Sunday, February 19, 2017
Exhibit Hall (Hynes Convention Center)
Lisa Frehill, National Science Foundation, Arlington, VA
Background: The persistent gender divide in mathematically intensive sciences (e.g., physics and engineering), has been the object of intense scrutiny by psychologists, educators, sociologists, economists and other scientists. The interdisciplinary attention to this issue has resulted in a wide array of theories of gender in science and engineering (S&E) and frameworks to assess the divide between men and women in educational and employment contexts. Considerably less attention is paid to the extent to which these disciplines engage with theories across disciplines, or if they remain insular within their own field of study. Methods: Research Questions: 1) What are the top theories of gender inequality deployed in research about math-intensive science and engineering? 2) To what extent do researchers engage with top theories within their discipline? 3) To what extent do researchers make use of theories from other disciplines, indicating an interdisciplinary diffusion of explanations for gender inequality? We conducted a systematic review of over 600 articles identified via Elsevier’s SCOPUS database published within the last ten years about gender issues in math-intensive S&E. Data about the articles were manually coded, including: author demographics, journal field, theories, and article findings. Mixed methods, including citation analyses, were used to determine the extent of interdisciplinary diffusion. Results: Of the 624 articles identified in the SCOPUS search, over half (57%) were published in non-education journals, of which 25% were published in engineering journals. Of the journals pertaining to education, the most common topic was engineering education (20%). Approximately half of the articles were determined to be atheoretical. Of the articles using a theory of gender inequality, the majority used multiple theories to explain the complex nature of gender inequality in S&E. Individual theories were most common, attributing inequality to differences in individual assets, interests, experiences, etc. The analysis also detected some evidence of siloes, especially in economics journals. Conclusions: Researchers in engineering workforce development and engineering education appear to publish more research on theories of gender inequality compared to other mathematically intensive sciences. Issues of gender inequality are also more common in employment research vice education. Finally, some fields, like economics, appear less likely to reflect research diffusion in gender inequality research.