Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:15 PM


SEXTON, Julie M.1, BERGSTROM, Cassendra1, PARMLEY, Rhonda2, RIGGS, Eric M.3, PUGH, Kevin4 and PHILLIPS, Michael4, (1)Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute, University of Northern Colorado, Ross Hall 1210, Campus Box 123, Greeley, CO 80639, (2)Quaternia Services, LLC, 1136 East Stuart St, Building 2, Suite 2240, Fort Collins, CO 80525, (3)College of Geosciences, Texas A&M University, Room 202, Eller O&M Building, MS 3148 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843, (4)School of Psychological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, McKee Hall, Campus Box 94, Greeley, CO 80639,

The proportion of women earning undergraduate geoscience degrees has remained approximately 40% for the past 12 years and women constitute about 20% of working geologists. Little empirical research has investigated why women major in geology or how women's choices differ from men's choices to select and persist in a geology degree. In a three-year NSF study we are helping to fill this research gap by studying why female and male students major in geology and why some geology programs are more successful than others at recruiting and retaining female students.

We are collecting survey and interview data to 1) identify personal and environmental factors related to recruitment and retention of female and male geoscience students, 2) explore differences between geoscience programs with high and low percentages of female majors in terms of environmental factors and student personal characteristics, 3) contribute to the model of recruitment and retention for women in the geosciences, and 4) generate recommendations that geoscience departments can implement to recruit and retain female geosciences majors. In several related presentations we discuss preliminary findings.

In this presentation, we describe findings for why students select a geoscience major. We collected data from two departments: one department had a high percentage of female majors; the other department had a low percentage of female majors. We compared student responses by gender and department to understand what factors attract students to the major. Across genders and sites, interest in geoscience was the most reported reason for what attracts students to the major. Female students reported that good courses, good professors, and love of the outdoors attracted them to the major. Male students reported that good departments, student peer group, interest in geoscience, and career opportunities attracted them to the major. Students at the high percentage site reported department characteristics like good courses, faculty, departmental atmosphere, and student peer group as factors that influenced their decision to major in geoscience than did students at the low percentage site. Students at the low percentage site reported career characteristics influenced their decision to major in geoscience.