Effects of an online personal resilience training program for women in stem doctoral programs

Jennifer Bekki, Mary Lee Smith, Bianca Bernstein, Caroline Harrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Women drop out of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) doctoral programs at a higher rate than men, reducing further the diversity of rising experts eligible for faculty and research positions in these fields. Consequently, strategies are needed to improve persistence to doctoral degree completion among women in STEM. The CareerWISE program takes a unique approach by providing individuals online training in key intra-and interpersonal skills believed to influence persistence. This paper describes a randomized controlled trial (RCT) that was performed to evaluate the effectiveness of the CareerWISE intervention. In the RCT, 133 female doctoral students in the physical sciences and engineering utilized the online resource for at least 5 h. Comparisons of the treatment and waitlist control groups yielded strong effect sizes, demonstrating that even a small amount of exposure to the CareerWISE intervention increased the key measures of problem solving, resilience, and coping efficacy, all of which are linked to persistence. Also, comparisons of the wait-list control group before and after exposure to the CareerWISE online resource revealed significant differences for the three key variables in addition to measures of personal resources, confidence to achieve STEM landmarks, coping styles, and barrier perceptions. The results provide persuasive evidence that students can use and faculty can recommend this resource to attain beneficial outcomes that are associated with psychological well-being and to predict persistence. The study results also reinforce the notion that interventions designed for individuals can supplement institutional and policy strategies to broaden and retain the participation of women in science and engineering careers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-35
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2013


  • Coping efficacy
  • Graduate students
  • Persistence
  • Psychological intervention
  • Randomized controlled trial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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