GENDER IN THE GEOSCIENCES: EXPERIENCES OF FEMALE AND MALE STUDENTS IN TWO GEOSCIENCE DEPARTMENTS
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.