WOMEN IN STEM: UNDERREPRESENTATION AND EQUITY IN PROFESSIONAL RESEARCH ORGANIZATIONS
Saville, Kimber Anne
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Over the past several decades, the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields has gained considerable attention at academic institutions as well as at a national level in the United States. It has become clear that increasing the representation of women will require multifaceted changes across all components related to a career in STEM. One area that has received little attention has been the role of professional research organizations on the careers of female and male faculty. Memberships in professional research organizations are typical for professors at research universities, yet little is known about experiences within these organizations. The studies in this dissertation tested whether 1) commitment to professional research organizations relate to career satisfaction, 2) women are underrepresented in the most prestigious positions in research organizations, 3) women differ from men in their views of membership benefits and factors limiting participation in these organization, and 4) an organization's characteristics are impacting member views of gender equity. Reports from faculty currently holding tenure-track positions in a sample of 41 research universities across the U.S. revealed that affective commitment to a research organization was positively related to career satisfaction for women and men. There were mixed results when examining whether involvement levels differed by gender. Women and men rated the importance of membership benefits similarly but women consistently recognized less equitable treatment based on gender. Leaders of 21 research organizations identified policies used to address issues potentially limiting the involvement of their female members. The number of policies reported was inversely related to perceptions of gender equity for female members. Male members of these organizations reported greater perceptions of gender equity when the organization had a higher proportion of female leaders and speakers at conferences. The distinct gender differences in how gender equity was perceived and influenced by organization-level characteristics illustrates the need to carefully consider what changes are being implemented and how those changes may differentially impact men and women. Together these data contribute to the understanding of women's experiences in STEM and demonstrate the need to initiate purposeful and informed changes within professional research organizations.