Monday, June 8, 2015

The Leaky Pipeline - My talk script

Hi all! I gave this talk a while ago, and thought it may be nice to share it on a broader scale! Enjoy!

 Today I will be talking to you a little bit about my zine series – scigrrrl, which covers any thing under the umbrella of feminist science studies.

So what is this feminist science studies thing?

As a double major, I often get asked how my interests in feminist theory and science overlap. To me it seems rather obvious, but others do not seem to quite see the connection between the two. As noted by Deebolena Roy: “For many individuals, the mere idea of mixing feminism and science together sets well – established modes of reasoning (perhaps even gravity) into topsy-turvy motion”  (Roy 2001: 233). However, when we closely examine the goals of feminism, we see how the two studies fit hand in hand with one another.

Feminist scholars, across disciplines, have made an effort to study and understand systems that perpetuate subordination and marginalization. In doing so, feminists hope to diminish differences between genders, as well as other marginalized groups, and to establish equality across all groups. As noted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities: “In applying feminist analyses to scientific ideas and practices, feminism sees science, like all spheres of intellectual activity, as conditioned by historical circumstances, societal beliefs, and accepted norms” (AAC&U, 1999: 3). In other words, feminism examines how cultural norms and stereotypes translates and contributes to our own scientific thinking and practices.

There are two major branches of feminist science studies that I examined over the course of this year – equity and content.

The content branch offers critiques of science and challenges the popular belief that science is objective. By doing so it aims to insert alternative perspectives into the field to help formulate a fuller and more accurate knowledge.

The equity branch aims to better understand the history of women in science and the systems that have historically and currently worked to exclude women from the science. By illuminating inequity, scholars aim to advocate for change to make the sciences more equitable

So far I have made a introducing the equity branch, celebrating women in science, and am currently working on a zine introducing the equity branch. Since I only have a short period of time, I am going to focus on a small portion of my work – investigating why the pipeline that leads women into the science is so leaky. I began my search for current disparities by examining the schemas (including my own) of what a scientist looks like.

So Ill ask you to do this along with me – close your eyes and picture a scientist
Raise your hand if one of these images looks like the scientist you imagined.
 Now how many imagined someone who looks like me… that what I thought.
You’re note alone – in fact, when elementary aged students are asked to draw a scientist (820 girls and 699 boys) to draw a scientist – less than 9% of the students drew a female scientist (Giese 2009).

In addition, those who draw a female scientist, tended to draw them looking “severe” or “unhappy” (LiveScience 2007). We In sum, the perception we all tend to have is that there are more men in the sciences, thus science is a masculine domain, and when there are women in science, they are unhappy.

But how does this schema develop?

My imagined scientist comes directly from the media. Growing-up, one of my favorite shows was Bill Nye the Science Guy.  My childhood obsession with his show helped to solidify my imagined scientist. In addition to Bill Nye the Science Guy, shows, like The Big Bang Theory, which feature more male scientists than female scientists, help to accentuate ideas that science is male-typical. Furthermore, while, such shows include female scientists, they tend to be portrayed as being stern, socially awkward, lonely, and less capable than their male counterparts. These common tropes help to not only establish our schema of a scientist, but also help to shape our expectation that women in science are generally unhappy (and what girl aspires of pursuing a career that she will be unhappy with?).

In addition to pop cultural representations, bibliographic texts on famous scientists throughout history tend to diminish the presence of women and feed the idea of the imagined scientist as being male. For example, in Asimov’s 1982 edition of the Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, only 12 of the 1510 bibliographies were of women (only a 0.03% increase since the 1972 edition) (Giese 2009). Diminished visibility of women in the sciences, both past and present, further perpetuates the idea that only men have made significant contributions to the sciences, and thus are better scientists than women.

Our expectations of men and women in science are also affected by popular psychological studies. Under the (inaccurate) assumption that men and women have ‘equal’ opportunities in the United States, many people, like Lawrence Summers, believe potential “innate” differences explain why there are fewer women than men in the sciences. Scientists have used science to justify these beliefs. Many studies that have been conducted conclude that men have enhanced visuospatial and quantitative abilities compared to women linked to biological factors, such as early androgen exposure and neuroanatomy. These popular and faulty studies shape perceptions and expectations of women: as a result of such studies, we believe as a society that women perform poorer at math and science than men do.
While all of these factors that help shape our schemas and expectations seem to be inconsequential, evidence shows they may actually affect our performance, intellectual development, and self-concept. Rosenthal and Jacobson (1968) conducted a study in which teachers were told that certain students were “bloomers” (expected to achieve greater academic success during the school year). The students randomly assigned to the “bloomers” group had increased performances compared to those who were not by the end of the school year. Cultural media that diminishes women’s visibility in the sciences and “scientific” studies that demonstrate “innate” differences act to establish expectations that men are “bloomers” and women are not when it comes to mathematics and science. In fact, parents, who serve similar roles as teachers, tend to believe that their sons will have higher mathematical achievement than their daughters, regardless of the child’s actual abilities (Halpern et al. 2007). Furthermore, teachers tend to spend more time interacting with boys than girls in science and math classes (LiveScience 2007). These discrepancies actively discourage girls, who may have previously been interested in the sciences, from developing their mathematic and science skills further and foster the exclusion of women from the science.

In this context, the decline of a girl’s interest in science throughout her development makes sense. In elementary school, girls are just as interested in math and science as boys are, however after learning the schemas that we are familiar with of scientists and women in science, they begin to lose interest. By 8th grade, in fact, boys are 2x as likely to be interested in math and science than girls. Overall, it becomes evident how our schemas and expectations work as systematic axes of oppression to facilitate the constant the leak from the pipeline.

The pipeline is at its leakiest however during our four short years of undergrad. While there are about the same number of students who pursue science related degrees during their undergraduate careers, female students are less likely to go on to pursue a career in science and other STEM fields. Systems of overt and covert discrimination cause women to leak out of the pipe for a multitude of reasons during undergrad.

Many female students who decide to pursue a science major, particularly physics or math, may find themselves in positions where they are the only female student in their class, which can be discouraging (AAC&U 1999). A female physics major noted: “The boys in my group don’t take anything I say seriously” (Pollack 2013). Other personal accounts from women who were one of the only female majors in undergrad within my online women in science community seem to show similar trends: these women all tend to report feeling excluded from male study groups on the basis of their sex, feeling as though their male peers devalue their potential intellectual contributions, and often contemplate switching majors as a result.
Overt forms of sexism unfortunately are rather prominent in the sciences. One of the girls that Eileen Pollack interviewed for her New York Times article noted: “In one physics class, the teacher announced that the boys would be graded on the “boy curve,” while the one girl would be graded on the “girl curve”; when asked why, the teacher explained that he couldn’t reasonably expect a girl to compete in physics on equal terms with boys” (Pollack 2013). Debbie Sterling, an engineer, claimed she felt targeted as a woman by TAs and professors in the classroom setting at Stanford: one time a TA even mocked her problem set in front of her entire peer group, marking her as inferior to the male students in the room (Sterling 2013). Jocelyn Bell Burnell also noted how her male peers would holler and make cat calls at her whenever she entered a class room, valuing her feminine qualities and devaluing her intellect (Bell Burnell 2013). Experiences with overt forms of discrimination and sexual harassment certainly make the sciences a less appealing field for women.

Covert forms of discrimination, which are hard to uncover, may also prevent women from pursuing science after graduation. A recent NPR broadcast highlighted differences in informal mentoring during college years (Vendantam 2014). The study mentioned in the broadcast sent over 6,500 emails to faculty at 250 top institutions across the country pretending to be students – every email was exactly identical with the exception of the name (the name was either male or female, white or nonwhite). Across disciplines, they found that professors responded to emails with white male names more than they responded to emails with either white female names or with nonwhite names. This finding is particularly troubling as informal mentoring is incredibly important for later success – through informal mentoring students often gain insights into the field as well as access to summer internships and other opportunities that may give them an advantage over their peers.

Lack of informal mentoring and encouragement also leads women to not pursue careers in the sciences despite high levels of academic achievement. Eileen Pollack reflected on her time as an undergraduate physics major, noting that even though she was a summa cum laude, “I didn’t go on in physics because not a single professor — not even the adviser who supervised my senior thesis — encouraged me to go to graduate school” (2013). As such, despite demonstrated capabilities, women are still discouraged from entering the sciences.

Reflecting on my own undergraduate experiences, I came to realize that I too have fallen victim to forms of covert sexism. In the laboratory setting I have been mistakenly called a name other than my own repeatedly (even after I corrected the professor more than once) and have been discredited for work that I largely contributed to. I have also been denied informal mentoring. While I am sure that all of these incidents were not intentional, it provides evidence of how people who may not be sexist work to perpetuate systems of sexism that have historically excluded women from the field.

Sex based discrimination also exists in the job evaluation and hiring process after graduation as well. Moss-Racusin et al. (2012) asked 127 college professors to evaluate a resume for a position as a research assistant. The resumes given to the professors were all identical with the exception of the name listed at the top of the page, which was either Jennifer or John. Overall, professors evaluated the John as being more competent than Jennifer and tended to offer her a lower salary (about $4,000 less) than John. Interestingly, all of the professors included in the study (both male and female) also reported not holding any biases against women despite the results. More recent studies have replicated these results (Pollack 2013). These covert forms of discrimination that occur shortly after graduation impede women from being able to continue a career in the sciences.

For my zine series, I specifically examined the number of female professors at top universities and colleges in comparison to that of men
While the number vary per institution, overall female professors only account for 10% of all of those in the sciences (Wiley 2009).
When we look closer at these positions we see that women are less likely  “to obtain tenure (29% of women compared to 58% of men in full-time, ranked academic positions at 4-year colleges) and are less likely to achieve the rank of full professor (23% of women compared to 50% of men)” (Halpern et al. 2007). These stats were alarming to me – why were they so drastic?

In 1979, the gender gap was thought to be due to women’s self-selection out of the field – namely, deciding to choose an alternative career or leave the field (Wiley 2009). The idea of women’s self-selection out of the sciences was challenged by feminists who illuminated the idea that  “women in science might be facing a persistent pattern of underestimation and marginalization, such that the “rate of exchange” by which they build research careers and reputations was different than for comparably trained and situated men “(Rossiter 1981: 101 as cited by Wiley 2009). The feminist perspective was found to be more accurate than the previous reasoning: While some women may choose to leave the field, most are not self-selecting out of the field but are rather institutionally selection out.

 One major way women are being selected out of the sciences is the differential treatment they receive after having a child: while “[h]aving children is a career advantage for men; for women, it is a career killer” (Mason 2014). Women who have children tend to fare worse than women without children, and men with or without children (Ceci and Williams, 2010). But why do men fare just as well with and without children? Why is this difference only observed within females?
The “baby factor” also accounts for why there are fewer women in higher-ranking positions in the sciences. Stephan Brush, a professor of history of science at University of Maryland, noted:

“By the time a woman lands an assistant professorship, she is likely to be in her late twenties or early thirties. She then has five or six years to turn out enough first-rate publications to gain tenure. If she has children, she must fulfill her family obligations while competing against other scientists who work at least sixty hours a week. If she postpones childbearing, the biological clock will run out at about the same time as the tenure clock” (MyGrayne 1993: 407)

Another reason women are leaning out of the sciences opposed to leaning in, is simply due to sexism within the field. In 1999, MIT did an internal review of discrepancies between their male and female science faculty. The review found differences, all of which were in favor of men, in salary, merit increments, institutional responses to external job offers, internal support for research, allocation of office and lab space, service expectations, teaching assignments. In addition, one the professors who initiated the study stated that in addition to the studies findings, she found that “even when women win the Nobel Prize, someone is bound to tell me they did not deserve it, or the discovery was really made by a man, or the important result was made by a man, or the woman really isn’t that smart. This is what discrimination looks like in 2011” (Pollack 2013). While these differences may appear to be small, over a long period of time, they create a substantial difference between male and female scientists were women do not really stand a chance.
The real solution to making the field more equitable is to shift the focus from fixing the women who leave STEM fields, to fixing the pipeline itself. In order to start to fix the pipeline, we need to reconstruct harmful schemas and expectations that are learned early on. In other words, the main issue is that “women [don’t] become scientists because science — and scientists — [are coded as being] male” (Pollack 2013). Including more bibliographies of women in texts, mentioning famous women in science classrooms in addition to the men, and creating programming that features happy and successful women scientists would work to help deconstruct predominant schemas and expectations of science and women in science. 

Currently, there is a large initiative to increase the visibility of women in science. One way many have done so is by creating science programs explicitly for girls, like Girls who Code (or other publications like my zine series :p). Not only do these programs increase the visibility of women in science, but also work to develop girls’ early visuospatial and quantitative skills. Science and engineering toys – like GoldieBlox – also work to encourage girls to pursue science and develop these same skills.

Another method of fixing the pipeline is by creating networks of women in science. One program, Cybermentor, networks young girls with women in the field (Panek 2014). Connecting women in science to young girls interested in science provides the next generation with access to informal mentoring. As mentioned previously, informal mentoring gives students an advantage in the field. In addition, there are many informal support networks that connect women in science with others like them in the field. For example, I belong to a wonderful network of women in science on Tumblr: using a blog format, we share our experiences with one another and offer advice. This support has helped me to feel secure as a woman in science.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

sexual harassment in science

I usually save this site for posting original posts and use my tumblr to post about new articles and such - but this was an incredible piece that I need to share!

CreditKatherine Streeter
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As an undergraduate student in biology, I spent several weeks in Costa Rica one summer with an older graduate student on a research project deep in the cloud forest. It was just the two of us, and upon arriving at our site, I discovered that he had arranged a single room for us, one bed.
Mortified but afraid of being labeled prudish or difficult, I made no fuss. I took the lodge owner aside the next day and requested my own bed. The problem ended there, and my graduate student boss never made any physical advances.
Reflecting back, I’m struck by how ill equipped I was to deal with this kind of situation, especially at 19. My university undoubtedly had a harassment policy, but such resources were thousands of miles away. I was alone in a foreign country and had never received any training on my rights and resources in the field.
I’d forgotten about this experience from two decades ago until I read areport published July 16 in the journal PLOS One. Kathryn Clancy, an anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and three colleagues used email and social media to invite scientists to fill out an online questionnaire about their experiences with harassment and assault at field sites; they received 666 responses, three quarters of them from women, from 32 disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, biology and geology.
Almost two-thirds of the respondents said they had been sexually harassed in the field. More than 20 percent reported being sexually assaulted. Students or postdoctoral scholars, and women were most likely to report being victimized by superiors. Very few respondents said their field site had a code of conduct or sexual harassment policy, and of the 78 who had dared to report incidents, fewer than 20 percent were satisfied with the outcome.
The findings are depressingly similar to the data some colleagues and I collected this year from an online questionnaire sent to science writers. We received responses from 502 writers, mostly women, and presented our results at M.I.T. in June during Solutions Summit 2014: Women in Science Writing, a conference funded by the National Association of Science Writers.
More than half of the female respondents said they weren’t taken seriously because of their gender, one in three had experienced delayed career advancement, and nearly half said they had not received credit for their ideas. Almost half said they had encountered flirtatious or sexual remarks, and one in five had experienced uninvited physical contact.
Given their voluntary nature, neither report can be expected to tell us the true incidence of sexual discrimination and harassment among scientists and science writers. Still, the volume of responses sends an unmistakable message: Four decades after Title IX outlawed sex-based discrimination in public education and 23 years after Anita Hill pushed sexual harassment into the limelight, bias and harassment continue to hinder women’s progress.
Dr. Clancy says she decided to collect data after being overwhelmed with responses to a post she published on her blog at Scientific American in 2012. A female student, “Hazed,” recounted life in her graduate program:
“My body and my sexuality were openly discussed by my professor and the male students,” the woman wrote. “Comments ensued about the large size of my breasts, and there was speculation about my sexual history.” Her professor, she said, “often joked that only pretty women were allowed to work for him, which led me to wonder if my intellect and skills had ever mattered.”
Comments and emails poured in, Dr. Clancy said: “One story quickly became two stories, and quickly became what felt like 100.”
Similarly, our survey of writers grew out of well-publicized harassment accusations against a prominent male editor who was a mentor to many female writers. Those incidents led women to come forward with their stories of discrimination throughout the profession.
In academia, accusations of sexual harassment or assault are usually handled internally, Dr. Clancy says, and this can create powerful incentives to cover up bad behavior, especially among perpetrators with tenure and power. “I’ve heard too many stories about the professor who isn’t allowed to be in a room with X, Y and Z anymore,” she said. Sometimes perpetrators even benefit by getting out of dreaded teaching assignments while keeping their jobs.
Harassment among science writers spawned a hashtag,#ripplesofdoubt, to describe how harassment undermines women. Some women who had been passed over for jobs wondered if they had been rejected for their looks rather than their work. Others worried that they might not have attained their positions on merit.
Indeed, data suggest bias in mentoring decisions. In a study published this year, a team of researchers led by Katherine L. Milkman at the University of Pennsylvania sent identical letters, purportedly from students, to more than 6,500 professors at 259 universities asking to discuss research opportunities. Professors were more likely to respond to email from “Brad Anderson” than from fictitious aspirants with names like Claire Smith or Juan Gonzalez. Such bias perpetuates discrimination.
“Our world is small and our resources are scarce,” said another author of the PLOS One report, Julienne Rutherford, a biological anthropologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. If women are dissuaded or excluded from even a handful of opportunities, she continued, the loss to science is enormous.
Last year, at the annual conference of the National Association of Science Writers, I joined five leading female science writers to presentdata we had collected on gender disparities in bylines, top-level jobs, awards and salaries, and to recount personal stories of times when our gender had stood in the way of our careers.
Afterward, long lines formed at the microphones as people in the audience stood up to share their stories. Young women told of being harassed by sources. Seasoned journalists recalled male bosses with wandering hands.
Men rose to offer support. The director of a prominent science writing program said that the next time one of his students confided she was being harassed in an internship, he was going to intervene. (Apparently it had not occurred to him before.)
Most men are not creeps, and they have a powerful role to play here. During a field trip at a journalism conference a few years ago, I had an engaging conversation with a keynote speaker. As we parted, he told me, in front of two other men, “Your husband shouldn’t let you out of the house.”
The two bystanders brushed off this insulting attempt at a compliment. It was easier for them to let it go than to call out a friend, and their behavior said it was all right to treat me like that.
Whether harassment or discrimination takes place at a field site in Costa Rica or in a conference room, the problem will not be solved with new rules archived on unread websites. The responsibility for pushing back should not rest solely with the victims. Solutions require a change of culture that can happen only from within.
It will take chief executives, department heads, laboratory directors, professors, publishers and editors in chief to take a stand and say: Not on my watch. I don’t care if you’re my friend or my favorite colleague; we don’t treat women like that.

Why are there fewer women in the sciences? A look into sex differences in mentor-protégé relationships

          Why are there fewer women in the sciences? This question has recently appeared in the headlines of many popular media sources, including The New York Times, and has been the focus of an incredible amount of scientific studies (Pollack, 2013; Halpern et al., 2007; Ceci & Williams, 2010). Many studies have examined innate cognitive differences and early socialization factors as the root of these differences (Halpern et al., 2007; Ceci & Williams, 2010). Despite significant differences in these early factors, there seems to be no drastic effects on women’s early participation in science related fields overall:[1] throughout high school, women tend to outperform men in math in science classes, and enroll in the same number of science and math classes as men (Halpern et al., 2007; Ceci & Williams 2010). Furthermore, according to the National Science Foundation (2013), women earn about 50.3% of all science and engineering bachelor degrees. After graduation, however, the attrition rate of women from science related fields drastically increases (Halpern et al., 2007). This suggests that the substantial decrease in the number of women in the field must be more heavily related to factors that become increasingly relevant during and after women’s undergraduate years, like the development of mentor-protégé relationships. In this post I will investigate potential sex differences in access to, benefits of, and level of support in mentor-protégé relationships and ways in which they may facilitate the attrition of female participation in the sciences.

Mentor-protégé relationships: Definitions and benefits
Throughout the literature, the definition of a mentor, as well as the mentor-protégé relationship, varies (Jacobi, 1991). Despite general differences, there are many common underlying themes present in the definitions used across studies – definitions all focus on an established personal connection between a protégé and a more senior mentor that is reciprocal, and highlight similar ways in which the relationship functions. The primary functions of these relationships are to influence and foster protégé success through emotional and psychological support, direct assistance, role modeling, and professional development (Jacobi, 1991).
The support of mentor-protégé relationships during undergraduate years, and throughout the course of one’s profession, is instrumental in later success. Many studies have documented the positive effects of such relationships, including: higher compensation, more promotion opportunities, increased chance of early success, and increased career satisfaction (Young et al., 2006). These relationships, explicitly during undergraduate years, could also work to keep women engaged in male-typical majors, like the sciences, and work to buffer women from forms of discrimination that may cause them to leave the field altogether (Jacobi, 1991; Ragins and Cotton, 1999). While the benefits of protégé-mentor relationships may work to decrease the attrition rate of women in the sciences, often times women have limited access to mentors, establish different mentor relationships than their male peers, and tend to have differing outcomes as a result (Young et al, 2006; Jacobi et al., 1991; Milkman et al., 2014; Johnson, 1989; Bushardt et al., 1991; Ragins and Cotton, 1991; Klabflisch and Keyton, 1995).
Sex differences in factors of mentor-protégé relationships
            Johnson (1989) found that women were less likely than their male peers to have a mentor during their undergraduate years. Furthermore, many studies document a significant difference in the way professors respond to particular students’ initiation of mentor-protégé relationships (Young et al., 2006). A more recent study that investigated differences in professors responses to student inquiries in terms of sex and ethnicity/race (Milkman et al, 2014). In this study, researchers sent out 6,500 emails to faculty at 259 top institutions across the country pretending to be students – every email was exactly identical with the exception of the name (the name was either male or female, white or nonwhite). Within the emails, “students” would discuss their interest in the professor’s particular field of study, ask if they had any potential insights, and whether they would be willing to discuss potential research opportunities. Professors across 89 disciplines responded to emails that contained a white male name more often than they responded to emails that contained a white female name, or a male or female nonwhite name. In particular, professors in the life sciences, health sciences, and physical and mathematical sciences, responded to emails sent by women of all ethnic and racial backgrounds (with the exception of black male and females) significantly less often than they responded to their ethnicity/race matched male counterparts. These findings suggest that men, and particularly white men, tend to have greater access to potential mentors than women do within the sciences. Lack of responses to informal mentoring inquiries may cause women, as well as those of color, in the sciences to lose interest or leave the field because they are unable to compete with their male peers with greater access to the benefits of mentor-protégé relationships. 
Women who attempt to establish mentor-protégé relationships report encountering obstacles, like lack of responses to inquiries, more often than their male peers (Young et al., 2006; Ragins and Cotton, 1991). Ragins and Cotton (1991) surveyed employees (229 women and 281 men) from three research and developmental organizations about their experience with mentors and their perceived obstacles in obtaining a mentor-protégé relationship. They found that men and women reported no significant difference in extensive mentoring experience,[2] however men experienced more moderate levels of mentoring than women did. In addition, women reported having a more difficult time obtaining a mentor than males did, even after controlling for age, experience, rank, and position. While it is possible that the observed difference in perceived obstacles may be due to women overestimating difficulty, the findings may also suggest that the women in the study may have had to work harder to obtain the same mentor experiences as their male colleagues.
Perceptions of protégés may contribute to a mentor’s decision in selecting a protégé, and may serve as an obstacle to gaining access to a mentor. Mentors often assess, implicitly or explicitly, a student’s fit within the field in question and potential before pursuing a mentor-protégé relationship (Young et al. 2006). As the success of protégés often leads to rewards within a mentor’s career, including increased peer and manager recognition, and failed protégés, who are unable to accumulate success or drop out of the field, diminish their mentor’s success, selecting the right protégé is important for a mentor (Young et al. 2006). As such, strong negative stereotypes about women in science, including diminished capabilities in visuospatial and quantitative abilities, may decrease the likelihood that a mentor will select a female protégé. The accuracy of such perceptions does not entirely matter as the perceptions themselves may also work as a barrier for women seeking access to informal mentoring.
In addition to perceptions of the protégé, Scandura and Ragins (1993) found that the gender of the field is an important factor in predicting access to mentor support (as cited by Young et al. 2006). If the field is more masculine (defined as having at least 70% male representation), female protégés tend to have less access to mentors. Decreased access to mentors in male-dominated fields may simply stem from there being fewer women in higher tier positions to serve as mentors for female protégés.  
As there are more male scientists than female scientists, female students have less access to same-sex mentors as their male peers do. As a result, females who develop mentor-protégé relationships within these fields tend to have a male mentor (Young et al., 2006). Many studies have shown that female protégés tend to actually benefit more from having a male mentor than they do having a female mentor (although data is inconsistent within the literature), however, cross-sex mentor-protégé relationships may be more difficult to establish than same-sex mentor-protégé relationships (Young et al., 2006).
Several of studies have shown that male mentors and female protégés tend to report fear that mentorships may be perceived as having some sort of sexual undertone (Young et al. 2006; Bushardt et al., 1991; Ragins and Cotton, 1991). This fear often prevents the initiation of such relationships. Bushardt et al. (1991) suggests that these fears also prevent established cross-sex mentor-protégé dyads from engaging in informal interactions, such as meeting behind closed doors or eating meals with one another alone. Decreased access to informal social encounters due to social reasons prevents cross-sex mentor-protégé dyads from establishing closer and long-term bonds with one another, factors that promote later career outcomes typical of such relationships. Perhaps as a result, several studies have shown that males tend to have longer-term, more enriching mentorships than their female peers (Young et al., 2006; Ragins and Cotton, 1999).  
While male-female cross-sex mentor-protégé relationships are harder to establish, in male-dominated industries and in more masculine positions, they tend to yield the highest benefits. Dougherty et al. (2013) examined differences in mentor relationships and outcomes in male dominated fields. They based their research on the signaling theory, which proposes visibility of the relationship with high status mentors, namely males in more senior positions within a company, signal the protégé’s high potential and lead to increased career outcomes. The authors posited that females should benefit the most under the framework of this theory. While males should benefit the most when we consider all other factors, signaling theory posits because those kinds of relationships are more common, the tokenism of the senior-male and female protégé is more salient and amplifies the signal that she is a contender for upward mobility (Dougherty et al., 2013).
 In their first study, Dougherty et al. (2013) collected questionnaires from male and female professionals who graduated from an undergraduate state business school program 11 years earlier. The questionnaire collected information on the subject’s mentor-protégé relationship experience, their gender, and their career outcomes (salary and career satisfaction). All respondents (n=356) used in the data analysis were employed in full-time positions, 98% self-identified as Caucasian, and they all worked within male-dominated business firms. After controlling for confounding factors (years with employer, number of company changes, level of education, socioeconomic status, organization size, protégé job level, etc.), they found that females with experience in mentor-protégé relationships with a senior-male mentor did not report higher career outcomes than males with similar relationships as they had expected; women and men with senior-male mentors actually fared about the same. However, there was a greater difference in career outcome reports between females with and without senior-male mentors (those who had senior-male mentors had greater career outcomes) than between males with and without senior-male mentors. This suggests that the role of a senior-male mentor may offset potential sex differences that may deter or prevent women from achieving similar levels of success as their male counterparts.
Dougherty et al. (2013) conducted a second study to determine whether these findings could be replicated in a more male-dominated field and a male-dominated specialty position –software engineers at a major aerospace manufacturing firm. They collected questionnaires from males (n=292) and females (n=56) with similar educational backgrounds and experience in the firm. The questionnaires, like in their first study, reported the subject’s gender, mentor relationship, and career outcome (salary and career satisfaction). Again, they found that women with senior-male mentors fared about the same as men in the field while females with non-senior mentors fared far worse than males with non-senior-male mentors. This supports the previous suggestion that having a senior-male mentor could potentially offset sex differences in career outcomes in male-dominated fields, like the sciences, for women.
      While the study conducted by Dougherty et al. (2013) presents interesting data, there are many flaws that make the conclusions less reliable. First, the degree of the relationship the subject has with their mentor may differ within the sample and could have potentially skewed the results. Second, the number of female respondents was significantly lower than that of male respondents, which could have again led to skewed data. And in addition, we cannot determine that the mentor relationship was the cause of enhanced career outcome, as other factors, such as the protégé’s individual achievement and personality, may have independently led to their success. Furthermore, those with higher achievement and potential may have had increased access to mentors in general.
A similar study, conducted by Ragins and Cotton (1999), investigated career outcomes in relation to mentor-protégé relationships. Female (n=654) and male (n=500) subjects across fields were assessed using standard surveys used to determine history of mentoring relationships, including The Mentor Role Instrument (MRI), and standardized career outcome surveys, including Duncan’s Multiple Range test. Overall, they found that women and men across fields do not differ in the likelihood of having mentor. They also found that those with male mentors tended to have enhanced career outcomes than other groups and that mentor-protégé relationships were less effective for female protégés than male protégés overall. This difference could be due to the differences in the type of relationship that female protégés develop with their mentors.
The amount of support provided by the mentor may differ on the basis of sex, causing differences in career outcomes. In male-dominated fields, even when females obtain a male mentor, stereotyping may lead mentors to diminish the contributions of a female protégé, or prevent them from developing a closer relationship (Young et al., 2006). Furthermore, the mentor-protégé relationship may be more centered around male-relationship patterns than female-relationship patterns, causing them to be less beneficial for females. Klabflisch and Keyton (1995) propose that mentor-protégé relationships develop in a similar fashion as female friendship relationships, which may account for differences in levels of support and resulting outcomes. Females tend to develop their relationships by sharing personal accounts and interacting with others one-on-one, while males tend to interact in more of a group setting. These differences in interaction style, may affect the closeness and development of the mentor-protégé relationship.
Another explanation is that protégés may be more liked by their mentors based on interests, values and sex (Young et al. 2006). Ensher and Murphy (2007) found that those who considered themselves to be more similar to their mentors tended to have more positive and increased interactions with them. As a result, since females tend to have more cross-gender mentor-protégé relationships within the sciences due to the nature of the field, females may be unable to develop closer, more meaningful relationships with their mentors because they have different interests based on their gender. A study by Olian et al. (1988) however suggests that gender is not a significant factor, and that the field of interest and future career goals are more important factors in developing close and meaningful relationships (as cited by Young et al., 2006). In addition, Ragins and McFarlin (1990) found that there were no sex differences in terms of the amount of support female and male mentors gave to their protégés (as cited by Young et al. 2006). While the amount of support a person receives may be dependent on gender, determining the roots of differences in support and making sense of the contradictions in the field is rather difficult due to the plethora of other potential factors, including academic achievement, socioeconomic status, and race.
Inconsistencies within the literature

While there is a substantial body of literature that suggests men have more access to mentors than female peers, there are opposing studies that report men and women have similar access to mentors, and some that even suggest women have increased access (Young et al., 2006; Fuentes et al., 2014). Fuentes et al. (2014) examined student-faculty relationships and contact throughout college and across all disciplines. Students in the study took standardized self-report surveys prior to their freshman year, after their freshman year, and immediately after their senior year. They found that students who were higher achieving in high school, tended to have less contact with faculty during their first year. In addition, they found that students of color and those who were undecided about their major also had increased early contact. While these groups had increased initial contact with faculty, they tended to have less contact and experience with mentors after completing their senior year. In addition, the study found that females tended to have the most experience with mentor relationships by the end of their senior year, perhaps due to a tendency for female-typical interaction patterns, including participating in more one-on-one encounters. In addition, Erkit and Mokros (1984) surveyed 723 students from 6 liberal arts colleges and found that mentoring relationships may be more of a by-product of academic achievement rather than gender (as cited by Young et al., 2006). These findings show how many factors attribute to establishing mentor-protégé relationships and how results of studies differ based on who is looking and what factors they are examining. While such studies contradict previous findings, they are also not specific to male-dominated fields; as such there may still be differences within the sciences in regard to experience with mentor-protégé relationships.

Conclusion: Do differences in access to and degree of mentor-protégé relationships potentially play a role in increased attrition rates within the sciences?
The impact differences in access to, amount of support, and outcomes of mentor-protégé relationships on female retention within science related fields is hard to determine. Several studies suggest that women have decreased access to mentor-protégé relationships due to a variety of factors (Young et al., 2006, Milkman et al., 2014; Johnson et al., 1984; Ragins and Cotton, 1991), may create a disparity within the sciences that actively weeds women out of the field by causing them to be less competitive than their male peers. While mentor-protégé relationships have clear advantages in fostering interest and later success in an individual’s career, differences access to, benefits of, and other factors of these relationships are too highly debated within the literature to reach any definite conclusions. In addition, research that explicitly focuses on women within science related fields and during a more narrow time period (ie. undergraduate years) is largely missing. In order to determine the potential impact of differences in mentor-protégé relationships, more research needs to be conducted that explicitly focuses on the role mentor-protégé relationships plays in the sciences.    

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[1] There are differences in women’s participation in certain sectors of science however; women only obtain 18.2% of undergraduate computer science degrees, 18.4% of engineering degrees, and 43.1% of mathematics and statistics degrees (NSF, 2013).
[2] While they did not find any differences in extensive mentoring experience, the study only examined those within the organizations and those willing to respond to a survey on mentor-protégé relationships, which may have skewed the data.