Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2011

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Stefanie Mollborn

Abstract

Understanding and decreasing the underrepresentation of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields have been the goals of significant research and policy (NSF 2010). While institutional and individual level factors are often implicated in explaining continued disparity in women’s presence in STEM fields at undergraduate, graduate, and professional levels, important interactional level factors are often neglected. Qualitative, indepth interviews and participant journals collected from juniors and seniors majoring in a STEM discipline at a large, public Western university were used to analyze the role informal interactions, like sexism and sexist humor, play in women’s decisions to persevere in STEM as well as the coping strategies they use to succeed academically and socially. From these findings about college students’ attitudes and experiences with sexism, I make recommendations for creating and improving interventions aimed at increasing diversity and inclusivity in STEM fields at the undergraduate level.

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