GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 27-3
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


RICHE, Alexis1, SHINNICK-GORDON, Isabel2, GRAY, Ron2 and SAMPLE, James1, (1)Geology, Northern Arizona University, Room 100 Building 12, 625 S Knoles Street, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, (2)Science Teaching and Learning, Northern Arizona University, Room 534 Building 36, 700 S Osborne Drive, Flagstaff, AZ 86011

Despite earning half of all science and engineering undergraduate degrees between 2007 and 2016, women were awarded only 39% of earth science degrees in the same time period. In the biological sciences, however, 60% of degrees were conferred to women. This seems counterintuitive, as the job market in biology is oversaturated while the job market in geology is expected to expand. In order to better understand why women are both choosing and staying in geology programs, we conducted a multi-case study of nine current female undergraduate geoscience majors at a large public university. The main data source for this study was audio recorded critical incident interviews of each participant. The data from the interviews were analyzed through an iterative coding process using codes adapted from previous studies that focused on factors both internal and external to the geoscience department.

The students in this study said that personal interests and introductory classes attracted them to the geology program, but once they got into the program the feel of the department became a reason to stay. Departments should not underestimate the power of a friendly environment and approachable faculty. We also found a special emphasis on female role models, especially those teaching introductory courses. In addition to connections with female faculty members, strong connections among their peer community in the major was vital to female student retention in the program. We believe this study offers important insights in the recruitment and retention of female geoscience majors.

Our research is supported by NSF under Grant No. ICER-1801768. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the NSF’s views.