Women in STEM Workplaces and Computer-Mediated Communication: Obstacle or Advantage?

Women in STEM Workplaces and Computer-Mediated Communication: Obstacle or Advantage?

Seterra D. Burleson, Whitney A. Tyler, Debra A. Major, Katelyn R. Reynoldson
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/IJVCSN.2018070101
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As women have the potential to bring unique perspectives to the workplace, the under-representation of women in STEM occupations is a severe limitation to global advancement through research and innovation. Workplace utilization of computer-mediated communication (CMC) may impact common barriers faced by women in STEM, such as stereotypes, a “chilly” workplace climate, lack of social support and mentorship opportunities, and work-family conflict. As organizations shift further into the use of virtual communication, it is essential to take advantage of CMC as a way to facilitate gender equality in the workplace while simultaneously mitigating barriers workplace CMC may present for women in STEM. The potential implications of workplace virtual communication, virtual teams, e-mentoring, cyber incivility, and telecommuting for women in STEM careers are discussed.
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Substantial efforts have been made to understand barriers that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in STEM to inform the development of strategic interventions designed to rectify these issues. Gender stereotypes are a key factor in the underrepresentation of women in STEM (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014). Stereotypes are commonly held beliefs about groups of people classified into categories based on associated common traits or attributes (Koch, D’Mello, & Sackett, 2015), and they tend to be activated quickly and automatically (Banaji & Hardin, 1996). In STEM, stereotypes often contribute to women’s experiences of a “chilly” or unwelcoming work climate because, by choosing to work in male-dominated fields, they are perceived to be violating traditional gender role norms (Dasgupta & Stout, 2014; Hughes, 2014). The “chilly” climate experienced by women in STEM is exacerbated by problematic gender dynamics in mixed-gender mentoring relationships as well as insufficient access to same-sex mentorship opportunities (Preston, 2004). Further, work-family responsibilities and inflexible working hours have been identified as key factors in women’s decisions to leave their STEM careers behind (Heilbronner, 2013).

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