduate students representing eleven co-educational public and private institutions and 2) a survey of 34 undergraduate male (24%) and female (76%) students from California State University Northridge.

The factors that interviewed students listed as most important in improved retention were presence of female faculty, mentorship, research opportunities, re-education of older women returning to school, cooperative rather than competitive learning environments, demonstrated appreciation for women’s participation in science, and emphasis on programs to build pre-college mathematical skills. The surveys showed that some participants have negative biases concerning women’s abilities in science, which they believe were instilled by our educational system. Surveyed students indicated that women’s contributions were rarely, if ever, discussed in science classes.

Institutions can begin to improve retention of female undergraduate majors with simple changes, such as specific citation of women’s achievements in science and inclusion of female invited speakers. Significant impact on retention, however, will require an increase in undergraduate research opportunities for women, the hiring of more female faculty, mentorship, a change to pedagogical techniques, and the encouragement of interdisciplinary discourse.