Collaborative Research: Improving the recruitment and persistence of women in the Geosciences: Exploring deliberate mentoring approaches aimed at undergraduate students
Women continue to be largely under-represented in the geosciences. Female role models and mentors can play an important role in the lives of female students, especially when choosing and committing to a career path. This project is providing a pathway for STEM undergraduate women into the geosciences through a combination of formal and informal, professional and peer mentoring. The research is also providing insight into why mentoring is beneficial to STEM women. This project recruits first-year college women interested in the geosciences (from any STEM major) from institutions in two geographic regions: the Front Range of Colorado and the Carolinas. During their first year, these women are invited to a regional mentoring workshop to i) learn more about geoscience careers, ii) meet peers with similar academic interests, iii) gain better self-awareness of their values, strengths, and abilities for a career in the geosciences, and iv) expand their psychological, social and institutional resources for a career in the geosciences. After the workshop, the program participants have access to peer mentoring and resources through a web platform. Through this platform, they are able to interact with each other via discussion forums. In addition, they have access to in-person mentoring with female role models via scheduled get-togethers at each institution. The research is focused on quantifying i) the impact of the workshops and mentoring on participants' intentions and behaviors related to geoscience career choices, ii) the impact of the workshops and mentoring on the skills and resources participants use to overcome career-related barriers, and iii) the key features of the workshops and mentoring strategies that predict positive changes in participants' perceptions of and beliefs about the geosciences.
Experimental research on the effectiveness of mentoring has been largely absent from the mentoring literature. This project will fill the gap in the literature by conducting a randomized experiment wherein undergraduate women at Colorado State University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte will be matched based on their initial interest in geosciences, academic record, and demographic characteristics. Matched pairs will be randomly assigned to intervention (workshop and mentoring) or control conditions. Thereafter, women in both groups will participate in a biannual web-based survey with questions concerning their identification with math, their sense of potential fulfillment in careers in the sciences in general and geosciences specifically, their gender stereotypes of the geosciences, and their experiences with mentors. In addition, interviews will be conducted with the women in the intervention group to examine supports and challenges, and the role of the intervention in their interest and/or persistence in geoscience educations and careers. Dissemination of results will be accomplished through publication in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at professional meetings.