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The Persistence of Women in STEM: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study
Gamm, Ryan D

2014, Doctor of Philosophy, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
Men and women have reached relative parity in most sectors of the United States workforce. Yet women remain underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields (AAUW, 2010). Underrepresentation persists despite several decades of research, legislation, and intervention focused on gender equality in STEM fields (Clewell, 2002). The underrepresentation or shortage of women in STEM fields is identifiable primarily in degree attainment, in workforce demographics, and in a gender wage gap. Situated in constructivist grounded theory, this study asks how do women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields, particularly those in established career positions, persist when encountering personal and institutional barriers, resistance, and hostility?

I use an interpretive-constructivist lens to conduct a grounded theory study exploring the experiences of women who persist in STEM fields, their relation to extant literature on this topic, and the connections to K-12 education practices, specifically curriculum. To understand the connections to curriculum I employ Pinar’s (2012) method of currere. Pinar (2012) contends currere “provides a strategy for students of curriculum to study the relations between academic knowledge and life history in the interests of self-understanding and social reconstruction" (p.44).

This qualitative study explored nine female STEM workers stories of persistence as each respondent works in STEM fields were gender parity has yet to be established. This study presents a substantive theory: As women persist in STEM fields they reframe themselves to be situated in the overlapping intersection of the social processes that correspond to “engagement” and “persistence.” This reframing is possible by interpreting one’s present day circumstances by independently removing oneself from current circumstances to understand the cumulative effect of both past and present.

The findings highlight the importance of early educative experiences and their reinforcement throughout formal education including the STEM pipeline. The findings suggest that how one understands and interprets STEM work, and the compatibility ones’ own identity with this work are crucial, reinforcing the some of the diverse body of literature that seeks to understand women’s underrepresentation in STEM. Although literature focused on STEM related education, including work examining gender, offers suggestions compatible with the findings of this study, experiences that are match the stories of the respondents appear to be outside of the norm.
Thomas Poetter, Ph.D. (Committee Chair)
Nazan Bautista, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
Ann Mackenzie, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
Lisa Weems, Ph.D. (Committee Member)
165 p.

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Gamm, R. (2014). The Persistence of Women in STEM: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Gamm, Ryan. "The Persistence of Women in STEM: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 23 Oct 2017.

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Gamm, Ryan "The Persistence of Women in STEM: A Constructivist Grounded Theory Study." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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