Women Researchers' Collaborative Culture in Interdisciplinary STEM in the US and South Korea
Posted: 6 Feb 2017
Date Written: November 7, 2016
Women’s under-representation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is known to result from exclusionary practices based on professional socialization of masculine STEM culture. Despite the recent trend of women’s advancement and success in STEM, field-specific subcultures facilitate the differential inclusion of women across STEM subfields and even exacerbate the existing gender imbalance and segregation through various exclusionary practices in particular STEM subfields. As interdisciplinary research teams face cross-cultural conflicts, these women in advising relationships in interdisciplinary STEM fields illustrate that effective policies and programs are in great need for achieving the equal gender representation and inclusive climate in STEM.
This study examines women’s research teams and their professional socialization as an important mechanism for women’s inclusion and success in interdisciplinary STEM fields. These women’s advising relationships operate as an integrating process in which advisors and advisees have synergistic opportunities to overcome conflicting subcultures for their professional success.
Drawing on in-depth interviews with purposefully selected eight women advising pairs in biomedical engineering in public research universities in the US and South Korea, findings show both international similarities in the interdisciplinary culture of “synergistic collaboration” and cross-national variations in the extent to which an inclusive biology subculture wins over “engineering masculinity”. In both countries, biomedical engineering was found to have its professional culture of “synergistic collaboration”. In this interdisciplinary culture, norms of biology that supports more inclusive, interdependent research activities were found to override “engineering masculinities” of independent, competitive activities. Advising was found to offer women researchers daily opportunities to strategize with cultural conflicts in their research activities and to make use of these cross-cultural differences to their advantages of professional participation and success. Furthermore, advising relationships serve as a significant tool for these women researchers to access better positions and statuses in broader professional networks beyond their own field and university and, thus, to expand their inclusive culture to other STEM subfields and universities over time.
Keywords: gender, STEM, inclusion, socialization, disciplinary cultures, advising
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