“It’s Broader than Just My Work Here”: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success among Engineers in U.S. Academia
2. Relevant Literature
2.1. Women in Engineering
2.2. Measures of Scientific Success
2.3. Other Barriers to Achieving Success in STEM
3. Data and Methods
4. Results and Discussion
4.1. Formal Measures in Accounts of Success
The typical goals for my field are publish, publish, publish. Develop a name and reputation. Finances are useful but not critical. Although the bigger schools tend to pay better. First and foremost publish. Secondly, being a good teacher. Being able to relate to students, because if you’re not a good teacher your horizons are limited.(Male Ph.D. candidate 2)
Primarily the number of research publications followed by teaching evaluations. And if you do those well, if you do those two things well, the rest of the stuff helps, but those are the primary criteria.(Male Ph.D. candidate 1)
So, it is basically the number of papers, the number of grants, and number of grad students. Not so much the number of dollars, but, that’s part of it too because with more dollars you can have more number of students, more papers, it is just sort of a thing.(Male professor 2)
Okay, well the easy answer is it’s kind of the cumulative track record or an upward trend of activities and accomplishments. Accomplishments have to be documented. Activities are just sort of the necessary things that you do that do not get any kind of documented thing for.(Male professor 2)
There have been guidelines established and provided to us in terms of what our teaching expectations are and by teaching expectations it is really the teaching evaluations and feedback provided by students. There is a baseline expectation that we will provide the material to the students and it will be conveyed in an effective manner. So, there’s the teaching component. There is also an expectation to conduct research and publish the results of that research. And then thirdly, an expectation to bring in funding, primarily grant funding to support both the research as well as being able to support some students down the road.(Female associate professor 1)
4.2. Informal Measures in Accounts of Success
I got tenure at a research university, you could consider that as a level of success. There are some publications that I thought were pretty good, that have not been cited much. Although I think they are good, my community of fellow researchers have not determined them to be good enough. To me, in the position I am at right now, success is doing what I like to do, and publishing work that I think is good. Even if a lot of people don’t cite it, if it is something that brings me joy and happiness, and I am ok with it.(Male professor 1)
In general, I can think of a lot of women who have similar definitions of success as I do, but I also have, I feel like it’s broader than just my work here… For some people it might be research, having a big lab, having a lot of grants, having a lot of papers. I guess my definition of success might be not that far off. Or, maybe I’m not as successful as other people. I guess that’s it… People looking at things like grants or papers or that type of thing, probably would not view me as successful.(Female associate professor 1)
4.2.1. Differing Conceptualizations of Relationships
I was here for almost twenty years, and I came from industry, and I did establish a research program, and we were able to get funding on a reasonably regular basis to have a steady group of students coming through the labs, and so I did feel successful in doing that, on a small scale.(Female professor 2)
I do have a few people who have, what do I mean, helped me define areas of research, worked on projects with me. My husband is in the same field, so I talk to him a lot, he gives me a lot of good advice. Collaborators, like my advisor, helped me a lot at one point.(Female associate professor 1)
I think it was a couple of things. One, my dad. Two, my major professor. He helped me write my application for the fellowship, because it is an internal grant.(Female Ph.D. candidate 3)
Not so much [mentoring] in grad school… I guess I can think of a couple people back at the high school level. They sort of have, there aren’t particular individuals that I can identify in college or grad school. I mean other than I was always pretty active with my peer group, so I would, as you expect I learned probably more from my peers than I did from faculty.(Male professor 2)
4.2.2. The Influence of Gendered Stereotypes
I think men are generally more competitive as a stereotype, and they compare themselves tremendously and they have to do better than the other person, and women are more satisfied, generally again a stereotype, if they are happy with what they have done and they don’t necessarily compare themselves so much to other people which I think maybe a healthier personality profile. But, then again that is totally my bias and subjective thought and a gut instinct as to what it will be. But, I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case, because that’s my guess.(Male professor 2)
I would also say that success would be, I mean like, getting along with your colleagues is really important. I don’t really like conflict, I would rather talk about a problem in a mature way than it is building up in another way… I would say having collaborative versus competitive (relationships), because a lot of the time the attitude coming in is I’m in it for myself and I need to do whatever I can to propel my career or make myself have a better reputation, you know? And if I can use someone to get there, then that’s okay, but I don’t think that is okay.(Female Ph.D. candidate 3)
4.3. ‘Engineering for Women’
But I definitely feel that women are more concerned about the overall system versus men who are concerned about the specific design which is why I feel like a lot more women go into humanitarian engineering because it’s much more system based versus fix this one design.(Female Masters student 3)
I think that’s why the future direction of our department started going into more biological and biomedical engineering. There’s a lot more women interested in that than I see in more traditional agricultural engineering. And so yeah, maybe the field of study is, maybe there’s more opportunities that are better suited for women.(Male assistant professor 1)
4.4. Doing Engineering, Undoing Gender
As a female, I do not think there is a difference between male and female engineering. We need to basically follow the same steps as everyone else. So there is no such thing as we need more women or we need to give them more opportunities. I just think that everything need to be equal for men and women. And that’s actually what makes women more successful, because they feel that they are treated equally. So that’s my very personal opinion. But I know that they need to give more opportunities to women because there are simply just not enough women in the field.(Female assistant professor 1)
I advocate for blindness when it comes to gender and race.(Male associate professor 1)
That [gender] is beyond Engineering.(Male professor 2)
I was talking to my dad… and he asked me why I was doing so okay, and I didn’t know, and he was like you act like a man. My default is logic and I don’t like drama and I feel like females can be so petty so maybe that’s it… Like most of my friends are male and if they are female they are most likely in the STEM fields. So, I don’t know if that means anything, but I think it is interesting.(Female Ph.D. candidate 3)
Conflicts of Interest
- What made you decide to go to grad school? (or pursue a higher degree?)
- What was [is] your research topic for your dissertation/thesis?
- Were you happy with that work? Were you happy with how it ended?
- Did you accomplish what you wanted to as a grad student? What were your goals for afterwards?
- What brought you to this university?
- What department do you work in?
- Do you also teach classes?
- Which do you like better, teaching or research?
- Do you like the research you are doing currently? Did you choose the research agenda yourself?
- What are your other research interests?
- Do you have plans of pursuing them?
- How much control do you have of your research agenda?
- Are you pleased with the direction of your current research?
- Do you think it’s been successful?
- What are some shortfalls?
- Is research what you envisioned it would be? (as an undergrad, grad, faculty)
- Did you meet the professional goals you set as a grad student?
- Did you set other goals that you met or didn’t meet?
- Do you think/know whether your colleagues had similar goals?
- What do you think are the “typical” goals for your field?
- What are you personal goals?
- What were your goals going into research at this university?
- Why did/do you want to do research?
- What do you like most about your work?
- How would you define being successful in your field?
- Would you say you are a successful scientist? What criteria do you use to determine your level of success?
- Who or what else would you say has contributed to your success in your field?
- Is there anything else that might have contributed to your success that we missed?
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|Graduate student—Ph.D. stream||3||3|
|Graduate student—MS stream||3||1|
|Formal Measures||Informal Measures|
|Publications, citations, publication venue|
Grants, contracts, external funding
|Ability to help people and communities|
Mentoring relationships (as mentor and mentee)
Personal relationships, family support
|Reputation, recognition, awards||Happiness|
|Graduate student training, placement||Satisfaction from research|
|Teaching excellence||Failure as a form of success|
|Products, design outputs||Overcoming personal struggles|
|Commercialization, patents, utility||Maintaining quality of life|
Results ‘standing the test of time’
|Ability to handle stress|
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Sarathchandra, D.; Haltinner, K.; Lichtenberg, N.; Tracy, H. “It’s Broader than Just My Work Here”: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success among Engineers in U.S. Academia. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7030032
Sarathchandra D, Haltinner K, Lichtenberg N, Tracy H. “It’s Broader than Just My Work Here”: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success among Engineers in U.S. Academia. Social Sciences. 2018; 7(3):32. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7030032Chicago/Turabian Style
Sarathchandra, Dilshani, Kristin Haltinner, Nicole Lichtenberg, and Hailee Tracy. 2018. "“It’s Broader than Just My Work Here”: Gender Variations in Accounts of Success among Engineers in U.S. Academia" Social Sciences 7, no. 3: 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci7030032