Do women majoring in STEM disciplines in countries other than the United States encounter the same challenges to persistence that we’ve identified in our universities? A June 2014 article in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education by Garcia Villa and Gonzalez y Gonzalez suggests they do. The authors of “Women Students in Engineering in Mexico: Exploring Responses to Gender Difference” report that the female students they interviewed encounter male engineering faculty and students who stereotype them as being weak and less capable in math and science. The interviewees also find that male college students in general assume women in science are unfeminine and unattractive.
These descriptions of the STEM educational experience for Mexican women sound remarkably like those given by American interviewees in the study, Talking about Leaving: Why Undergraduates Leave the Sciences, by Seymour and Hewitt. While it’s unfortunate that stereotyping of women in STEM is seemingly widespread, we should consider that we have other countries to look to for advice and collaboration. I’ll be searching for and sharing examples of successful international programs that support young women in STEM majors by challenging persistent stereotypes of females.
Image attribution: “A medical student working at the laboratories of ITESM CCM during the PreHealth course,” by Hillary411K, 2013. CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)
One more post on the ALA Annual Conference, and then I’ll move onto other topics. I was particularly struck by the insights of speaker Carissa Tomlinson at the panel session, “Sticking with STEM: How the Academic Library Can Help to Retain Successful Students,” co-sponsored by ACRL’s Science and Technology Section and Health Sciences Interest Group. Carissa is the First Year Experience Librarian at Towson University near Baltimore, Maryland.
Carissa’s slide presentation, “Quick Ideas for Libraries to Help with Retention Efforts,” is a useful outline of the challenges to STEM retention and practical ways to for libraries to contribute. Her emphasis on collaborating with campus partners to assist STEM students in new ways confirms the conclusions I’ve been drawing from the STEM retention literature.
Carissa is actually an academic advisor, in addition to a librarian. Not all librarians will have the time to fully step into an advising role, but collaborating with advising and career services to approach one-stop service for information is key to reducing student frustrations with bureaucratic challenges.
Volunteering for retention efforts in her liaison department is another approach Carissa has taken. She serves on the advisory committee for the IDEA Center for ESL nursing students, which provides cultural orientation for nursing practice and mentoring. This is a reminder that many academic librarians can support retention through their faculty requirements to perform scholarship and service.
Hopefully, the library profession will be hearing more from Carissa Tomlinson in the future on the impact of her innovations.
Photo attribution: Las Vegas Poster USA Welcome Casino, taken by lacarabeis, 3/7/2010, license – Public Domain CC0.
The theme of ACRL’s Science and Technology Section (STS) Theme Poster Session at the ALA Annual Conference in Las Vegas this summer is: How can librarians assist with student diversity and retention in the STEM and health science fields at their institutions?
The posters will be exhibited on Monday, June 30, 2014, from 10:30 to 11:30 am during the STS program reception. And don’t forget that the STS program at 8:30 am that day is also about STEM retention. I’ll be there with my poster – stop by and visit!
Image attribution: 2011 Summer Intern Poster Session, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, July 20, 2011. The image has not been changed.