Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM


PARMLEY, Rhonda1, SEXTON, Julie M.2, BERGSTROM, Cassendra2, RIGGS, Eric M.3 and PUGH, Kevin4, (1)Quaternia Services, LLC, 1136 East Stuart St, Building 2, Suite 2240, Fort Collins, CO 80525, (2)Mathematics and Science Teaching Institute, University of Northern Colorado, Ross Hall 1210, Campus Box 123, Greeley, CO 80639, (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,

Historically female students have had a lower rate of majoring in the geosciences. Past research suggests that the role and importance of recruitment and retention factors may differ for women and men. However, little research has been conducted to find out what gendered experiences may exist in geoscience departments. In a large mixed methods study, we are investigating recruitment and retention of female students to a geoscience major. Focusing on a part of the larger study, in this presentation we explore how student experiences related to gender vary at two geoscience departments and suggest how these experiences may affect recruitment and retention.

We interviewed faculty and students at two geoscience departments, one site with a high percentage of female graduates (high site) and the other with a low percentage of female graduates (low site).

At both sites, when asked directly, male and female students perceived they were treated equitably by faculty regardless of student gender. However, when students were probed, they reported positive and negative experiences related to gender. As positive experiences, female students perceived that female faculty promoted female majors in the department. Female students also reported that female professors are easier to talk to than male professors and that female professors serve as good mentors. Similarly, male students reported that male professors are easier to talk to than female professors. As negative experiences, students reported differential treatment in field experiences. Men perceived that they do more manual labor than women. Female students perceived that male students demonstrate sexist behavior in the field.

Faculty at the high site related a department mission to be proactive regarding gender equity. Gendered experiences from the high site could be categorized as transformational, reflecting a commitment to gender equity through personal involvement of faculty with students. Faculty at the low site were silent about or minimized gender inequity issues. Gendered experiences from the low site could be categorized as null, devoid of equity messages, possibly resulting in a less welcoming environment for women. These results offer insights into department improvements that could affect recruitment and retention of female majors.