Innovation and
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Empirical Research

Published online May 17, 2021 https://doi.org/10.1186/s42862-021-00010-2

Copyright © Innovation and Education.

The reasons women choose and stay in a geology major: a qualitative multi-case analysis

Ron E. Gray1,Alexis T. Riche2,Isabel J. Shinnick-Gordon1,James C. Sample2

Department of STEM Education, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA; School of Earth and Sustainability, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, USA

Correspondence to:Ron E. Gray

Received: February 9, 2021; Accepted: May 6, 2021

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Abstract

Despite earning half of all science and engineering undergraduate degrees between 2007 and 2016 in the USA, women were awarded only 39% of earth science degrees in the same time period. In order to better understand why women are both choosing and staying in geology programs, we conducted a multi-case study of nine current female undergraduate geology majors at a large public university in the USA within a department that is at gender parity among its undergraduate majors. The main data source was audio-recorded critical incident interviews of each participant. Data from the interviews were analyzed through an iterative coding process using codes adapted from previous studies that focused on factors both internal and external to the department. The students said that personal interests, influence by others outside of the department, and introductory classes attracted them to the geology program, but once declared, departmental factors such as relationship with faculty caused them to stay. We also found an emphasis on female role models, especially those teaching introductory courses. We believe this study offers important insights into the ways in which factors leading to recruitment and retention play out in the lived experiences of female geology majors.

Keywords: Gender, Lived experience, Interview, Recruitment, Retention

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