Contextual and cultural practices that normalize sexism in geology field programs
Fieldwork is a required element for most undergraduate geology students. Research suggests that undergraduate female students may experience sexism and a hostile social climate in field settings, which can be a barrier to their future academic and career success. We conducted a mixed methods study to examine how sexism and hostile social climate are manifested in field programs and the contextual and cultural characteristics that enable sexism and hostile social climate to occur. We collected interview and survey data from instructors and students in four geology field programs that occurred over multiple weeks in the summer and were designed for advanced undergraduates.
Participants in all four programs encountered sexist experiences including sexist jokes, comments, and unwanted sexual attention. Participants described these experiences as typical and accepted them as "just how students are" at geology field camps, even if the behaviors were perceived as offensive. Such normalization of sexism may reflect the ways in which efforts to promote gender equity have stalled. Preliminary analysis suggests unawareness by students and instructors of what sexism is and its impact, isolation from the university, and unclear boundaries (e.g., distinguishing official class/university time and space from student personal time and space) are contextual and cultural characteristics that may enable the normalization of sexism in the field camps.
Our results align with the concept of STEMinism, an individualistic mentality that places the onus of change on the individual student rather than on institutions and systems to disrupt patterns of inequality (Myers et al. 2019). The persistence of these sexist experiences highlight the need for geoscience educators to be attentive to systematic and structural changes to promote inclusive environments and reduce exclusive practices.
Myers, Kristin, Courtney Gallaher & Shannon McCarragher (2019) STEMinism, Journal of Gender Studies, 28:6, 648-660, DOI: 10.1080/09589236.2019.1584744
Poster Presentation (Acrobat (PDF) 62kB Jul8 20)