Joanna : a woman in science : one life history in dialogue with the literature

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Smith, Jennifer
University of Lethbridge. Faculty of Education
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Lethbridge, Alta. : University of Lethbridge, Faculty of Education, 1987
Few women choose careers in the physical sciences. Of the Bachelor's degrees awarded nationally in Mathematics and Physical Sciences only 29% were awarded to females (Statistics Canada, 1986). Using a biographical approach, this study sought to identify factors which may have facilitated the success of women in these areas. Joanna, a female university student majoring in chemistry, was interviewed. Tapes were transcribed and factors which possibly directed her success in the sciences were identifi·ed by both authors and validated by Joanna. A literature review on psycho-social influences as they affect the science achievement and interest of girls was integrated with the themes emerging from Joanna's life history. The dialogue between the literature and Joanna revealed a common profile which appears to characterize mo s t f e rna 1 esc i e n tis t s • Joanna, herself, overlapped with 26 of the 33 factors that were identified by the literature. The profile was split into seven categories: Personality, Sex Role Identity, Motivational Style, Family Influence, Childhood/Adolescence, Role Models, and Influence of Schooling. Factors which Joanna identified with strongly included: logical/analytical, high math and spatial ability, enjoys competition, not afraid to take risks, strong self-concept, confident, non-traditional sex role expectations, androgynous, unaffected by sex role stereotypes, family and career not seen as mutually exclusive, encouraging parents as positive parents, attitude towards science, oldest child, non-traditional role models, voracious reader, active childhood, able to act independently in adolescence, influential high school science teacher, and received encouragement and praise from teachers throughout schooling. Judging from both Joanna's profile and the literature review, the role of encouragement for women in the sciences cannot be underestimated. Implications for science education were made. A paradigm shift from emphasizing facts to encouraging open exploration was suggested in order to broaden this profile. The proposed Alberta curriculum with its focus on science as it relates to technology and society was considered a step in the right direction.
[210] leaves in various pagings ; 29 cm.
Women in science -- Interviews , Women college students -- Interviews , Women in science -- Psychological aspects , Women college students -- Psychological aspects