The Role of Mentoring on the Retention of Women From Diverse Backgrounds in STEM

The Role of Mentoring on the Retention of Women From Diverse Backgrounds in STEM

Patricia Denise J. Lopez, Anna Duran
Copyright: © 2021 |Pages: 40
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4745-8.ch010
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Women continue to be underrepresented in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. This is concerning because STEM is a key driver of innovation and global competitiveness. STEM jobs in the United States are growing at a faster rate than other occupations, but there remains a shortage of qualified applicants. Women from diverse racial and ethnic groups represent an underutilized resource. However, they face multiple challenges as they enter the field, develop a STEM identity, progress in their education, and pursue and persist in STEM occupations. This chapter summarizes the key reasons for why there continues to be an underrepresentation of women (especially women of color) within STEM. It then discusses the role and impact of mentoring as well as the competencies required for effective mentoring. Finally, it presents recommendations for advancing mentorship efforts for women from diverse backgrounds within STEM.
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The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the key issues related to women’s underrepresentation within the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) professions. It also aims to examine the role of mentoring as an intervention that could enhance STEM interest, STEM identity and STEM retention among women, especially women from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. The chapter ends with recommendations for furthering research and mentorship efforts for women within STEM.

The authors begin with a story about an experience illustrative of some of the many challenges ahead for broadening participation in the STEM arena. In 2015, the second author was asked to volunteer as a judge for a science fair serving high schools located in the Northeast. This was what she observed:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Counterspace: Safe environments, whether physical or virtual, where women of color can come together to discuss shared challenges within STEM settings. These challenges include exclusion, harassment and microaggressions. Also called Sistah Space.

Cultural Responsiveness: Culturally responsive mentors are able to produce safe and inclusive spaces that respect the needs and interests of people from diverse backgrounds. Practices involve exhibiting cultural curiosity, being non-judgmental, and being able to consider the perspectives and values of diverse others.

STEM Identity: Self-perception of oneself as a legitimate member of the scientific community; includes the alignment of a scientific career as part of one or more personal identities.

Self-Efficacy: The confidence in one’s capabilities to organize and execute courses of action in order to achieve a particular goal.

Mentoring: A working alliance in which a person (or persons) provides psychosocial and career support to another (typically less experienced individual) for the purpose of enhancing the latter’s personal and professional growth, development and success.

Psychological Safety: Being able to express one’s self without fear of negative consequences.

Matilda Effect: The systematic dismissal of the contributions and achievements of women.

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